If Kevin Lerena didn’t know it already, Rodney Berman has spelled it out for him: beat Micki Nielsen next weekend and rocket your way into the world rankings.
Lerena is on the fringes, but Nielsen is smack-bang in the middle of the major ratings – IBF number four, WBC number 10, IBO number five (and also rated 13th by Boxrec) – and puts that status on the line in the “Super Four” final.
The unbeaten Dane wasn’t well-known in South Africa when he signed to box Johnny Muller in the first round, but three qualities emerged after he dominated Muller: he’s strong, he hits hard and he doesn’t stop coming.
“Make no mistake,” said Berman. “This guy is a bull, and he can fight. I think Kevin will have to produce a career-best performance to win.”
Three things are motivating Lerena: that ranking, the big purse and his fierce ambition. He has immense self-belief, but he knows he will need far more to overcome Nielsen who, like him, is a southpaw.
Lerena’s movement will have to be pin-point accurate, not to speak of his defence, which must guard against Nielsen’s meaty left hook.
Yesterday, Lerena looked in terrific shape at his open workout, as lean and fast as ever. Nothing less than his A-game, and perhaps more, will be required to overcome the formidable challenge of Nielsen.