If Kevin Lerena versus Johnny Muller is expected to be explosive, the contest between the corners on April 24 could also be a battle royale.
Experienced Peter Smith, who will work Lerena’s corner, will be up against wily Harold Volbrecht, who has been around the block as a fighter and a trainer.
The two were in playful mood earlier this week, but it will be battle lines later this month with cruiserweight honours on the line.
Smith, 45, had a fascinating career that saw him win top honours as an amateur, capturing the national heavyweight title the same year that brother George captured the super-heavyweight title, before progressing to the professional game much as their famous father Kosie did many years before.
Smith turned pro under Willie Lock in 1992, fighting for Gerrie Coetzee before signing for Rodney Berman’s Golden Gloves where his career peaked with a WBU fight against Yahya McLain almost two decades ago.
A stylish, upright boxer, “The Sniper” then shipped off to the US where he fought for Don King and trained under Oscar De la Hoya. He even had a dip at Hollywood with small roles in “Dare Devil” and “Red Belt”.
Smith later brought his experience to training where he set up shop with brother Sean, building up a thriving gym that has helped produce quality fighters like Chris van Heerden, Tshepang Mohale, Lerena and Thabiso Mchunu.
Statistically, Volbrecht can lay claim to being the most successful SA champion in history – his 19 title defences of the welterweight title is still a record and one unlikely to be broken.
The southpaw was one of the most relentless fighters around and he twice challenged for world titles, against Mexican legend Pipino Cuevas and former Olympic champion Mark Breland.
The 54-fight veteran retired in 1989 and almost immediately set up his own gym in hometown Benoni where early members included Phillip Holiday and Brian Mitchell. He enjoyed great success with the pair and guided the fortunes of former heavyweight champion Corrie Sanders.
Many other top fighters gravitated to “The Hammer” Gym over the years, including Mzukisi Sikali, Tommy Oosthuizen and Junior Makabu.
No-one is more animated about the trainers’ match-up than co-promoter Jeff Ellis. “I’ve known both guys for what seems like forever. They’ve more than paid their dues over the years. Better still, their fighters represent the very best of what boxing should be. Whenever I have pitched a fight to Johnny or Kevin, they’ve always said ‘bring it on, I’ll fight’. They have never ducked an opponent. All they want to do is fight, which is so refreshing given how many boxers avoid tough opposition.”