Youri Kalenga is big and strong and scary.
Kevin Lerena’s response?
“Bring it on.”
The cruiserweight has never been backward in coming forward with a confidence matching his ambition.
Others might have misgivings about who he might fight at this stage of his career, but Lerena couldn’t care.
His only pre-condition is that he’s paid for the risk.
“You can ask Rodney Berman . . . you can ask Jeff Ellis, I’ll fight anyone. I’ve never turned down a fight. That’s my mentality. Yes, I came late to the sport, but I’ve worked hard. I take nothing for granted.”
Next month, on September 9, he heads the aptly named “Emperors Explosion” at Emperors Palace. The vacant IBO crown will be the prize, but to wear it he must get past the rugged Congolese.
A week ago Lerena, mindful of the need to pace his training, took his foot off the accelerator. But now he’s flooring it as the fight fast approaches.
“I’m training hard, keeping my muscles firing,” he says. “The delays have worked to my advantage – I’ve had more time to prepare. I’m back at it hard.”
Careful not to give away his game plan, Lerena nonetheless says he has a strategy. “There’s a plan for every fighter,” he says. “Micki Nielsen was a freight train. I neutralised him. If I stick to my game plan, Kalenga can’t beat me.”
The South African concedes that his opponent has a lot going for him, not least his ability to hang tough against the hardest opponents. “He’s never been beaten badly, always puts on a good show. It’s the smarter guys who beat him. I’m smarter. Everything Peter Smith has taught me, I’m going to put into this fight. This fight will be the making of me.”
Predictably, Berman likes what he hears.
“I had my doubts early on, but Kevin just keeps stepping up. His improvement has been outstanding and he now rates as one of the best young cruiserweights around. He’s a gutsy guy and never stops trying. People say he needs to be careful against Kalenga. That’s true, but Kalenga ought to watch out too. Kevin is so determined it’s scary.”