Boxing Snippets

‘Two Guns’ Lerena overcomes Gashi – and a broken rib – to claim WBC honours

Buoyed on by a frenzied home crowd, Kevin Lerena produced a mature, measured performance against Senad Gashi on Saturday to claim the interim WBC bridgerweight championship at Emperors Palace.
Showing patience and poise, he roughed up Gashi with his hard, hammering left hand and outworked him over 12 round to win a unanimous decision (117-110, 118-109 and 114-113) that keeps him in the frame to face the winner of Badou Jack versus Lucasz Rozanski for the belt outright.
Remarkably, it was revealed afterwards that Lerena had suffered a broken rib 10 days out, which restricted his performance but not his heart as he took the action to Gashi from the start.
Had Gashi known this, he might have fought with more ambition, but Lerena was the aggressor throughout and he dictated the action with a slow beatdown of his fellow southpaw.
Amid a packed arena, former undisputed world heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis was a popular visitor and he evidently enjoyed the action, later citing Lerena’s jab as an excellent weapon.
Gashi resorted to holding as early as the second round and although he got several shots off, his vaunted punching power was never evident. Not a single shot jarred Lerena or set him on the backfoot.
Instead, it was Lerena who got off the more solid, cleaner shots, notably in the third and fourth rounds where uppercuts and whizzing left hands found their mark. The miracle was that the Kosova-born visitor absorbed several bruising barrages. He seemed content to counterpunch, presumably hoping for one-punch glory on a night when Lerena wouldn’t be denied.
The WBC scoring system – with public announcements after the fourth and eighth rounds – revealed Lerena always comfortably ahead, although Namhla Tyuluba’s exotic cards curiously had Lerena only shading the action. Fortunately Thabo Spampool and Robert Verwijs saw the same fight that the crowd did.
There could never be any doubt that Lerena had Gashi’s number, but just in case, he made sure of things in the 12th round by knocking the gritty challenger down. Gashi also had a point deducted by referee Mike Griffin for persistent holding.
Having closed out the action in style, Lerena then basked in the adulation of “Lerena’s Army”, who turned out to acclaim their conquering hero.
New challenges now await South Africa’s most charismatic fighter.
In the undercard action, lightweight Kaine Fourie justified the hype as he broke down rugged veteran Lusanda Kominisi, winning in the fourth. It was a calculated gamble, but he passed the test with flying colours and deserves another turn in the new year.
Junior-middleweight Shervantaigh Koopman also pressed the action and came away with a comfortable win against Cristiano Ndombassy, who was rocked but managed to survive the eight rounds.
And Darrin Rossouw dominated Jami Webb over six rounds in their junior-middleweight contest to press his claims for bigger fights.
Featherweight: Carl van Blerk Draw 4 Justin Mostert.
Light heavyweight: Bonginkosi Nhlapho Draw 4 Michael Head.

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