Not one to do things by half measure, Kevin Lerena is hoping to bring in the big hitters ahead of his IBO title fight against Max Maslov in August.
Lerena is relying on his friendship with a pair of elite-level overseas fighters to help him in his first attempt at a major belt. He is hoping that they will agree to help him with sparring to prepare for a tough challenge.
Not just any two boxers, mind.
The one, Dmitry Kudryashov, ranks as the most destructive puncher in the cruiserweight division with 21 KOs in 21 wins. Little wonder he’s known as “The Russian Hammer”, counting Zack Mwekassa among his eight first-round victims.
The other, Michael Hunter, is a former US amateur heavyweight champion who recently went the distance with division dreadnought Oleksandr Usyk.
Speaking just moments after a punishing 19km training run on Monday, Lerena explained: “No orthodox sparring for me. Kudryashov has big, heavy hands and will give good work. I went to Russia last year and worked out with him. He’s a super-strong guy. We became friends, so I’m reaching out to him.
“I met Michael when I visited Floyd Mayweather’s gym in Las Vegas a few months ago. He’s a nice guy and a terrific boxer, so the mix in styles could be helpful. He did well enough against Usyk and would offer high quality sparring.”
Interestingly, Hunter is the son of colourful former heavyweight contender Mike “The Bounty” Hunter, who once fought Fransie Botha among a host of other big names in the 1990s.
Lerena is hopeful to use either one of the two or both and is working out an arrangement with Golden Gloves to ensure he receives optimal training.
“I’ve got to give Kevin credit,” said Berman. “One of the problems in this division is that the East Europeans all have around 300 amateur fights and no shortage of sparring. Here, the guys have to train with each other, so there isn’t that freshness or pressure. Kevin’s leaving no stone unturned.”
Ironically, he might be using one Russian to help beat another in the shape of Maslov, but in boxing the only loyalty is to the bottom line.
“I’m planning to box this guy’s ears off,” said Lerena. “It’s my big chance; I can’t blow it.”