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‘The fight’s not going to go the distance,’ — SA’s Kevin Lerena on WBC title eliminator bout with Ryad Merhy

‘The fight’s not going to go the distance,’ — SA’s Kevin Lerena on WBC title eliminator bout with Ryad Merhy
Ryad Merhy (left) and Kevin Lerena during the pre-fight medical and press conference on 9 May, 2023, ahead of 'The Eliminator' boxing tournament at Emperors Palace in Kempton Park, South Africa. (Photo: James Gradidge/Gallo Images)

The two brawly fighters will show down for a WBC bridgerweight title eliminator at Emperors Palace on Saturday evening.

It will be a battle of the big boys on Saturday as South Africa’s Kevin Lerena (28-2) will take on Belgium’s Ryad Merhy (31-1) for 12 rounds in the boxing ring at Emperors Palace in Kempton Park.

The fight has been dubbed a title eliminator for the World Boxing Council (WBC) bridgerweight belt with the winner set to face current champion Lukasz Rozanski (15-0) from Poland.

“It’s a major goal for me because getting the chance to become the third South African WBC champion is a big thing. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do,” Lerena told Daily Maverick this week.

“It’s history. So I’m looking forward to it.”

South Africa ​​has produced two World Boxing Council (WBC) world champions in the past. The first being Thulani Malinga who won the super middleweight title twice between 1996 and 1998 and the other, Dingaan Thobela, who won the same title in 2000.

Saturday’s brawl will be Lerena’s first since his controversial defeat to England’s Daniel Dubois late last year at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London when the two battled for the World Boxing Association (WBA) secondary heavyweight title — it was an undercard bout at the same event that Tyson Fury defeated Derek Chisora.

Lerena felled Dubois three times in the first round but was ultimately defeated by knockout in the third round — there was no three-knockdown rule in the bout.

The brawly South African has since picked himself up and will now face one of the most menacing fighters in the division in Mehry.

Kevin Lerena

Kevin Lerena inside the ring before his WBA heavyweight championship fight with Daniel Dubois, at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on 3 December, 2022 in London, England. (Photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

“This is boxing, the best must fight the best and you’re either going to win or you’re going to lose and that’s what it’s about,” Lerena said about having another tough opponent after his defeat to Dubois.

“I’m very excited, I’m looking forward to the challenge. It’s a big fight, I’m zoned in and I’ll do whatever I need to do to win.”

Mehry challenge

Both Lerena and Mehry have a reputation for knocking their opponents out — with Mehry winning over 80% of his fights by knockout.

“Put it this way, the fight’s not going to go the distance. That’s all I’m saying,” Lerena said with assurance.

“We’re both big-time fighters, the fight’s not going to go the distance.”

The two fighters were originally set to brawl for Mehry’s then-WBA cruiserweight title in Belgium — Mehry’s home country — in 2021 but Lerena had to withdraw due to a broken hand.

“I believe we’re both better fighters. The fight has come at the right time now,” Lerena said.

“It’s always great to fight in front of your South African supporters. It’s great to be fighting at home. My last fight was overseas so I’m just grateful to be back home in front of my South African fans.

“It’s another step in the right direction. Firstly, get back into winning ways and obviously go after some more silverware. It’s important for me to get back to winning ways, I’m very much for it and excited.”

Kevin Lerena

Kevin Lerena during the pre-fight medical and press conference ahead of ‘The Eliminator’ boxing tournament at Emperors Palace, on 9 May, 2023 in Kempton Park, South Africa. (Photo: James Gradidge/Gallo Images)

Mehry won’t make it easy for the southpaw South African to get back to winning ways. The big Belgian has only suffered one defeat in his career, against Arsen Goulamirian (22-0) on 24 March 2018 in a clash for the WBA interim cruiserweight title.

But Lerena will be fighting with extra encouragement on Saturday, having welcomed his second son into the world a month ago.

“The motivation I get from having my newborn child is amazing, I’m really blessed,” Lerena said. 

UNDERCARD:

On the undercard, Keaton Gomes (9-2) makes the first defence of his South African heavyweight title against the former champion, Joshua Pretorius (9-6).

Welterweight – 6 rounds – Keanu Koopman v Peter DeKlerk.

Junior welterweight – 6 rounds – Ntethelelo Nkosi v Gift Bolo.

Junior bantamweight – 4 rounds – Ndabazinhle Ohiri v Miranda Malajika.

Junior flyweight – 4 rounds – Sandile Wessels v Beaven Sibanda.

The tournament is presented by Golden Gloves Promotions. DM

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