Kevin Lerena (21-1, 9 KOs) says he is fully focused on Artur Mann (15-0, 8 KOs) as ‘The KO Kid’ puts his IBO World Cruiserweight title on the line against the German challenger on Saturday at the Emperors Palace in Johannesburg.
Lerena claimed the IBO strap with a split decision over Youri Kayembre Kalenga in September 2017, before successfully defending his belt with unanimous points wins against Dmytro Kucher and Roman Golovashchenko.
Heading into his third defense, the 26-year-old insists he is leaving nothing to chance and admits he has even been waking up thinking about his opponent.
“I know everybody is talking about Oleksandr Usyk moving up to heavyweight, and what’s going to happen to his belts, but to be honest, I don’t really care,” said Lerena. “My only focus is this fight. I wake up and think of Artur Mann.
“I know I need to take care of business against him. He’s 15-0, he’s coming off a very credible record, and he has my full attention. This is a big fight for me. Yes, on paper, I’ve had big fights before, Kalenga, Kucher, Golovashchenko, Nielsen, but these are in the past, and I need to focus on what’s in front of me.
“I’m war ready! I know he’s going to bring it, and I’m going to bring it too. I’ve never been a guy to cherry pick opponents. I want tough fights because I believe I elevate myself the harder the fight, and I enjoy the challenge.”
Lerena’s coach Peter Smith, of Smith’s Gym, echoes his fighter’s sentiments, and states they will not be taking the Hannover-boxer lightly.
“This is a serious fight for us,” he says. “We’re not overlooking Artur Mann in anyway. Artur is a serious opponent with a great team behind him. We’re taking this fight very seriously and looking forward to a great battle!”
Lerena-Mann is a co-promotion between Team Sauerland and South Africa’s premier promoter Golden Gloves, led by Rodney Berman, who describes Saturday’s match-up as one of the country’s ‘biggest cruiserweight fights ever’.
“This has got to be one of the biggest cruiserweight fights ever in South Africa,” said Berman. “It’s common knowledge that Usyk is going to be moving up, so now every other cruiserweight is fighting for their place in the sun, and Kevin will be the only remaining World Champion when he gives up the belts.”
German boxing fans can watch all the action from the Emperors Palace live on Sport1, with Timo Schwarzkopf and Xhek Paskali fighting on the undercard.