Johannesburg - Kevin “KO Kid” Lerena is unfazed by the credentials Congolese-French boxer Youri Kalenga, the man he will fight for the vacant International Boxing Organisation (IBO) cruiserweight crown at Emperors Palace, Kempton Park, on September 9.
Kalenga was drafted in to replace Nigerian Olanrewaju Durodola, who pulled out of his agreement to supersede Russian Max Maslov.
The latter was the first to withdraw from slugging it out with Lerena. Both boxers developed cold feet.
The choice of Kalenga as Lerena’s foe seems to be very serious because of the Congolese’s impressive credentials.
He previously held the World Boxing Association (WBA) interim title and lost to Russian Denis Lebedev for the WBA crown proper in Moscow in 2015.
Besides, Kalenga has a wealth of ring experience, having won 23 times (16 by KOs) and lost thrice in 26 professional bouts.
But Lerena is not shaken to the marrow by his foe’s impressive exploits.
“This guy has a great record and he will be here to show me that he is not a replacement by default. I’m not scared of him, though, and will prove who is the best in the ring and deserves to be called IBO king.”
KO Kid previously won the vacant World Boxing Association Pan African title and the South African belt by beating archrival Johnny Muller at Emperors Palace in April last year.
This will be Lerena’s 20th professional bout, having won 18 times and lost once in his career.
Congolese boxers are generally tough and big sluggers who rely on strength to win by knockout.
But Lerena is optimistic of victory, saying he aims to unify his title with Ukraine’s Oleksandr Usyk’s World Boxing Organisation championship belt.
The latter is a southpaw who is unbeaten in 12 bouts in the professional ranks.
“Usyk is a puncher and it will be great to get into the ring with him,” said Lerena.