Kevin Lerena has overcome a handful of obstacles to arrive at Saturday’s clash against Daniel Dubois. While those obstacles in the ring were challenging, it is the obstacles out of the ring that Lerena believes will give him a strong mental edge against Dubois.
The once-beaten Lerena will challenge Dubois for the WBA secondary world heavyweight title Saturday night at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, England. The 12-round bout will precede the main event bout between WBC world heavyweight titleholder Tyson Fury and Dereck Chisora.
Both fights will stream live on ESPN+ (1 p.m. ET/ 10 a.m. PT).
At Friday’s weigh-in, Lerena weighed in at 230.9 pounds. Dubois weighed 240.3 pounds.
Lerena (28-1, 14 knockouts), who resides in Johannesburg, South Africa, will be fighting for the fourth time as a heavyweight after a successful run fighting as a cruiserweight, including winning the IBO world title belt.
In his last bout on September 17, Lerena defeated former contender Mariusz Wach by unanimous decision. The southpaw Lerena had stopped his previous four opponents.
The 30-year-old is at the peak of his career and is enjoying fighting as a heavyweight.
“I’m not having to cut weight when I fought as a cruiserweight,” Lerena told Boxingscene Thursday morning. “I don’t have to drain myself. I’m walking around and fighting at my natural weight.”
Lerena will be facing a much-bigger fighter in Dubois (18-1, 17 KOs), who resides in London. Dubois has won his last three fights since losing to Joe Joyce in a competitive fight and won the WBA ‘Regular’ title by stopping Trevor Bryan in his last bout on June 11.
Despite the physical size difference, Lerena is confident in his skill-set.
“It’s no secret,” said Lerena, who is promoted by longtime South Africa promoter, Rodney Berman. “He’s a big strong man. However, this isn’t a strongman contest. Boxing is about being smart and outwitting your opponents. I plan to take his power-punching away from him by making him miss.
“(Trainer) Peter Smith has played an important role in my career. We’ve been together since early in my career and, obviously, we’ve come a long way. He’s played a significant role.”
Lerena has overcome obstacles out of the ring. After his June 2018 win over Roman Golovashchenko, Lerena needed surgery to repair his right shoulder and he needed physical therapy. He was briefly out of action in late January of last year after surviving a helicopter crash.
By trade, Lerena is a paramedic. He has seen injuries and death from accidents, shootings, and stabbings in the Johannesburg area.
Despite what he has seen and experienced over the last several years, Lerena does not have any fear, especially of Dubois.
“I’m a paramedic by trade so there’s nothing that I see that scares me. No man scares me. So I have that winning mindset.”
The winner between Dubois and Lerena becomes a legitimate contender in the division. Lerena believes he has the skill-set and the mindset to become an undisputed champion. He hopes a win over Dubois would catapult him to bigger opportunities in 2023.
“A win over Daniel Dubois would mean a lot to me. From a professional and personal level, it’s massive becoming a world champion. All the bigger doors will open, in terms of the boxing world, including the endorsements.”
Francisco A. Salazar has written for BoxingScene since September 2012 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (California) Star newspaper. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing