Kevin Lerena: ‘My only focus is this fight. I wake up and think of Artur Mann’
Cruiserweight contender Kevin Lerena faces Artur Mann this Saturday night over 12 rounds at the Emperors Palace in Kempton Park, South Africa.
Lerena, who is rated No. 8 by The Ring at 200 pounds, resides in nearby Johannesburg. He last fought on June 2 in Baku, Azerbaijan, dropping fringe contender Roman Golovashchenko once en route to a unanimous decision victory.
The 26-year-old Lerena (21-1, 9 knockouts) has won his last 10 bouts since losing a close unanimous decision to countryman Johnny Muller in November 2014. His two most notable victories were against Micki Nielsen in October 2016 and Youri Kalenga in September 2017.
“I know everybody is talking about Aleksandr 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.”
The 28-year-old Mann (15-0, 8 KOs) is originally from Kazakhstan and now resides in Hannover, Germany. He last fought on Nov. 10 in Chicago, defeating Alexey Zubov by unanimous decision over 10 rounds. He is promoted by Kalle Sauerland and is currently ranked No. 4 by the WBO.
Middleweight Araik Marutjan (8-0, 2 KOs), who is also promoted by Sauerland, will square off against Nkululeko Mhlongo in an eight-round bout. Marutjan is originally from Armenia and now resides in Hamburg.
Mhlongo (16-7, 12 KOs), who resides in Eshowe, South Africa, has lost four of his last five bouts.
Middleweight Roarke Knapp (6-0-1, 5 KOs) will face Zimbabwe’s Thembani Mhlanga (2-3, 2 KOs) in an eight-round bout.
Quotes courtesy of Sauerland Promotions.
Francisco A. Salazar has written for RingTV.com since October of 2013. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing
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