Kevin Lerena ‘I’m focused on Vasil Ducar, I’ve got to beat this guy’
Rising cruiserweight contender Kevin Lerena is looking to continue his march toward a world title when he meets Vasil Ducar at Emperors Palace in Johannesburg, South Africa on Saturday.
Lerena, who is rated No. 7 by The Ring at 200 pounds, isn’t looking past the unbeaten Czech Republic fighter.
“I’m focused on Vasil Ducar, I’ve got to beat this guy,” Lerena (22-1, 10 knockouts) told The Ring. “I can’t think anything else, just focus on beating him Saturday night.
“I’ve not seen much of him, but he has range, throws a nice long right hand and it’s all going to play into my favor. Our game plan is to exploit his weaknesses; take my time, feel him out, box, everything else will come with it.
“A lot of people say Vasil Ducar has half the amount of fights you do, but people don’t look at the amateur pedigree of that man and other fights he’s had in MMA. He’s a really experienced guy from different combat sports and that’s something you cannot overlook. I’m 100-percent prepared. People ask me, ‘What’s next?’ This man is next, we’ll talk on Monday about what’s next.”
Ducar became a professional boxer in 2017. The 29-year-old is (7-0-1, 6 KOs) and he’s coming off an upset 10th round stoppage win over Samuel Kadje in France last September.
Lerena returned to action after a nine-month lay-off following shoulder injury to stop Artur Mann in March and felt as good as new.
“I’m 100 percent, no problems whatsoever,” he said. “There was no ring rust, I got him out of there in four. I think it was my best performance to date. The comeback was bigger than where I left off.”
The 27-year-old is even looking at the time off as a blessing and feels it has aided his mental development.
“Most definitely, it made me hungrier,” Lerena explained. “I know what I have to do to win. It’s not nice being off for nine months, I can tell you that much. It made me realize my importance and place in boxing.”
Lerena holds the lightly regarded IBO title but has aspirations to win one of the bigger titles. He is currently ranked WBA (No. 9), WBC (No. 7) and IBF (No. 8).
His trainer, Peter Smith, is doing his upmost to keep his fighter’s feet on the ground ahead of bigger projected fights later this year and in early 2020.
“I’m very confident in our preparation,” said Smith. “We’re taking this guy like we’re fighting the world’s best, that’s the mindset I’m trying to create with Kevin. We don’t look at this fight as just a fight, we look at this fight like we’re unifying titles.
“This is serious for us; we know this is the tipping point, we don’t need an (Anthony Joshua) scenario. We look at (Ducar) seriously; we’ve taken this fight like it’s everything. Every step now for Kevin is a step towards greatness in the division.”
With current Ring cruiserweight champion Aleksandr Usyk and former titleholder Murat Gassiev heading to heavyweight, plus the semi-finals of the World Boxing Super Serie playing out later this month, the division is wide open.
“I would like to see Kevin eventually fight [Mairis] Briedis,” added Smith. “Briedis is like the real deal now. He fought Usyk in the semi-finals and he ran very well. I can see that guy being the prime guy in the division.
“Kevin’s ready to make his move. I rate [Andrew] Tabiti; he’s a danger dog, he’s a very well-groomed fighter. Dorticos is dangerous, tough competitive opponent. Glowacki he’s a serious contender. I could see any of those four winning (the WBSS tournament).
“Our mindset for this fight is like we’re fighting those guys; groom ourselves so Kevin isn’t surprised when he faces the big names. Kevin is among the big names. We’ve been tested; when Dorticos fought [Youri] Kalenga it was fight of the year and look what Kevin did to Kalenga. Any of those fights would be great for Kevin and they would prove he is among the best. We’re making our moves, staying in the winner’s circle is a big thing for us.”