Kevin Lerena, RING No. 5 Cruiserweight, Stops 49 Year Old Firat Aslan
Firat Aslan would have been the oldest person to hold a boxing crown if he had downed South African Kevin Lerena at EWS Arena in Goeppingen, Germany on Saturday.
Youth shone, however, as the RING No. 5 cruiserweight and IBO champion Lerena rose to 25-1, 12 KOs, as he stopped out the 49 year old former WBA champion Arslan (47-9-3, 32 KOs) in the sixth round.
Aslan looked good for a 49 year old being, but Lerena (below, signaling his ranking according to the IBO), 22 years younger, looked better.
You had to chuckle, maybe, when in round one the men came out of their corners, faced off, and looked like twins, or a father-son duo deliberately looking to mimic each other. Two lefties, with high guards, but separation would be achieved.
Lerena, age 27, did the sensible thing, he offered a high output, his volume level the smart move against an ultra-ultra senior statesman. His punch had to impress judges, as opposed to the more wizened athlete, who in round two offered too much arm punching. Rip from the hips, you used to hear some old school trainers say, and Aslan needed to hear that. There were more of them, from him, though, as compared to the first. Rips to the body, from the “kid,” I bet they started to plant seeds of dividends at this stage. Also, right mini-hooks were sneaking around the guard, pasting the chin a bit more, for the winner.
On to the third–Lerena sat down on his shots more, backed Aslan up more, and we saw the legs of the loser get weaker. By the last third of the round, Lerena clearly was grooving, having fun, being willing to loosen up even more, because he knew Aslan couldn’t probably hurt him. More of a ramp up in round four for Lerena, he clearly had a pace in mind, and he was adhering to it. By this point, Aslan (below, left) knew the direction this was going in, so he tried to modify his manner. He edged closer, tightened the distance some, but there wasn’t an attendant uptick in flurrying, really.
The fifth–it edged closer to the finish line, we knew that because we saw the head of Aslan snapping back more overtly.
To the sixth frame. A left sneak-around hook snaked around the guard, from long range and Lerena didn’t expect to have the impact it did. Oh, it did. Aslan buckled a bit, and Lerena got shark-ish, looked to lock in and finish. He hurled five, six, seven, eight blows and in came the white towel, from the loser’s corner. WTF, Aslan said, he didn’t know that his crew had decided to pull that plug.
By the way, it wasn’t the trainer, it was someone in a suit, not part of the in-the-corner trainer-assistant-cutman trio. Some poking around on Facebook resulted in finding some references to the towel thrower as being the promoter of the event. BoxRec lists Erol Ceylan owning that distinction, and comparing a pic that BoxRec features versus a clip of the towel thrower, paused…yes, it looks like Ceylan deserves the credit-scorn for pushing the eject button.
Aslan really didn’t agree with the towel toss, but Lerena, rated No. 2-WBA and No. 3-IBF, tried to console him and tell him he did well. Perhaps Aslan already has or will come to appreciate that the move saved him some brain cells.
Arslan, ranked No. 3 by the WBA, had been on a solid run, this was his first loss since 2014, when he was defeated by Yoan Pablo Hernandez.
Lerena has the basics down, and now boasts wins over Youri Kalenga, Sefer Seferi and the ultra vet. He will soon get the most high profile test of his professional tenure.
Aslan, is this it for him? He boasts a win over Virgil Hill, in 2007, grabbing the WBA cruiser crown, and certainly can look back on his campaigning with pride. He stepped in with some solid foes since stepping to the line as a professional in 1997.
ALSO: The Kazahk-born German resident Christina Hammer (25-1, 11 KOs) returned for the first time since her unification decision loss to Claressa Shields in April of 2019.
“Lady Hammer” snagged an eight round decision over Florence Muthoni (12-9-2, 6 KOs; age 38) in support of Lerena-Aslan at a mid-sized arena, capacity 5,600 or so.
Looking for a boxing podcast with a good variety of guests? Listen to Everlast “Talkbox” hosted by Woods if you like. Guests on this edition include ex 154 champ Jarrett Hurd, Baltimore up n comer Malik Hawkins and boxing promoter/rock n roll front man Ken Casey of the Dropkick Murphys and Murphys Boxing.