Kevin Lerena stops Bogdan Dinu in an impressive heavyweight debut
In a heavyweight bout scheduled for ten rounds, former cruiserweight contender Kevin Lerena knocked out Romania’s Bogdan Dinu at the 2:59 mark of the fourth round at Emperor’s Palace, South Africa, on Saturday night.
The difference in size was obvious but so too was the difference in speed.
Lerena was elusive in the first round, easily avoiding everything that Dinu threw. When the South African southpaw found a home for his straight left at the end of the round, it was clear that Dinu’s height and reach advantage was not going to be a problem.
Lerena continued slipping punches in the second. When Dinu let his hands go, opening up with a combination, Lerena ducked underneath, making him hit air. Lerena methodically worked the body, landing stiff jabs and hooks whenever he saw an opening.
The crowd came alive as Lerena landed a straight left in the third but when he went to the body again, a left strayed below the belt and Dinu went down in apparent agony. He took his time, recovered and the fight continued. A big right, followed by a pair of left hooks sent Dinu down for the first official knockdown moments later. He got up and saw out the round, but the writing was on the wall.
A straight left-right hook combination punctuated by a right uppercut in the fourth round sent Dinu down for the second time. He got up but was nailed by a straight left moments later, and collapsed to the canvas where he was counted out by referee Jean-Robert Laine.
With the win, Lerena moves to 27-1 with 14 knockouts while Dinu drops to 20-4 (16 KOs).
Lerena did what a world class heavyweight is supposed to do with the likes of Dinu: he got him out of there in style. Now he is hoping for a shot at someone in the top ten.
Based on this performance, Lerena has the speed and elusiveness to negate reach and height advantages and he, at the very least, has respectable power against bigger men. Will it be enough to become a heavyweight player? We will soon find out.
In the main supporting bout, Juan Roux’s dream run came to an end as Josh Pretorius outboxed him over 12 rounds to triumph by three identical scores of 118-112, handing him his first defeat. With the win, Pretorius became the new South African heavyweight champion and also picked up the vacant African Boxing Union strap.
Pretorius, making his second attempt at the national title, had a strategy and he stuck to it, boxing a disciplined fight behind his jab. Despite being the smaller man, Pretorius started the first round by landing stiff, quick jabs to both the head and body. When Roux threw a right, Pretorius responded by landing a head snapping two-punch combination.
That effectively set the pattern of the fight. Roux’s usual high pressure volume punching style never got into it as he just could not get the momentum going. Every time Roux opened up, Pretorius blocked most of the punches with his gloves and arms and responded with clear right hand-left hook combinations.
Roux started landing some hard jabs of his own and a chopping right towards the end of the third that reddened Pretorius’ left eye but by the next round Pretorius was countering consistently again. Every time Roux tried to mount an attack, he would be smothered and end up eating jabs and left hooks from Pretorius.
Roux tried hard to turn things around in rounds eight to ten, but he appeared sluggish and unable to follow up after landing a big right uppercut in the corner at the end of eighth and a series of short rights in the ninth. A right in the tenth appeared to buzz Pretorius, who simply responded by landing a stream of head snapping jabs followed by some body shots. Whatever Roux could do, Pretorius responded with just enough to top it.
Both combatants came out guns blazing in the last round, exchanging shots, Roux with his right and Pretorius once again landing the more head snapping shots, mostly with the left.
In the end, Josh Pretorius was a deserving winner, finally having his moment in the sun after an in-and-out career. He moves his record to 9-5 with five knockouts.
Roux drops to 6-1 with two knockouts and can come again. He is still young, and it was the kind of loss that a fighter can learn from. Whether he rebounds is up to him.
National junior middleweight champion Shervantaigh Koopman’s South African title was not at stake, but he did retain his undefeated record and a regional IBF belt when he stopped Jami Webb at the 1:42 mark of the fifth round.
After an even first round with both fighters trying to establish their jabs, Koopman found his stride in the second round, landing a hard left hook over the low guard of Webb and finding a home for his jab, landing to both the head and body.
A big Koopman right in the third sparked a brawl which was the wrong decision by Webb. Koopman had the tighter technique and a left hook knocked Webb down onto his knees. He got up but with his back to the ropes, ate another solid combination to the chin before the bell came to his rescue.
It was more of the same in the fourth when a left hook snapped Webb’s head back before a straight right bang on the button dropped him in the corner moments later. He got up and tried to fight back but had little but heart to offer, tottering on the verge of a stoppage and taking two more flush rights in the corner before the bell sounded.
The end came in the fifth. Webb took a knee moments after eating a left hook. It was ruled a slip, but a big right and follow up flurry of punches by Koopman drove Webb to the ropes and sent his mouthpiece flying. Referee Clifford Mbelu had seen enough and waved the fight over, saving the challenger from his own bravery.
With the loss, Webb drops to 6-2 while Koopman moves to 10-0 with seven knockouts.
Koopman keeps growing from strength-to-strength and one would like to see him against international opposition.
In a six round heavyweight bout Keaton Gomes returned to winning ways, stopping Shaun Potgieter in the first round. A right hurt Potgieter, turning him sideways. Gomes went after him leaving referee Simon Mokadi no choice but to stop the fight at the 1:20 mark. Gomes improves his record to 6-2 with five knockouts while Potgieter drops to 3-1.
In a shocker, Mbiya Kanku brutally stopped Phikelani Khumalo in the second round of a six round middleweight contest. Khumalo appeared to be boxing in cruise control when a looping right by Kanku froze him in his tracks. A follow up combination punctuated by a right uppercut and left hook had him sagging to the canvas. Referee Ben Ncapai waved the fight over without a count at the 1:33 mark. Kanku moves to 9-5-1 with nine knockouts while Khumalo drops to 4-1.
The card was presented by Rodney Berman of Golden Gloves Promotions.