Kevin ‘Two Guns’ Lerena produced a coming-of-age performance against Youri ‘El Toro’ Kalenga on Saturday night to claim the vacant IBO cruiserweight championship in Johannesburg.
Kalenga fought like a bull, but Lerena responded with a confident and mature showing that underscored his rating by all the major organisations.
He showed patience, overcoming a slow start to outfox an aggressive, dangerous challenger.
Kalenga came out throwing bombs, but he lacked a Plan B and was unable to change up his game plan.
Lerena, in turn, weathered the storm, countering smartly, and although he threw fewer punches, they were more accurate.
The pair put on an entertaining bout that ebbed and flowed, but Lerena’s superior skills proved telling as he won via split decision.
Two of the judges gave him the nod (116-113 and 115-113), while the other favoured Kalenga (117-111). The outcome wasn’t well received by Serena.
Kalenga’s approach was elemental as he moved in straight lines and tried to crowd Lerena with his short, sharp punching.
But Lerena showed speed and angles and avoided Kalenga’s power shots.
Indeed, the best one-off punches were landed by Lerena, not least in the second round when a left hook made Kalenga shudder.