Lerena shoulders the pain, but big plans remain

Loud and proud: Kevin Lerena working the room. Pic: N-SQUARED

A succession of opponents has tried and failed. Only now has Kevin Lerena been counted out, having given up the fight to injury.

“Two Guns” will have an arthroscopy on his troublesome shoulder later today, a minimally-invasive form of surgery after having unsuccessfully tried other measures.

“It’s not a massive op; just a clean-out,” said a resigned Lerena yesterday. Nothing else helped . . . going under the knife is the last but only option.”

The IBO cruiserweight’s shoulder has given him trouble for the past two years, but he’s fought through the pain and somehow managed. At elite level, however, the risk is far too great to continue with the injury.

“It’s just as well he’s getting sorted out,” said promoter Rodney Berman. “He can rest and take stock. The division is hot now and he must be 100 percent fit.”

Indeed, the final of the World Boxing Super Series takes place between Oleksandr Usyk and Murat Gassiev in Moscow next weekend and Lerena will be a very interested onlooker.

The winner will collect almost all the cruiserweight division’s marbles, the exception being the IBO belt, which Lerena holds.

With Usyk, the favourite, expected to soon move up to heavyweight, there will be a mass shake-up of the division given how the series has turned out. There is speculation of another such tournament at cruiserweight and expectations are that Lerena will be included.

“I’ve spoken to the Sauerlands and they’re mulling over doing the cruiserweights again,” said Berman of the WBSS promoters. “It’s the hottest division in Europe, so that’s where we’ll go regardless.”

Lerena’s status has shot up in recent months with him having taken out Youri Kalenga, Dmytri Kucher and Roman Golovashchenko, positioning himself as one of the division’s hottest fighters.

Ranked sixth by the WBC and fourth by the IBF, he is headed towards more title fights – and tougher challenges.

He is perfectly placed too. At 26, he is the second youngest among the generally accepted top 10 of the division. Only Gassiev, the WBA and IBF champion, is younger, aged 24.

Said Berman: “The tectonic plates are moving quickly in the division and we must be there to strike. So long as Kevin keeps winning, he can’t be ignored, notwithstanding the injury. The months to come will be critical, suffice to say that we will be marketing him hard and positioning him so that he’s prepared for anything.”

For now, however, the focus is on Lerena getting through surgery and on the road to recovery with October a likely time to return to the ring – all going well.