Kevin Lerena delivered on his promise to produce the goods, pounding Deon Coetzee to submission in an absorbing 12-rounder for the SA cruiserweight championship at Emperors Palace on Thursday.
Roared on by a 1200-strong crowd, Lerena blasted Coetzee with an assortment of punches from the get-go, mixing up his game and maintaining pressure throughout.
Coetzee’s performance was extraordinary, not so much for his offence, but rather his ability to soak up punishment. Rocked in the first round, the suspicion was that he might have an early night, but even though he continued to get banged up, he was all heart as he bravely hung in.
Coetzee had some sweet moments on the inside, and even drew blood from the challenger, but Lerena’s movement and speed made him an elusive target. Some of the southpaw’s body-punching was a marvel to witness, so too his patience. At 23 he still has much to learn, but it is doubtful he has put in a more measured or impressive performance.
The judges’ scores were a formality and he was duly crowned South African champion on the basis of a unanimous points win – 117-111, 118-110, 117-110.
“On that showing he’s definitely earned another big local fight,” said promoter Rodney Berman. “Whether the fans like him or not, he’s exciting to watch.”
CINDERELLA MAN NAILS IT
Grant Fourie has paid his dues as a local fighter.
On Thursday, the 34-year-old was duly rewarded with a fairytale win over SA junior-welterweight champion Warren Joubert, who was a shadow of the fighter who won the title just a few months ago.
Fourie had battled illness and a run of defeats, but he ploughed on, determined to seek out good fortune. Shifting up to the new weight proved a masterstroke.
From round one he was fast, accurate and strong, and he made it count with a dominant performance against his long-time pal and former stablemate.
Fourie started strongly, often catching Joubert on the break. He found openings early and used the advantage to rack up points. Joubert seemed uncharacteristically mystified and off form. He never quite found the rhythm required to keep the relentless Fourie off him.
Fourie’s aggression paid off in the eighth when he landed a booming right-left combination that sent Joubert sprawling. Forced to take an eight-count, he retreated further into his shell and had no answer to Fourie’s single-minded attack.
Already well down on points late in the fight, Joubert was deducted a point for holding in the 11th. Ironically, it spurred a decent finish from the champion, who refused to surrender quietly. He finished stronger than Fourie, but it didn’t matter: Fourie had the fight well sown-up and could afford to coast.
The one score of 114-112 was absurd, but the other cards (117-111, 116-110) were closer to the mark.
LAMATI ROBBED; DEEJAY DOMINANT
On the undercard, junior-flyweight DeeJay Kriel continued his education with a classy TKO win over Thabo Moabi.
Kriel was seldom troubled as he settled into an easy rhythm, scoring a second round knockdown en route to the late stoppage.
The story of Moabi’s deprived background – he’s a shelf packer who trains in an open field – so touched promoter Berman, he upped his purse by R2000 and committed a further R10 000 to the building of a proper gym for the Mamelodi youngster and his trainer.
Bravo to that!
Earlier, bantamweight prospect Ludumo Lamati looked the part as he showed polish and an outstanding jab against trialhorse Cebo Ngema. Ngema was game and dogged, but nowhere near the class of Lamati, whom trainer Nick Durandt had proclaimed “the new Silence Mabuza”.
Yet somehow the judges saw it differently, two turning in 57-57 cards and another unfathomably giving it to Ngema 59-55.
Unfortunately for boxers like Lamati, such exotic scoring has almost become routine from local officials.
In the opener, light-heavyweight Fernando Rodrigues made hard work of beating Brendon Sweetnam in his pro debut. He dropped Sweetnam in the first with a peach of a left hook on his way to winning their four-rounder by scores of 39-36, 38-37, 39-37.
All in all, “Young Guns” was first-rate entertainment and promoter Jeff Ellis deserves kudos for getting the crowd roaring with some excellent match-ups.