Johannesburg - Kevin Lerena returned to winning ways here Saturday night via a unanimous points victory over Ryad Merhy of Belgium to win the WBC bridgerweight silver tile and the right to challenge Polish champion Luasz Rozanski for the world title.
The judges scored the cagey fight 118-110; 115-113; 116-112 for the South African southpaw who suffered a disappointing defeat in the heavyweight division in his last fight.
Beaten by Daniel Dubois back in December in his attempt to move up to the highly lucrative heavyweights, the Under Armour athlete was under pressure to show that the third-round knockout defeat to the Englishman had not killed his spirit.
And the warrior in him was evident in patches against an opponent who came highly recommended, Merhy boasting a brilliant record of 31 wins and with 26 knockouts. Granted he was not his usual slick self and took a long time to start letting his hands loose on an opponent that looked to fight on the counter.
Ryad Merhy donne tout dans le dernier round ! 🇧🇪🥊— RTL sports (@RTLsportsbe) May 13, 2023
Malheureusement, le Belge s'incline par décision unanime face au Sud-africain Kevin Lerena 🇿🇦
Seulement la deuxième défaite de sa carrière. pic.twitter.com/Nd86neZEnH
But at the end he did enough to impress the judges and earn a victory that sees him on the verge of realising his goal of being a champion under a highly respected sanctioning body.
The Golden Gloves Promotions ‘The Eliminator’ produced some fascinating clashes with Keanu Koopman continuing his brilliant start to his fistic career with yet another knockout victory. The welterweight fighter stopped Pieter De Klerk in the second round to take his record to four wins by stoppages having displayed some brilliant punching with both hands.
There was also a good win for national heavyweight champion Keaton Gomes who made a rare defence of the title that had seen its holders in recent years losing it in the first fight after being crowned.
Gomes, who is Lerena’s training partner under Peter Smith, stopped Josh Pretorious in the fourth round having shown some glimpses of his punching power in the earlier round.
Pretorious was no slouch though and had moments in the fight when he appeared he could push the champion all the way.
Junior flyweight – Beaven Sibanda beat Sandile Wessels TKO Round 3
Junior bantamweight - Ndabazakhile Phiri beat Miranda Malajika via split points decision
Junior welterweight – Ntethelelo Nkosi beat Gift Bholo via unanimous points’ decision.