Kevin Lerena wants to fine-tune his killer instinct when he takes on Dmytro Kucher of Ukraine at Emperors Palace on March 3.
The left-hander surprised himself watching footage of his last outing against Youri Kalenga‚ a tight contest that he won by split decision to lift the IBO cruiserweight title in September last year.
He noticed that he had his opponent in trouble at one stage.
“When I have a guy hurt‚ I must put him away‚” Lerena said at an open training session with coach Peter Smith on Tuesday afternoon.
“When I had Kalenga hurt I stepped off the gas.”
And Lerena‚ with a record of 19 wins (9 KOs) and a single loss‚ knows that crowds love a puncher.
“A knockout can lift your share price.”
Especially in a division that has the world’s interest at the moment‚ with a Super Eight series that is scheduled to culminate in May.
Kucher‚ also a southpaw‚ has fought one of the series contenders‚ Marco Huck of Germany‚ losing on points in November 2016.
He’s been inactive since then – perhaps the biggest black mark against his name – although Smith says he’s been training with the likes of countryman‚ Oleksandr Usyk‚ the WBO champion.
“He’s never been knocked out‚” said Smith‚ but added that ever-improving Lerena has the power to end the fight early.
“The knockout is definitely a bonus for us‚ Kuchar is very tough.
“We’ve been working on various game plans‚ and we’ll tap through them until we find the one that opens him up for us.”
Smith likened Lerena’s growth in the ring to a blossoming flower‚ a comparison few trainers would make about their fighters.
“He’s a wild flower‚” Smith added with a laugh.
“The idea is to grow the flower into a tree.
“People don’t see what I see. I know his abilities.
“Kevin’s got it all. He’s an incredible athlete and he’s a smart athlete.
“He’s ready to take on any of the top five in the world.
“The only thing now is the actual belief — it’s something he has to show.”
Kucher‚ with 24 wins (18 KOs)‚ two losses and a draw‚ suffered his only other defeat to Junior Makabu in Monte Carlo in 2013.
The Lerena-Kucher bout will top a bill featuring unbeaten welterweight prospect Tulz Mbenge (12-0) against Mexican Diego Cruz‚ who with a record of 18-5-2 is more experienced than the South African’s 12-0 (10 KOs).
Deejay Kriel will defend his WBC minimumweight title against South African champion Xolisa Magusha.
The duo faced off nearly a year ago before they won their respective belts‚ with Kriel winning on points. Super-middleweight Rowan Campbell is also on the line-up.
The Super Four featherweight final between Azinga Fuzile and Lerato Dlamini‚ which was supposed to be staged on this bill‚ had been postponed probably until April‚ promoter Rodney Berman said.