Kevin Lerena became the new SA cruiserweight champion by beating Deon Coetzee on points on Thursday night.
The 23-year-old Lerena won the 12-round bout at Emperors Palace 117-111 on two cards and 118-110 on the third.
He rocked Coetzee in the opening round and landed several telling blows in the second, apparently on his way to an early knockout victory. But he soon started shedding blood as Coetzee demanded a little respect.
Lerena, a southpaw, seemed to run out of ideas as the champion refused to go down, soaking up punches throughout the bout.
The new champion, who is trained by Peter Smith, has been a professional since November 2011 and now has a record of 12-1, including eight wins inside the distance. Being forced to go 12 rounds probably taught him some valuable lessons.
Coetzee, also 23, was making the first defence of his title. He showed courage but not much else as his record dipped to 11-6, including seven knockouts.
The fight was a huge disappointment for his supporters. The number of damaging blows he took should force him to reconsider his future in boxing.
Trained by Nick Durandt, he won the vacant title on October 26 last year when he stopped Bevan Beckman in the ninth round. His only previous defeat was against former SA light-heavyweight champion Johnny Muller, who beat him on points at Emperors Palace on November 15 last year.
FOURIE NEW SA CHAMPION
On the undercard, Grant Fourie dethroned SA super-lightweight champion Warren Joubert in one of the best title fights seen in South Africa for a while.
Fourie won 117-111, 116-110 and 114-112, taking his professional record to 16-7, with one draw and ten shortcut victories. Joubert’s fell to 22-4; 5, including 11 knockouts.
The new champion, trained by Harold Volbrecht, knocked Joubert down with a right-left combination in the eighth round and had him in trouble again in the ninth.
Fourie, making his first defence, staged a late rally but was docked a point in the eleventh round for hitting after the break, effectively sealing the result.
Joubert, 34, and Fourie, 32, did not exactly fit the tournament’s “Young Guns” tag but brought the experience of more than 50 professional bouts into the ring and restored some of the pride in SA boxing. Superbly conditioned and well skilled, they showed the “young guns” some of the principles of the sport.
Joubert has been a professional for eleven years but won the title only in April this year when he beat Lungisa Jikana on points, also at Emperors Palace.
Fourie made his professional debut in March 2007. In his most recent fight, in August last year, he lost to Vusimzi Bokolow, who stopped him in the fourth round in Port Elizabeth.