By Ron Jackson
South Africa’s longest-reigning world champion Kevin Lerena goes into a must win fight against Germany’s Firat Arslan on February 22 at the EWS Arena in Goepingen, Germany, when he makes the sixth defense of his IBO cruiserweight belt, in order to challenge for the WBA cruiserweight belt against Ryad Merhy.
The 49-year-old Arslan (47-8-3, 32 KOs) who made his pro debut in January 1997 is rated at #16 by the IBO, #3 by the WBA and at #4 by the IBF according to the latest available ratings.
Despite his age, Arslan is on a 15 bout winning streak with 11 wins inside and could prove dangerous, as the old saying in boxing is that a fighter never loses his knockout power.
The last time Arslan lost was against Yoan Pablo Hernandez on August 16, 2014, in a challenge for the IBF cruiserweight belt. He lost on a split decision and has only lost three fights inside the distance.
The always superbly conditioned 27-year-old Lerena (24-1, 11 KOs) is listed at #2 by the WBA and at #3 by the IBF.
It has been reported that if Lerena comes off a win against Arslan he will meet the interim WBA cruiserweight champion Ryad Merhey, 27, from Côte D’Ivoire, who fights out of Brussels, Belgium for the WBA “regular” cruiserweight belt.
The WBA “super” cruiserweight champion is Arsen Goulamirian of France.
Merhey who made his pro debut in June 2013 has a record of 29-1, 24 KOs, and with a knockout ratio of 80% could prove dangerous.
The only loss on his record came against Goulamirian in March 2018 when he was stopped in the eleventh round. Since this setback he has won five fights with four coming inside the distance.