Cruiserweight contender Kevin Lerena battered Patrick Ferguson before the fight was stopped in round 5 Saturday night at Emperors Palace in Kempton Park, South Africa.
With the victory, Lerena improves to 26-1-1, 13 knockouts.
Lerena, who resides in nearby Johannesburg, last fought on February 8 in Goeppingen, Germany, stopping First Arslan in round 6. The southpaw Lerena has displayed more power and aggression in recent fights, having stopped three of his previous four opponents prior to the Ferguson fight.
The 28-year-old is ranked No. 3 by the IBF and No. 2 by the WBA. Lerena was facing a fighter in Ferguson who had won his previous three bouts.
From the opening bell, Lerena had his way with the taller Ferguson. As the bout progressed, Lerena would walk Ferguson down, forcing him to fight defensively and off his back foot.
Ferguson’s punch output dropped with each passing round. Sensing Ferguson was tired and weakening with each punch that landed, Lerena battered him with two or three-punch combinations in the center of the ring or when he had Ferguson against the ropes.
Lerena continued dictating the fight going into round 5. Midway through the round, Lerena connected with an uppercut to the head, staggering Ferguson back against the ropes. Lerena landed a barrage of punches at will until referee Tony Nyangiwe stepped in to stop the fight at 1:47.
Lerena, who is promoted by Rodney Berman, is hoping a world title fight is lined up against any of world titleholders in the first three months of 2021. He is trained by Peter Smith.
Ferguson, who resides in Spokane, Washington, drops to 17-3-1, 13 KOs.
In the co-feature, welterweight Jabulani Makhense of Pretoria defeated Mardochee Kuvesa Katembo (13-4-1) of the Democratic of the Congo by unanimous decision.
Scores were 98-92, 98-92, and 96-94 for Makhense, who improves to 11-0, 5 KOs.
Katembo’s awkward style and lateral movement befuddled Makhense at times, but Makhense did land the more-telling blows, especially during the second half of the fight.
Both Lerena and Makhense are co-promoted by Berman and Lou DiBella.
In cruiserweight action, Johnny Muller of Roodepoort defeated previously-unbeaten Akani Phuzi by unanimous decision.
Scores were 98-91, 98-91, and 97-92 for Muller, who improves to 22-9-2, 14 KOs. It was Muller’s first fight in almost 14 months and his first win after losing five of his previous seven fights.
Muller dropped Phuzi (11-1, 5 KOs) once in the opening round and was the more-effective fighter throughout much of the fight.
Super middleweight prospect Roarke Knapp (11-1-1, 9 KOs) of the Johannesburg suburb of Edenvale knocked out Simon Dladla (6-1, 5 KOs) at 1:58 of the opening round.
Junior bantamweight prospect Ricardo Malajika defeated Rofhiwa Nemushungwa (12-7-2, 3 KOs) by unanimous decision over 6 rounds. Scores were 97-93, 97-93, and 98-92 in favor of Malajika, who improves to 7-0, 5 KOs.
Francisco A. Salazar has written for BoxingScene since September of 2012 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (Calif.) Star newspaper. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing