Kevin Lerena started boxing as a teenager so he could hit back against bullies, now he must feel like thanking those who made his life a misery or boxing may have passed him by.
The Johannesburg battler is now one of the fastest emerging stars in the Cruiserweight division and back on BoxNation when he makes the fourth defence of his IBO Title against Czech puncher Vasil Ducar on Saturday 8th June.
He fell in love with the sport as soon as brother Mike encouraged him to battle the bullies by boxing.
His rugby career also took off and he could have become a professional with Golden Lions where he was a top class centre, but boxing was his true love.
Lerena told Sport24: “Rugby is a great sport, but I can honestly say that boxing has been good to me.
“It wasn’t that I necessarily turned down a junior contract with the Golden Lions; it was rather a case of needing something more. The bottom line was that I wanted to box.
“Boxing is a sport that can really humble you, and if you humble yourself to the sport you will always learn.
“The day that I think I know it all is the day that I must stop boxing. I don’t believe you can ever stop learning in boxing.
“Rugby is also a special sport and I still follow South African rugby and the Lions, in particular, closely.”
It was the best decision he could make and Lerena has become South Africa’s biggest boxing star along with Zolani Tete.
Lerena’s only blemish was a points loss against Johnny Muller in November 2014 that he avenged with a 10th round knockout 18 months later.
Lerena, 27, won his belt in September 2017 after outpointing Congolese powerhouse Youri Kalenga and made successful defences against Dmytro Kucher, Roman Golovashchenko and Artur Mann.
BoxNation viewers were wowed by the Mann KO and if he comes through against Ducar he is likely to be propelled towards the winner of the World Boxing Super Series.
But he is now in a race against time as he’s already making retirement plans and continuing to make a success of his businesses which includes a security company, where one client was Justin Bieber.
He added: “I plan to retire from the sport of boxing before the age of 30. I don’t want to be boxing for another 10 years.
“A unification fight is my dream bout and would be extremely lucrative. I suppose we all do sport for the love of it but, at the end of the day, this is my job and what I do to support my family.
“A unification fight against one of the best in the world for a substantial amount of money is the ultimate goal.
“There are some top Cruiserweights in the world that I would love to have a piece of. Only time will tell, but I think those big fights are around the corner for me.
"When you retire from boxing you want to know that you have achieved something in the sport.
“I’m fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to go on and reach bigger things. Having said that, it is hard work being a South African boxer and competing against pugilists from top, first world nations,” he added.