KO KID: Kevin Lerena. Picture: THE TIMES
KO KID: Kevin Lerena. Picture: THE TIMES

Vastly experienced referee Jean Robert Laine from Monaco has been appointed to officiate the eagerly anticipated return to the boxing ring of reigning IBO cruiserweight champion Kevin “Two Guns” Lerena.

The 26-year-old Lerena‚ a big drawcard at Emperors Palace in Kempton Park‚ will put his belt on the line against Artur “Thunder Man” Mann from Germany in the main contest of the “No Mercy” Golden Gloves bill on Saturday night.

Laine‚ originally from Haiti but based in Monaco‚ has handled many world title fights‚ including the WBA mini flyweight championship between newly crowned holder Knockout Freshman from the Philippines and Byron Rojas from Nicaragua.

IBO president Ed Levine confirmed Laine’s appointment  on Sunday and added that Eddie Pappoe from Ghana‚ and Giulio Piras and Giustino Di Giovanni from Italy would be the judges.

Fans will be out to scrutinise Lerena’s performance after he was cleared of any wrongdoing by the championship committee of the IBO. The boxer was reported in 2018 by the WBC to have failed a dope test.

The WBC announced on Twitter in November that Lerena returned a positive result after the Voluntary Anti-doping Association (Vada) tested him on October 18 in Johannesburg. It said Lerena tested positive for Clomiphene.

The boxer‚ his trainer Peter Smith and promoter Rodney Berman came out guns blazing over the allegations  saying they were aimed at tainting the boxer’s image. What really irked them was that Lerena volunteered to do the test and they wanted to know why he would have taken such a drug when he was not in preparation for a fight.

The IBO championship committee cleared him‚ and the organisation’s Florida-based president Ed Levine announced recently that the boxer would keep the cruiserweight belt that will be on the line against the 28-year-old Germany-based Kazakh.

Mann‚ who has held both the WBO International and Global Boxing Union belts‚ is undefeated after 15 fights. He is rated No 21‚ a spot above Lerena’s stablemate and ABU cruiserweight holder Thabiso “The Rock” Mchunu.

Lerena‚ who will bid for the third defence of the belt he won in 2017‚ has 21 wins against one loss.

Former mixed martial arts fighter turned professional boxer Boyd Allen and John “Section 29” Bopape will oppose each other for the vacant WBA Pan African junior middleweight title. Frank Rodriguez and Michael Markram will do battle over 10 rounds for the vacant Gauteng light heavyweight belt.