Youri Kalenga (L) is always in attack mode
(photo by Dougie Minehan)
CORK, Ireland (Nov. 18, 2014) – Fresh off of his devastating 12th round knockout of previously undefeated No. 2 contender “Dangerous” Denton Daley (12-1) this past Saturday night, as the official WBA mandatory challenger, Interim World Boxing Association (WBA) cruiserweight champion Youri “El Toro” Kalenga (21-1, 14 KOs), has set his sights next on WBA “regular” champion Denis Lebedev (26-2, 20 KOs) with a loftier goal to eventually unify all the world titles.
“I want to fight Lebedev next and my promoter, Michael King (King Sports Enterprises), will bring that fight to Los Angeles,” Kalenga said. “Once I beat Lebedev, I will take on the other world champions – (IBF) Yoan Pablo Hernandez, (WBO) Marco Huck or (WBC) Grigory Drodz. Give me any and all of them!”
The 26-year-old Kalenga, the Congolese fighter who lives in France, captured the Interim WBA title this past June in Monte Carlo, taking a 12-round split decision (116-112, 115-113, 113-115) over Mateusz Masternak (32-1).
Last Saturday evening, in front of 6,000 partisan fans in the first world heavyweight championship bout held in Mississauga, Canada, hometown favorite Daley was dropped by Kalenga in the ninth, displaying heavy-handed combinations that bludgeoned him helplessly to the mat. Daley trailed badly on the scorecards going into the final round and the former college basketball player decided to go for broke. Kalenga finished him off, though, with two more knockdowns in the 12th round. Referee Charlie Fitch halted the action at the 1:52 mark after a three-punch explosion left Daley out on his feet before going unconscious and motionless on the canvas for several moments.
An aggressive fighter and vicious puncher, Kalenga embodies his nickname – “El Toro” – relentlessly coming forward, throwing powerful bombs from all different angles. His style promises to make him a hit with fans all over the world.
Fighting in Daley's backyard wasn't a problem for Kalenga, whose last seven fights have been in seven different countries – Canada, Monaco, Ireland, Spain, France, Latvia and Germany.
“I love to fight and for me it doesn't matter where,” Kalenga noted. “If I fight in my opponent's territory, he thinks that he has the advantage but, once every one clears out of that ring before the first bell, it is just me and him. Of course, the officials will sway towards the home fighter, so, that's why I go for a knock out.”
Kalenga's last five fights have been under the guidance of international boxing manager Gary Hyde (Nowhere2hyde), who also manages WBA Super & WBO super bantamweight champion Guillermo “The Jackal” Rigondeaux (14-0, 9 KOs), the two-time Cuban Olympic gold medalist; former WBO middleweight champion Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam (31-1, 18 KOs), the current IBF middleweight mandatory challenger; Georgian junior welterweight prospect Levan “The Wolf” Ghvamichava (13-1, 10 KOs) and French junior middleweight title-holder Michel Soro (23-1-1, 13 KOs.
“Youri is tough, rugged, brutal fighter and, at 26, he will be a big force at 200 pounds,” Hyde commented. “Youri has raw power in both hands and he's also a showman. He's going to be a huge star once U.S. fans get to see him in action. He didn't want to leave the final outcome to the judges, hence, scoring a devastating knockout in round 12. Daley was game and he did put up a good fight.”
Kalenga is now the mandatory challenger for Lebedev, whose last fight was a second-round stoppage of Pawel Kolodziej (33-0) this past September. The Russian southpaw had lost his WBA title belt May 17, 2013 to WBA “Champion in Recess” Guillermo Jones (KO11), but Lebedev was reinstated as WBA champion after Jones failed a post-fight drug test.
Lebedev, however, has never fought outside of Russia and Europe, so for Team Kalenga to make a fight in the United States with Lebedev is a long-shot unless it goes to purse bid and King Sports Enterprises wins.
“Youri's promoter, King Sports, has huge resources and it is very keen on delivering world title fights,” Hyde added. “I am confident that Michael King, CEO of King Sports, will put this fight with Lebedev on in California.”
Meanwhile, outside of Europe, Kalenga is the best-kept secret in the cruiserweight division, if not in all of boxing.
In the ring, like a charging bull on Red Bull, Kalenga just keeps coming forward with bad intentions. He made a major statement in his North American debut last weekend. Now, his goal is to settle the score in the WBA with Lebedev, before attempting to unify the world cruiserweight title.