26-year-old Kerman Lejarraga was pretty much an unknown fighter prior to his April 28 clash with Britain’s Bradley Skeete, despite the Spanish puncher’s impressive-looking 24-0 (19) pro ledger. But, after just two rounds, the man with the “Revolver” nickname had won the vacant European title and with his smashing win he had broken through onto the big stage in style.
Now training hard as he attempts to see off another top British name in Frankie Gavin, who Lejarraga will make his first defence against in November, once again in Bilbao, the unbeaten puncher – who is 25-0 (20) – is looking at solidifying himself as a formidable and long-reigning European champion.
Here, as translated by Inigo Herbosa, Lejarraga speaks exclusively with Boxing News:
Q: You shocked Bradley Skeete in dramatic fashion – will you do a similar job on Frankie Gavin?
Kerman Lejarraga: “First of all, it is an honour to be able to face a boxer like Gavin, and even more so due to the fact that I will be facing him at home, in Bilbao. To me, the hard thing is not winning the European title, which I have done, but to become a solid champion, and by me facing Gavin, I am so excited to put on a great show and show everyone just how much I have to offer as a fighter.”
Q: How much have you seen of Gavin?
K.L: “I’ve seen him fight on many occasions. Here in Europe, we all watch carefully what happens in Britain with the fighters there, because of the quality of fighters there, and the fans there and the promoters there. I know how hard I must work in order to keep my European title and this starts with the Gavin fight in November. The truth is, no, I didn’t think I’d get Skeete out so fast; I thought it would be a long and difficult fight. But the work I did, with my team and with my coach, Txutxi Del Valle – who I have been with all my life, he is my father and my brother, and I know I would not be who I am without him – went perfectly.
“My coach paid such close attention to the details, the way Skeete fights, and what we practised in the gym worked great. To be honest, now I don’t think about beating Gavin so quickly, either. To me, every fight means the world and all I think about is working hard, hard, hard – even harder than I did before I was able to beat someone of Skeete’s talent. If I made comparisons [between my opponents] and felt my punching power could solve everything, in any fight, that would be a mistake – one I cannot afford to make. I respect Gavin and I will make sure I can do whatever is needed to beat him.”
Q: What was your amateur record?
K.L: “I first put the gloves on at age 16, with the intention of having fun. But little by little I got hooked on this sport and soon it was my dream to become champion of Europe. Now I have achieved that, my goal is to go as far as I possibly can. I had 42 amateur fights. But to me, with my style, it was always clear in my mind that I would become a pro fighter. I faced some good names [at amateur level], such as Jonathan Alonso, but I don’t look back on my amateur career with any degree of importance. Those fights just helped me learn and get ready for the pro game.”
Q: Who has given you your toughest fight so far in your career and have you ever been knocked down?
K.L: “I’ve always said that the most difficult fight is the one that is coming next. At the beginning of my career, I had a few injuries to my right hand and I can remember the time when I had to fight a fight with a broken hand – for three-rounds. I kissed the canvas when I fought Azael Cosio of Panama – he hit me on the neck. But I was able to come back and stop him (TKO3). Apart from that, I could list loads and loads of strengths and awkward aspects of the men I have fought. All of these fights have made me get the best out of myself. And I will continue to get better and better.”
Q: Do you feel you have what it takes to become world champion?
K.L: “Of course every fighter dreams of becoming world champion, but at the same time, I only dream about this for a few seconds! I do not allow myself to leave reality. There are a number of great champions out there and of course I would love to face them one day. But today, at the age of 26, I know I first have to prove myself as a solid European champion. But with the hard work I am willing and able to put in, maybe one day, yes, I will make it [at world level].”
Q: Who would you say is the best welterweight out there right now?
K.L: “I would say Errol Spence, but then there is also Terence Crawford. There is of course some tremendous talent at this weight – guys like Keith Thurman, Danny Garcia, Manny Pacquiao, Lucas Matthysse and Amir Khan. Also some up and coming names, like Josh Kelly. There is so much talent here. Right now, my aim is to defend my title as many times as I can.”