Erislandy Lara finally has what he wants.
Well, sort of.
The former WBA super welterweight champion, who is 8-1-1 in 10 world championship fights, has got another tough fight for the vacant WBA (regular) light middleweight title on Saturday against a guy with a pretty famous name these days in boxing.
The downside for Lara is he’s fighting Ramon Alvarez, the older brother of Canelo. Canelo Alvarez, of course, is one of boxing’s biggest stars and holds the WBA middleweight belt. The bout at The Armory in Minneapolis will be televised live as the main event of a PBC on Fox card.
Ramon is four years older than his more famous brother and not nearly as talented. Ramon is 28-7-3 with 16 knockouts, and he hasn’t beaten a series of future Hall of Famers, like his brother has done.
But Ramon provides Lara with a chance to not only get his first win in 23 months, but also to regain a championship belt and prove that even at age 36, he’s still among the division’s elite.
Despite an 0-1-1 record in his last two bouts, anyone saying Lara is through hasn’t been watching. His loss to Jarret Hurd was the 2018 Fight of the Year as chosen by the Boxing Writers Association of America, and he easily could have gotten the nod from the judges.
Still, he switched trainers from Ronnie Shields to Ismael Salas for this bout and plans to put on a show.
“Alvarez is about to find out how hard we've worked,” Lara said. “I think after the sixth round, you will see all the training that I did and the game plan that we have, [and see me] start to break him down. After that, the knockout is going to come.
“My goal has been to get back to the top of the division. I’ve been at the top of the division all of these years and regaining a title is huge. It’s part of my history and my legacy. I’m super excited to be back in another big fight. I’m just focused on getting my title back. I want to look spectacular in this main event Saturday night on a big stage. Then I can move on to the biggest fights in the world.”
Lara is one of those borderline Hall of Fame candidates. His 85 percent winning rate in 10 title fights unquestionably makes him a candidate, but he came up on the short end of his three biggest bouts. He lost agonizingly close decisions to Paul Williams, Canelo Alvarez and Hurd.
He could easily be unbeaten. He’s had some quality wins, but hasn’t beaten an A-level star in his prime. He could make his Hall of Fame case with a strong stretch run, which begins Saturday against Alvarez.
He’s become a much more entertaining fighter to watch and not the defensive wizard whose fights were difficult to watch at times earlier in his career.
“I don’t put too much thought into Lara’s last two fights not being wins,” Alvarez said. “He’s changed his mentality and attitude and he’s fighting and not boxing as much as he did before. I think that shows that he still has a lot left in the tank to give.”
Lara feels that way. He believes switching from Shields to Salas will benefit him, though he has nothing but good things to say about Shields. But he’s on the stretch run of his career and wanted to be certain he gave everything he could to the sport.
He chose Salas, who has long been regarded as one of the sport’s brightest minds. He is great at formulating game plans and is adept at helping his fighter make in-bout adjustments.
Whatever he’s been selling for the past two months, Lara has been buying.
“Going back to my original pro coach, Ismael Salas, has been great,” Lara said. “Ronnie Shields is a great trainer and we had a great run together. I just had to change [the] atmosphere. I’m very comfortable in Las Vegas, [where I trained for this fight]. The sparring was perfect and we’re ready to rock.
“I come well-prepared for this fight. The fight with Canelo was a long time ago, so now I’m just looking forward and toward being in bigger fights.”
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