Some history on the Cuban southpaw. In 2008 he was finally able to defect, and make his pro debut in Turkey against Ivan Maslov; winning on points. Come January 1st of 2009, he makes his ESPN Friday Night Fights debut against Rodrigo Aguiar; with a first round TKO. He moves along beating solid gatekeeper/journeymen types like Darnell Boone; Grady Brewer, and Danny Perez. So far so good. Then something a little funny happens. On March 25, 2011 in Las Vegas; he meets Carlos Molina. A fight that was shown on FNF. Molina was not on many people’s radar. Best known for a close MD loss to Mike Alvarado, and two controversial clashes with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. One a draw, and the other a loss. Lara was considered pretty lucky to make it out of this bout with a draw.
Then came a huge opportunity. Paul “The Punisher” Williams in Atlantic City. The date was July 9, 2011. For whatever reason the powers that be thought this was a good comeback fight for Williams. This was his return after suffering a stunning one punch knockout in the 2nd round against Sergio Martinez. Why was Lara chosen as the opponent? Was it the Molina draw on FNF? Perhaps it was the old prejudice about Cuban boxers lacking stamina in the pro ranks. Needless to say; the local Atlantic City papers had Williams the clear favorite.
Lara was able to land his left on Williams all night. The Punisher’s relentless volume punching was able to keep him in it. The scores were about to be read. It seemed a foregone conclusion that Lara would have his arm raised. But it was not to be. Williams pulled out a majority decision. Just about everyone thought Lara got shafted. The judges were summarily suspended.
After the Williams fight; Lara became something of a danger man. Who would want to fight him? At one point even stating that he would be willing to go overseas to fight Dmitry Pirog (himself a perceived middleweight danger man coming off a knockout victory over Danny Jacobs). Finally almost one year later; the opponent would be Ronald Hearns. To whom Lara proceeded to annihilate in one round. Two months later he took on the very useful but limited Freddy Hernandez. Hernandez had previously been a first round knockout victim at the hands of Andre Berto, but on this night he proved to be very durable and went the full ten rounds. In the process he actually did some decent body work. No question; Lara won the fight, but it had to make you wonder. Is this really the man to rule the 154-pound division?
Next chance would be in Las Vegas; November of 2012. It was a WBC light middleweight title eliminator. Lara would be up against Vanes Martirosyan. Another name who had been getting quite a bit of hoopla. This leaden fight ended in a technical draw. Many thought Lara should have gotten the nod, but there wasn’t much fuss made over it. No one really cared about a rematch. The year of 2012 proved to be a real mixed bag for Lara. His stock might have actually dropped. One blowout win against an overmatched opponent; a rather dull UD win, and a head-butt ending draw to close it out.
Things are going to change in 2013. First up was a June date in Carson, CA against Alfredo Angulo. In a fight of the year worthy contender; Angulo had Lara on the canvas for the first time. Not once, but twice. Lara boxed and moved effectively, and inflicted his own damage. Angulo would retire in the 10th round. A complaint about a thumb didn’t seem to hold much water. Lara had a hugely impressive win. Next it would be the highly rated Austin Trout. The date would be December. The setting was the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Who would take the lead?
Lara managed to put on a clinic, and he even floored Trout who was uncomfortable in the aggressor role. He was at a loss, and Lara cruised to a UD. To think that only a short time ago; Trout was seen as the boogeyman of the division. Coming off a win against Miguel Cotto in his house. Then a razor thin decision loss to Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. Trout was the man that Floyd Mayweather fans wanted him to avoid if he chose to fight someone at 154. Lara is now that man. Many think he would be the toughest test for Mayweather. Personally I would love to see him get a crack at Canelo. It seems more realistic. I think he deserves it.
Erislandy Lara would get my vote for comeback fighter of the year (2013). He defeated the heavy handed pressure fighter and showed that he could be TV friendly. Then he out skilled the skilled boxer. Also you can add to it that he has the hardcore crowd now clamoring for a potential match-up with the number one pound-for-pound. Not too shabby.