by David P. Greisman
It ain’t a rematch with Paul Williams, but Erislandy Lara’s next opponent is another tall, busy fighter.
Lara, who is 15-1-1 (10 knockouts), will be facing Ronald Hearns (26-2, 20 KOs) in the Cuban fighter’s first appearance since last July’s controversial decision loss against Williams.
His trainer, Ronnie Shields, spoke with BoxingScene.com in late January — prior to the bout being pushed back due to the postponement of February’s rematch between Andre Berto and Victor Ortiz. But with Lara-Hearns likely to be rescheduled for the coming months, we present the interview.
BoxingScene.com: What do you see in Ronald Hearns as an opponent?
Shields: “Ronald Hearns is a naturally bigger guy. It’s a shame that we couldn’t get a junior middleweight to fight us, so we had to go up in weight in order to even get a fight. We’re just thankful that Ronald Hearns was up to the challenge. It’s going to be a tough fight, but Lara has a lot of skill. It’s going to take a lot of that skill to beat Ronald Hearns. We’re looking forward to it. We’re looking for a good fight, but we’re looking for Lara to come out victorious.”
BoxingScene.com: It wouldn’t be fair to compare him to his father, of course, but do you see Hearns as a limited opponent?
Shields: “It’s not that he’s limited. This guy is tall. He’s got a lot of range on him. My guy’s a boxer, We will definitely have to change some things with Lara as far as making him fight on the inside of a big boy. We’re going to box him, because Lara feels comfortable boxing. But depending on how the fight goes, we may have to put the pressure on Ronald Hearns and try to hit him with something and get him out there.
“The guy, I’ve been watching him on tape. He throws a lot of punches. He really has no direction on his punches, but still he’s a busy fighter. Lara being a counter puncher, you’d think sometimes that would automatically leave Hearns open for a lot counter shots, but not always, just because he’s so tall. We have to reach him. In order to reach him, we have to get a little closer to him.
“When you’re in with a guy who’s bigger and stronger, you’re always taking a chance. … I told people that it wasn’t no fluke the way he beat Paul Williams, and he wants that fight back. They won’t fight us, but he wants that fight back. He just wants to make a statement with all the rest of the guys.”
BoxingScene.com: You mentioned that Hearns is a tall, busy guy, but Lara also had that kind of opponent when he fought Paul Williams.
Shields: “Right, but Paul Williams is a guy that comes right to you, so you don’t have to look for him. We have to look for Ronald Hearns, because he’s going to come out and try to box. You got two guys that are boxers. Somebody’s going to take the initiative to try to make the fight, and I think it’s going to have to be Lara. That’s the way we’re training.
“I would love it if Ronald Hearns would come out and say, ‘You know what, I’m going to put the pressure on you guys’ and let Lara do his counterpunching thing. I just don’t think that’s going to be the case.”
David P. Greisman is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Follow David on Twitter at twitter.com/fightingwords2 or on Facebook at facebook.com/fightingwordsboxing, or send questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org