By Lem Satterfield
BoxingScene.com caught up to unbeaten Cuban Erislandy Lara in advance of his July 9 junior middleweight clash with three-time world champion Paul "The Punisher" Williams that is slated for the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.
The 28-year-old Lara (15-0-1, 10 knockouts) and the 29-year-old Williams (39-2, 27 KOs) are returning to the site where Williams lost November's second-round knockout to WBC emeritus middleweight champion Sergio Martinez (47-2-2, 26 KOs) in a rematch of Williams' December, 2010 majority decision victory during which he and Martinez were floored in the first round.
Lara is coming off of a March 25 majority draw with rugged, Mexican-born Carlos Molina (18-4-2, six KOs) of Chicago, who will take an unbeaten streak of 10-0-1 that includes two stoppages into a July 9 match up with former champion Kermit Cintron (32-3-1, 28 KOs).
Lara is being guided by trainer Ronnie Shields and strength and conditioning coach Edward Jackson, the latter of whom also works with WBA super middleweight champion Andre Ward (24-0, 13 KOs).
Below is the Q&A with Lara:
BoxingScene.com: What does you think of Paul Williams as a fighter?
Erislandy Lara: I think Paul Williams is a very good fighter. He is a three-time world champ, and for a long time he was one of the more feared fighters in boxing. So I am really excited to get this opportunity to fight a guy not many people are willing to fight, and to show my talents to the world.
BoxingScene.com: Do you think that Paul Williams is vulnerable at this point in his career, and that you are catching him at the right time?
EL: To be honest with you, just being able to get him in the ring is the right time. I'm not thinking about whether or not he's vulnerable. Like my manager, Luis DeCubas Jr., says, 'We are prepared for the Paul Williams that beat Sergio martinez or for the one who got knocked out ugly.
If Paul Williams is a shot fighter, then he ain't gonna last long. And if he isn't, he still might not last. But it will be one hell of a fight. I'm prepared to go to Hell and back.
BoxingScene.com: What do you say to people who might consider that this is a fight that is being taken too early your career?
EL: I am 28 years old, and I have over 400 amateur fights, 16 professional fights and the time for me is now. Me and my team felt that I was ready a couple of fights ago. So we are very confident that this style will work in my favor. I love when guys come to fight, because it brings the best out in me. And other than Winning, I want the fans to win.
Come July 9, the boxing world will win, and there will be a new face on the map. I want to thank all of my fans across the world for their support and for their confidence in my abilities as a fighter. After 20 years of hard work as a boxer in Cuba and now in the United States, I will not let this opportunity go by without making a statement.