By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – Erislandy Lara believes the order of Saturday’s 154-pound championship tripleheader is symbolic.
The confident Cuban southpaw says he’s headlining this Barclays Center card because he is the world’s best boxer in his division. According to Lara, if the winners of the first two title fights Saturday night want to prove otherwise, they’ll have to go through him.
The 34-year-old Lara plans to pursue a title unification fight after defeating unbeaten contender Terrell Gausha in the main event in Brooklyn (Showtime; 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT).
“That’s absolutely what I want,” Lara told BoxingScene.com through a translator after a press conference Thursday in Manhattan. “I’m just gonna keep cleaning out the division. I’ve been here the longest, I’ve been champion the longest and I’m just gonna clean out the division the way Bernard Hopkins did at 160 pounds.”
Houston’s Lara (24-2-2, 14 KOs) is set to defend his WBA and IBO 154-pound championships against the untested Gausha (20-0, 9 KOs), a 2012 Olympian from Cleveland.
“Gausha is a strong, young kid,” Lara said. “He’s an undefeated Olympian. But I’m the best in the division and I’m looking forward to doing what I do best, which is win and put on a great show for the fans.”
Showtime’s tripleheader will begin with a 12-round bout between IBF junior middleweight champion Jarrett Hurd (20-0, 14 KOs), of Accokeek, Maryland, and former WBA champ Austin Trout (30-3, 17 KOs), of Las Cruces, New Mexico. Before Lara and Gausha go at it in the main event, Houston’s Jermell Charlo (29-0, 14 KOs) will make a mandatory defense of his WBC super welterweight title against Erickson Lubin (18-0, 13 KOs), of Orlando, Florida.
Lara already has beaten Trout convincingly, but he is open to facing the winner of either of those two fights.
“At the end of the day, they have to fight me,” Lara said. “I’m the best guy in the division. Everybody knows you’ve gotta beat the best to be the best. I’m the headliner when they’re on my cards. This is the second 154-pound card that I’m headlining. So if they wanna be headliners, they could fight me. If not, then stick to fighting on undercards and not having an opportunity to beat the best guy in the division.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.