By Cliff Rold
When a division gets hot, the payoff is extraordinary for fans. They get good fights, they get big fights, and sometimes they get both at the same time. When a single promoter dominates the landscape of a hot weight class, the thrills can keep on coming. Right now, Jr. Middleweight is hot.
Golden Boy Promotions has a big piece of the 154 lb. real estate.
The biggest financial draw in the sport, Floyd Mayweather, continues to do business with them and currently holds a belt (WBA) in class. One of the fastest rising financial stars, WBC titlist Saul Alvarez, also resides under their umbrella. All action banger James Kirkland also calls Golden Boy home.
Golden Boy also promotes the man who could be king.
What about him?
29-year old 2005 Amateur World Champion Erislandy Lara (16-1-1, 11 KO) hasn’t always had the same buzz as fellow Cuban expatriates Yuriorkis Gamboa and Guillermo Rigondeaux. Of the three, he should have the single most impressive victory. Given the chance to prove it, he might be the best fighter at Jr. Middleweight right now.
Last July, just months after a tough night in a draw against the cagey Carlos Molina, Lara had what should have been his breakthrough moment. For twelve rounds, he beat the brakes off former two-division titlist Paul Williams, producing a clinic of powerful left hand punching.
At the end, it was Williams who had his hand raised in victory and the howls of those who witnessed the verdict were heard in the halls of the New Jersey State Athletic Commission. Not a single one of the judges that night, not Donald Givens (116-114 Williams), not Hilton Whitaker (115-114 Williams), not Al Bennett (114-114), has judged a professional boxing match since. All were placed on indefinite suspension following the controversial verdict.
Sometimes, a loss can be turned into a win. Sometimes, the moment goes nowhere. There was more interest in Lara after the bout than there had been before. For Lara, sentiment was on his side. ESPN, Ring Magazine, and BoxingScene all treated the verdict as a Lara win in the ratings. None have Lara lower than fifth at this writing.
Saturday night, he makes his second start since the Williams affair. He will be featured on the ShoBox undercard of Cornelius Bundrage-Cory Spinks II against Freddy Hernandez (30-2, 20 KO).
Hernandez was stopped in one by Andre Berto two fights ago. Even with that against him, Hernandez is a mild improvement over facing a Ronald Hearns coming off a knockout loss to Felix Sturm in April.
Bundrage-Spinks II is getting some added attention this week as rumors swirl, unconfirmed by Golden Boy, that a Bundrage win could get him into the Alvarez sweepstakes for a September date. So far, getting Alvarez an opponent has been jinxed.
Spinks? Jinx? Hmmmm…
The date was originally supposed to be filled by a Williams who bounced back from Lara with a sound outing against Nobuhiro Ishida. Despite a knockout loss to Sergio Martinez, and the verdict against Lara, Williams was still an exciting opponent for the young “Canelo.” It was a fight with fair picks to be made on both sides.
Tragedy struck when a motorcycle accident left Williams paralyzed. Win or lose, Williams has been one of the finest of warriors and it was a hurtful loss to the game.
It didn’t necessitate hurt at the box office. Golden Boy lined up another attractive foe. Victor Ortiz, no matter the outcome, is always entertaining and had the added allure of the exposure he garnered in 2011 winning a war with Berto and being the B-side of a Mayweather event.
Josesito Lopez went H.A.M. and sent best laid plans, and Ortiz’s jaw, awry last Saturday night.
The search goes on.
The IBF titlist Bundrage is, as noted, getting his name bandied about. There is speculation Kirkland, last seen getting a fortunate disqualification win in a bout where he was being badly outboxed by Carlos Molina, could be healed enough from a shoulder injury to do the deal he balked at earlier this year. The WBA beltholder not named Mayweather, Austin Trout, got his name in circulation. There has even been some wonder about Miguel Cotto, the lone surefire pay-per-view draw potentially available.
But what about Lara?
Where is his name in the mix?
He’s no more or less a draw than names like Trout or Bundrage (if to say not at all) and, unlike those two he shares a promoter with Alvarez. Even with the hyperbole their belts provide, the proceeds split differently for men outside the fold.
So why isn’t Lara getting mentioned? The sentiment expressed offhand by many in the boxing world is a simple one:
Lara isn’t being mentioned because Alvarez probably can’t beat him.
Given that Alvarez was being matched in losable affairs with Williams and Ortiz, that might seem head scratching but there is a difference. Williams and Ortiz were fights Alvarez could lose, but should win. He’s a cash cow being built the old fashioned way.
Dreams of a Mayweather-Alvarez payoff down the line are enough to make any accountant smile.
Lara, hungry and unlikely to find a bigger opportunity, could flip the rubric. Against Alvarez, he could possibly be seen as the favorite (an unscientific field poll assessed as much this week here at BoxingScene). No one has officially said he isn’t the running for Alvarez, but no one really thinks he is either.
There’s still plenty of time between now and whenever Alvarez’s plans are made concrete. If Lara wins big this weekend, and he should, maybe the buzz will be enough to get him into the mix. The case can already be made he is, in the ring, the toughest available opponent available. He would be a surprise pick, but surprises have happened before.
But if no one asks “What about Lara?” it makes it easier to pretend he’s not there.
The Weekly Ledger
But wait, there’s more…
Ortiz Cracks Under Pressure: https://www.boxingscene.com/ioka-matthysse-lopez-review-ratings-update--54361
Updated Ratings: https://www.boxingscene.com/forums/view.php?pg=boxing-ratings
Picks of the Week: https://www.boxingscene.com/boxingscenecoms-television-picks-week--54362
Cliff’s Notes… Yes, that was Jay-Z/Kanye reference on Lopez…It’s easy to understand why fans would want to see Nonito Donaire-Abner Mares. It’s also easy to understand hostility directed at Top Rank these days about not getting certain fights. That said, If Donaire decides to go from a tough assignment against Jeffrey Mathebula to the likes of Toshiaki Nishioka and Rigondeuax, he’ll be Teflon for critics. Those are all real fights. Mares could answer by taking on Bantamweight titlist Anselmo Moreno. Right?...Where and when on Tyson Marquez-Brian Viloria?...Vitali Klitschko-Manuel Charr still isn’t done on paper. It’s already a foregone conclusion in the ring…The Newsroom was almost a good show. They need to get it outside the bubble of real events though. Where’s the drama when we know how the story ended already? Still, it was enough to merit watching some better Sorkin a la Sports Night on Netflix.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]