There was a time when boxing fans would be less than receptive to the idea of Erislandy Lara promising more of the same in the ring.
For what he has offered over his last several fights, that has now become a welcomed proposition.
The 37-year old southpaw has vowed to dazzle in the twilight of his career, a mission which continues with his junior middleweight clash versus Massachusetts’ Greg Vendetti (22-3-1, 12KOs) live on Fox from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. Lara comes in as a heavy betting favorite, thus assuming the responsibility of offering an entertaining performance.
“I think it’s important to look impressive in this fight and I plan on doing that to the best of my ability,” Lara (26-3-3, 15KOs) acknowledged to BoxingScene,com. “No matter who I fight, I must look impressive in victory.
“I’m here to give fans exciting fights as I enter my latter years of boxing.”
After years of developing a reputation (unfairly or otherwise) as a safety-first boxer, Lara has suddenly emerged as must-see TV. The former junior middleweight titlist—who has since reclaimed a secondary version of the crown—landed in a Fight of the Year level war with then-unbeaten Jarrett Hurd in their April 2018 title unification bout.
The event was well-received, though serving as part of a 20-month stretch where the Cuban export went without a win. The loss to Hurd was met with an 11-month inactive period before facing then-unbeaten secondary titlist Brian Castano (16-0-1, 12KOs), with whom he fought to a 12-round draw in their entertaining Showtime-televised headliner last March in Brooklyn.
Lara landed back in the ring less than six months later, picking up his current belt in a two-round wipeout of Ramon Alvarez last August live on Fox. The pursued tagline for the bout was Lara avenging an earlier loss to his opponent’s far more familiar sibling, falling just short to boxing superstar Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in July 2014.
While the fight was a perceived mismatch—further enabled by Ramon Alvarez’s inability to make weight—the fact that Lara didn’t waste any time in ending matters showed his intentional career shift. Some attribute it to his fighting past his prime and thus forced to tap into his fighting skills as the pure boxing ability is no longer as elite as was once the case.
Quite the contrary, insists the 12-year pro who instead returned to his roots in joining forces with renowned trainer Ismael Salas.
“Since I’ve been back training with Salas, I’ve gotten back to the fundamentals of boxing,” notes Lara. “I’m sitting on my punches and fans will see me fighting on the inside a lot more.
“At my age I have to pace myself more. I feel good fighting this style.”
For his past several fights, fans have felt good watching it—a standard to which Lara will continue to be held, to and through this upcoming weekend.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox