By Lem Satterfield
Cuban southpaw Erislandy Lara still believes that he deserved to win a 154-pound unification bout against Jarrett Hurd in April at Barclays Center in New York, despite being floored in the final round by “Swift” Hurd, whose split-decision victory added Lara’s WBA “super” world championship to the IBF version Hurd already owned.
The 35-year-old Lara (25-3-2, 14 KOs) went to down all fours with his right eye nearly closed to a slit, gamely rising to finish the final 37 seconds only to lose his status as the junior middleweight division’s longest reigning champion.
Lara (25-3-2, 14 KOs) will try to regain a version of his crown from Argentina’s Brian Carlos Castano (15-0, 11 KOs), a ferocious 29-year-old brawler he could meet for the WBA “regular” world title in a January bout confirmed to be in the works by their respective mangers, Sebastian Contursi and Luis DeCubas Jr.
“I feel I clearly won my fight against Hurd,” said Lara. “This is exciting and frustrating at the same time, but having to fight for a sub-version of the WBA title really has me motivated.”
Coming off a 12th-round TKO left-handed Cedric Vitu for his second defense in March, Castano went 181-5-5 as an amateur, along the way defeating current 147-pound champion Errol Spence, 2012 Olympic silver medalist Esquiva Falcao, and, in the World Series of Boxing, Sergey Derevyanchenko, last weekend’s split-decision loser to Daniel Jacobs in a clash for the IBF’s vacant 160-pound world title.
“I know that Castano’s undefeated and has a victory over Sergiy Derevyanchenko, who just fought for a world title. Although Castano’s fight with Derevyanchenko was in the WSOB, he still came out on top,” said Lara.
“Castano’s big, strong and he’s hungry. But everyone fighting at the elite level is a tough fight, and Castano is no different. To beat him, I will have to be at my best and do what I do best, which is box.”
Prior to Hurd, Lara contended he still should have been unbeaten. Lara’s disputed majority decision loss to left-handed former two-division world champion Paul Williams in July 2011 came under such scrutiny that the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board indefinitely suspended all three judges.
“The American Dream” outworked and out-landed Canelo Alvarez during a split-decision loss in July 2014, and draws with former champion Carlos Molina in March 2011 and title contender Vanes Martirosyan in November 2012 are the only other blemishes on Lara’s record.
Lara unanimously decisioned Martirosyan in May 2016, owns a one-knockdown unanimous decision over left-handed former champion Austin Trout (December 2013) and has another unanimous decision over former titleholder Ishe Smith (December 2014).
Lara’s also stopped former champions Jan Zaveck (November 2015), Yuri Foreman (January 2017) and Alfredo Angulo (June 2013) in the third, fourth and 10th rounds, rising from fourth- and ninth-round knockdowns to defeat Angulo.
“I still feel young, and my body hasn’t taken too much damage, so I feel that I have at least five more years left. Of course, I want to regain my title if Hurd still holds it,” said Lara.
“Like I’ve said, I felt I won the Hurd fight because I won most of the early rounds and a few down the stretch. Even with the knockdown, I felt I was up on the cards. But my main focus is Castano, and I must come out victorious in this fight, first.”