Erislandy Lara’s level of opposition since his 12-round draw with Brian Castano in a 154-pound title fight three years ago has understandably attracted a lot of criticism.
The Cuban southpaw has opened as at least a 20-1 favorite over Ramon Alvarez, Greg Vendetti and Thomas LaManna in his past three fights. The skillful two-division champion knocked out Alvarez in the second round and LaManna in the first round.
His fight versus Vendetti went the distance, but Lara won nine of their 12 rounds on two of three scorecards (117-111, 117-111, 116-112). Lara is heavily favored again to beat Ireland’s Gary “Spike” O’Sullivan on the Gervonta Davis-Rolando Romero undercard Saturday night at Barclays Center, but the WBA world middleweight champion claims he can only face those willing to fight him.
“It’s the same thing [at] 154, 160,” Lara told Premier Boxing Champions’ Ray Flores during an open workout recently at Mayweather Boxing Club in Las Vegas. “I am a tough fighter for anybody, so that’s why they don’t wanna fight me.”
The 39-year-old Lara (28-3-3, 16 KOs) won the then-vacant WBA secondary middleweight title by beating LaManna (31-5-1, 13 KOs) last May 1 at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California. Lara will fight for the first time in more than a year when he opposes O’Sullivan (31-4, 21 KOs), who has beaten only Georgian journeyman Nodar Robakidze (16-41-6, 5 KOs) by unanimous decision in a six-rounder since Mexico’s Jaime Munguia (39-0, 31 KOs) knocked him out in the 11th round of their January 2020 bout at Alamodome in San Antonio.
Lara appears frustrated by not fighting the types of opponents that fans want to see even this aged version of him face.
“Look, come May 28th, I come out victorious, I’m ready to fight with the best of the division,” Lara said. “I’m not even gonna mention their names because I’m tired of doing that. I keep doing that. I’m tired of doing that. I’m not gonna do it today. I’m just ready to fight with the best of the division.”
Among the names Lara declined to mention is Gennadiy Golovkin (42-1-1, 36 KOs), who is the WBA’s true “super” champion in the 160-pound division. Kazakhstan’s Golovkin could be headed for a third showdown with Mexican rival Canelo Alvarez (57-2-2, 39 KOs) later this year, which would be contested for Alvarez’s IBF, WBA, WBC and WBO super middleweight titles.
Another Kazakhstan native, Janibek Alimkanuly (12-0, 8 KOs), won the WBO interm middleweight title Saturday night, when he knocked out England’s Danny Dignum (14-1-1, 8 KOs) in the second round at Resorts World Las Vegas.
Unbeaten WBC champ Jermall Charlo (32-0, 22 KOs) is, like Lara, affiliated with Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions. Charlo is scheduled to make an optional defense of his title against Poland’s Maciej Sulecki (30-2, 11 KOs) on June 18 at Toyota Center in Houston, Charlo’s hometown.
The 12-round bout between Lara and O’Sullivan is the co-feature of Showtime Pay-Per-View’s four-fight event Saturday night (9 p.m. ET; $74.99). Baltimore’s Davis (26-0, 24 KOs) is set to defend his WBA world lightweight title against Romero (14-0, 12 KOs), of North Las Vegas, Nevada, in the 12-round main event.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.