By Jake Donovan

Erislandy Lara has spent most of the year—and his career—claiming to be boxing’s most avoided fighter. The extraordinarily talented Cuban boxer has called out everyone in and near his weight class, even clamoring for a showdown with unbeaten middleweight Gennady Golovkin. 

In efforts to stay busy, he instead lands the likes of Delvin Rodriguez in Friday’s headlining act at UIC Pavilion in Chicago, Illinois. The bout airs live on Spike TV, in the latest installment of adviser Al Haymon’s

Premier Boxing Champions

(PBC) series. 

Lara (20-2-2, 12KOs)–a Cuban defector now fighting out of Houston, TX—comes in on the heels of a 12-round win over Ishe Smith last December, which followed a narrow points loss to Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in July. The split decision verdict is one of four close calls on his ledger that failed to produce a victory, although many of his supporters believe he should still be undefeated.

The lone other loss on his résumé was a horrifically scored majority decision defeat at the hands of Paul Williams. The outcome was regarded as one of the worst decisions in recent memory, leading to all three judges receiving an immediate suspension. 

Among his biggest wins in recent years include a 12-round boxing lesson served to Austin Trout in Dec. ’13, putting him in position to land the plum assignment versus Alvarez last summer. 

Rodriguez (28-7-4, 16KOs) has seen better days, but insists there is plenty of fight left in his 35-year old body. The Dominican-born, Connecticut based veteran hasn’t won a fight in two years, having scored back-to-back knockout wins over then-unbeaten George ‘Comanche Boy’ Tahdooanippah and Freddy Hernandez.

The pair of wins came on the heels of his lone career title fight, a 12-round loss to then-unbeaten 154 lb. titlist Austin Trout in June ’12. Rodriguez earned the opportunity following a two-fight set with Pawel Wolak—a June ’11 10-round draw that went on to earn Fight of the Year honors in the eyes of the Boxing Writers Association of America, and a 10-round win by Rodriguez later that December. 

Rodeiguez was tabbed as the comeback opponent of choice for Miguel Cotto, who had lost two straight and was out of the ring for 10 months by the time of their Oct. ’13 fight. The bout kicked off a now-three fight win streak—all by knockout—for Cotto. 

Meanwhile, Rodriguez—who was stopped in three by Cotto on that night—only has one fight to his name since then, a 10-round split decision draw with Joachime Alcine last May in Canada. 



Ryan Burton (Lara KO4):

Lara is levels above the shop worn Rodriguez and will dispatch him in the first half of the fight. 

Jake Donovan (Lara TKO6):

Rodriguez insists his early stoppage loss to Cotto was due to a lack of training. His body language at Thursday’s weigh-in didn’t suggest to me anything other than a fighter hoping for one last hurrah, but in reality is here for little more than cannon fodder. Lara will slowly pick him apart en route to a mercy stoppage. 

Michael Gibbons (Lara TKO6):

I like Lara by KO. 

Peter Lim (Lara UD):

Lara is simply a couple of notches above Rodriguez in every respect of the game so this should be a walk in the park for him. But he is not much of a risk taker and will to cruise to a decision win rather than try for a knockout. 

Takahiro Onaga (Lara TKO5):

Very different level of fighters and Lara look to shake the  "boring" tag.

Cliff Rold (Lara KO):

The Cuban will take more rounds than he should but he scores the stop.

Victor Salazar (Lara late TKO):

Lara has more facets to his game than Rodriguez. Rodriguez’ power was more suited for 147 and at 154, it has almost been non-existent against the top guys he’s faced. I think Lara will be unexpectedly aggressive and get the stoppage in the late rounds.

Reynaldo Sanchez (Lara TKO5): Lara needs to show us he can win his fights by KO. As long as he keeps winning without showing power and dynamism and only by close decision, it will remain him as a dull boxer. This fight will tell us what route Lara prefers to drive his career.

Alexey Sukachev (Lara TKO2):

People do forget about power that Lara is obsessed with. He is a sneaky spoiler/stylist but against flawed fighters he can really explode with punches (9 first-round kayos). I expect him to blitz rusty, aged, flawed and shot version of the Dominican really quick.

Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Twitter: @JakeNDaBox