Two of the best junior middleweights in the world meet Saturday night in Brooklyn, N.Y., when Erislandy Lara takes on Austin Trout at the Barclays Center. The bout will be part of a Showtime quadruple header featuring Zab Judah vs. Paulie Malignaggi in the main event.
Will Floyd Mayweather be watching? He should be.
Both Lara and Trout have already made names for themselves in the 154-pound division. Lara is ranked No. 3 by the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board while Trout is slotted one spot ahead of him at No. 2.
Both men are tricky southpaws who have proven themselves as top ranked contenders to Mayweather’s lineal throne. The winner will set himself apart from the crowd even more.
Since losing a hotly contested and poorly scored decision to Paul Williams back in 2011, Lara has remained undefeated. He destroyed Ronald Hearns in just one round, outworked tough guy Freddy Hernandez over 10 and earned a hard-luck draw against Vanes Martirosyan when a fight Lara appeared to be taking over was stopped because of a cut caused by an accidental head butt.
Lara’s biggest win came over Alfredo Angulo in June.
Lara boxed beautifully in the bout but was tossed to the canvas by the hard-punching Angulo in Round 4. It was back-and-forth action until Lara was put on the canvas again in Round 9. But Lara dug down deep and used precise punches to create what can only be described as a disfiguring welt around Angulo's left eye. After a few targeted left hands from Lara, Angulo turned away in submission, making Lara the victor by TKO in Round 10.
Where Lara has been largely avoided by elite level superstars, Trout has already shown well against some of the biggest names in boxing. The slick southpaw outclassed Miguel Cotto at Madison Square Garden in New York last year, proving he’s cream of the crop in the staunch junior middleweight division.
After that, Trout landed a bout against Mexican superstar Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in San Antonio. Trout was outboxed by Alvarez, and the bout propelled Alvarez into a megafight with Mayweather later in the year.
It was a missed opportunity for Trout, one he hopes to make up for against Lara.
In fact, according to Boxing Scene’s Jake Donovan, Trout believes a win over Lara could lead him to both a badly wanted rematch against Alvarez as well as a subsequent bout with Mayweather:
This fight can put me back into the running. I expect to get thrown back into the mix. I can’t even talk about fighting a Floyd Mayweather until I beat Canelo. The way he beat the hell out of Canelo… I have little goals to fulfill until I come at the king. Lara is the first one in my way of reaching my goals.
Meanwhile, according to Boxing Scene’s Rick Reeno, Lara said he hopes to take a more direct path to Mayweather:
Mayweather is a great fighter who I have a tremendous respect for. He reminds me a lot of a Cuban fighter because he's so intelligent in the ring and is a great counter puncher. Saying all that, I would love the opportunity to share the ring with a fighter who possesses great knowledge to test my abilities and ring IQ. I feel I have the style, smarts and experience to compete at his level…I feel I can beat any fighter in the world. We are all human and no one is invincible. I feel I have the experience and abilities to beat Floyd. And I say this with all the respect in the world, Mayweather is my favorite fighter to watch and it would be an honor to fight him.
But will the winner of Lara vs. Trout nab a lucrative opportunity against Mayweather next May? It seems unlikely.
In fact, Donovan posed that exact question to Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer recently, and he immediately rebuffed the idea altogether:
I don’t see Floyd Mayweather fighting at 154 (again) unless it’s really big. It would have to be a fight for the undisputed middleweight or junior middleweight championship or something like that (to fight above 147).
But with Mayweather’s career winding down, and the Top Rank-Golden Boy cold war raging on, there just doesn’t seem to be that many options left for the sport’s biggest star.
So after Mayweather kicks the tires on the likes of junior welterweight champion Danny Garcia and welterweight titleholder Devon Alexander, don’t be surprised if he circles back to the winner of Lara vs. Trout as a viable option for 2014.