Erislandy Lara doesn’t have a shred of doubt.
He brims confidence, certain that while he may step through the ropes as an underdog against Canelo Alvarez in Las Vegas on Saturday night, he will be the one who gets the last laugh.
Lara has been chasing down a big fight—this one in particular—for a couple of years now. Saturday night will be the biggest professional bout and event of his career, but he’s not thankful to Canelo for the opportunity.
He believes that the cinnamon-haired Mexican never wanted to face him, and on Saturday night, he intends to show why.
“Absolutely not. I don’t owe him anything other than left hands. I forced this fight. It wasn’t because he wanted to take this fight,” Lara told an international media conference call last week.
“We’ve been after this fight for two years, and I’ve been putting pressure on social media or interviews and jumping on stage, that’s what pressured him to take this fight. I know he didn’t want this fight, and on July 12 you’re going to see the reason why he didn’t want this fight."
Lara, 31, is a tricky Cuban southpaw considered by many to be the hidden gem of the junior middleweight division.
He captured an interim 154-pound championship by stopping Alfredo Angulo last year, and he defended it successfully against Austin Trout before being elevated to champion status in March.
Angulo gave Lara a particularly rough fight last June, dropping the slick southpaw twice, leading on one scorecard and narrowly trailing on the others when the fight was stopped in Round 10 due to grotesque swelling above his left eye.
Canelo, on the other hand, laid a 10-round beating on Angulo this past March, successfully returning to the ring after dropping a wide decision to pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather in boxing’s richest fight.
Most fans and media were impressed by Canelo’s performance, but Lara didn’t feel it was all that spectacular, and he wondered aloud if Angulo wasn’t somewhat diminished coming into the match.
“I was there in person and I didn’t see the same Angulo, the same fighter that I saw in my fight. I thought that it was a decent fight, nothing special, and I don't think that that benefits either guy either way,” Lara said.
“They have nothing to do with each other, basically all styles are different. And I’m focused on Canelo, and I don't think it makes a difference on who that he fought in the past. What makes a difference is how our styles mesh, and I plan on dominating Canelo Alvarez.”
Canelo was aggressive, fast and demonstrated great fluidity to his attack against Angulo. It was a far cry from the man we saw against Mayweather, a young fighter simply unable to figure out his opponent and get anything going offensively.
The aggression, straight from the opening bell, seemed to catch Angulo—who never saw a fight he didn’t like—completely off guard. He was never able to settle into any sort of rhythm, spending all of his time trying to evade the incoming blows and having no time to return fire.
Lara liked what he saw from Canelo in that fight, and he plans to use it to his advantage.
“It’s a good style matchup because I know Canelo’s going to try to press forward and press for action, and that’s a style I like. I like guys that come and fight, and I pick them apart, like I’ve done to several guys coming up,” he said.
“These are the fights I like. I like guys who come to fight and I like to put them in the dirt, and that’s what I plan on doing.”
Lara—along with Guillermo Rigondeaux—attempted to defect from Cuba at the 2007 PanAm Games, but he was captured by Brazilian officers and returned to Cuba a few weeks later.
His second attempt was more successful, and he ultimately made his way from Mexico to Germany before settling in the United States and getting his professional boxing career on track.
Now signed with powerful advisor Al Haymon, Lara should be undefeated—his only loss was a putridly bad decision against Paul Williams in a 2011 fight he clearly won—and he’s here for one thing and one thing only—the biggest fights possible.
“One hundred percent, that’s exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to come to this country and fight the best. That’s what I wanted to do since my seventh pro fight. I was asking to fight for a world title.
“Championships come and go, but these are the types of fights that will leave history.”
The Cuban is generally not a man of many words, but something about Canelo has really gotten under his skin. He seems personally offended.
But the time for talk is now over, and all that’s left is the fighting.
“There’s not much more to talk about. I’m ready to fight. I’m in great shape. And you’ll see against Canelo on July 12.”
Kevin McRae is a featured boxing columnist for Bleacher Report and an auxiliary member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA). You can follow him on Twitter @McRaeBoxing.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.