Erislandy Lara earned a comfortable unanimous-decision victory over Ishe Smith on Friday night in San Antonio, Texas.
The judges scored it 119-109, 119-109, 117-111, per Showtime Sports:
Lara entered the bout coming off a loss to Saul Alvarez back in July, which was a less than definitive result.
"I 100 percent thought I won the fight," he said immediately following the defeat, per ESPN.com's Dan Rafael. "I felt I was totally in control. It didn't seem like he was doing anything. I know one thing, 100 percent I made him look bad in front of all of his people. Everyone knows I won the fight, no matter what they say."
Beating Smith won't immediately restore Lara back to where he was before fighting Canelo, but it will get him back on that path.
Lara entered as a heavy favorite to win, and he wasted little time gaining an edge and suffocating Smith with defense. His style doesn't make for great viewing, but it's hard to argue with the results.
Smith looked good in the first couple of rounds, but once the bout reached the third, Lara was in his comfort zone, peppering Smith with lower-impact blows and buzzing around the ring.
Continuing to dance and move out of Smith's reach also prevented the fight from becoming contested in close quarters, which American heavyweight boxer Eddie Chambers felt played in Lara's favor:
Not only was Lara's style proving successful on the judges' cards, but it also served to frustrate Smith as the fight unfolded. Francisco A. Salazar didn't think the 36-year-old had any idea as to how to stem the tide:
Actress and fight fan Rosie Perez thought that Smith only grew more flustered as a result:
There's no shame in losing to a superior competitor, and that's what happened to Smith on Friday. Lara was clearly the better boxer. Smith wasn't embarrassed and never looked close to getting knocked out, but he couldn't string enough punches together to ever mount a credible threat to his opponent.
The win will help Lara maintain his spot near the top of the class in the junior middleweight division, but his stock won't see a radical increase.
This fight was more about building Lara back up to set him up for lucrative fights down the road. The Cuban is still holding out hope that he'll fight Floyd Mayweather Jr., which Bleacher Report's Kevin McRae thinks is still a pipe dream:
Whomever Lara's next opponent is, many fight fans will hope that he presents a better style matchup. Between Lara's ultra-defensive approach and Smith's lack of major punching power, Friday's bout was always bound to be a bit plodding.
Matchmakers would be smart to schedule an opponent who forces Lara out of his shell a bit. The 31-year-old would benefit from showing a little more flash and offense.