12 Rounds With … Erislandy Lara

No stranger to harrowing ordeals Cuban-born champion Erislandy Lara discusses the hurricanes that hampered his training for upcoming 154-pound title bout.

Erislandy Lara

154-pound world champ Erislandy Lara lands a punch in his May 2016 victory over Vanes Martirosyan in Las Vegas. (Amanda Westcott/SHOWTIME).

Erislandy Lara will be six months shy of his 35th birthday when he enters the ring next Saturday night, but the Cuban southpaw claims he can fight for 10 more years.

Already the elder statesman of his weight class, Lara (24-2-2, 14 KOs) will pursue a sixth defense of his 154-pound world title on October 14 when he faces 2012 Olympian Terrell Gausha (20-0, 9 KOs) during a 154-pound championship tripleheader at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. The event will air live on Showtime at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.

While training for a title bout is nothing new for Lara—who could still reach the mark for title defenses in the division of 11, which is held by Gianfranco Rossi—an overwhelming foe in mother nature wrecked havoc during his recent ring preparations.

Hurricane Harvey ravaged his adopted hometown of Houston, preventing him from training at the Houston-based Plex Boxing Gym for a few days.

At almost the same time in his native Cuba, Hurricane Irma hammered his home country—causing Lara even more stress as he worried for the well-being of his mother, Marciel, who lives there with two of Lara’s sons.

But with his family and friends all safe after the hurricanes and training back on schedule, Lara took some time to discuss Gausha, his future in the sport and a variety of other topics.

What is the significance of your nickname, “The American Dream?”

Since defecting from Cuba, I’ve been able to make a beautiful life here in America, hence the nickname.

How relieved are you given that relatives and friends in and around Houston, Texas, parts of Florida and in your native Cuba are okay in the wake of the Hurricanes?

We (Lara, his wife, Yudi, and three of his children) live in Missouri City, Texas, and our area was hit hard. Fortunately, by the grace of God, our house was spared and my family was safe. It was a very scary situation because the water was rising in the nearby neighborhoods. We live very close to a lot of flooding. My kids had to stay home for a few days.

The Plex facility where we train is right in the heart of where a lot of damage took place. Fortunately, the facility was not damaged, but the surrounding areas were badly hit. We were not able to train for a few days due to the freeways being flooded. There was flooding within miles of us.

My family back home in Cuba is safe. My mother Maricel and my sons, Erislandy Jr. and Robertlandy are OK. I was able to communicate with them and they are fine. The damage was minimal where they stay. I have many friends who still live in Miami. All of them are safe.

The winds were very powerful in some of the areas where my friends live. They told me that some of the trees had fallen on some of the houses near where they live. I’m not sure how bad the damage was in Hialeah, Florida, but my prayers go out to everyone who lives there.

How many years have you sparred with Jermall Charlo (Lara shares the same trainer as Charlo in Ronnie Shields), and how mutually beneficial have those sessions been?

We’ve been sparring for a few years now. I’d say since 2011. Iron sharpens iron in this sport. He's a good young fighter and I'm very proud of how far he's come along. I did not spar with Charlo for this fight.

How does Gausha rank with the opponents you've faced?

I think Gausha is a good fighter who is coming to win but hasn't fought at the elite level, let alone the best fighter in the division. He's got a tough task at hand. He’s a very talented undefeated fighter who made the Olympic team.

I know he has the skills to compete at the top level. I would put him up there with some of the other top fighters I’ve fought, but nowhere near the level of the Williams', Canelo's, etc. Come October 14, I can give you a better answer.

You rectified a draw with Martirosyan by defeating him, but why do you feel as if you’re still undefeated despite losses on your record to Williams and Alvarez and the draw with Molina?

Bottom line, I feel I was on the wrong side of bad decisions in all those fights.

I know I can fight for another 10 years. My body feels great. I still feel very young. 154-pound World Champ Erislandy Lara

How much longer will you continue fighting?

I know I can fight for another 10 years if I had to. My body feels great. There are no signs of aging. I still feel very young.

Does your future include a rise to 160 pounds, and, if so, how soon?

If the right fight presents itself, I’ll fight at 160. Right now, I’m focused on defending my title at 154.

How difficult would it be to gear up for Jermell Charlo, Jermall’s brother and a former stablemate?

It’s just business. We are good friends and will continue to be good friends. If we fought, then the friendship would go away for 12 rounds. Then we can be friends again (Laughing).

Do you have a boxing hero or fighter you admire?

My hero as a kid growing up, as it was for most Cuban athlete’s, was Teófilo Stevenson. He was admired and respected by all Cubans and will always be. He's a legend.

Of all the boxers in history, who do you wish you could’ve fought, and how would the fight have played out?

If I could have fought one fighter it would have been Floyd Mayweather. He was a great fighter, a defensive expert like myself, and it would have been a chess match.

I feel my length and boxing ability would have been able to dominate him to a unanimous decision win. Floyd is very technical with lots of skills, but my size difference and IQ would be the factor.           

Finish this sentence: If not for boxing, I would be …

I would be a baseball player (laughs). That was my dream and I still might be dreaming.

What’s the hardest you’ve ever been hit, and how did you deal with it?

Alfredo Angulo dropped me, but we all know how the fight ended.

What about a favorite punch to throw?

I love controlling the fight with my jab, but my straight left is my favorite.

Do you have a favorite boxing movie?

The Roberto Duran movie, "Hands of Stone," was great.

If Hollywood were to make a movie about your life, what actor would you choose to portray you?

Idris Elba (Laughs)

If you could have dinner with any four people in history, living or dead, who would they be?

If I could have dinner with four people right now, they would be my mother, sister and two sons in Cuba.

For a complete look at Lara vs Gausha, visit our fight page.

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