12 Rounds With … Erislandy Lara

One of boxing’s finest technicians is out to reclaim super welterweight supremacy when he returns versus the undefeated Brian Carlos Castano Saturday night on Showtime.

Erislandy Lara is one of the most accomplished super welterweights in boxing history. Between 2011-2018, many within the sport regarded Lara as the division’s best fighter.

In 2011, Lara, 35, made his name known on American shores after dropping a controversial majority decision to former two-division world champion Paul Williams.

In June 2013, Lara won an interim world 154-pound title by stopping Alfredo Angulo in 10 rounds.

Following a controversial split decision loss to Saul “Canelo Alvarez” in July 2014, Lara returned that December, winning the full WBA Super Welterweight World Championship via unanimous decision over Ishe Smith.

Over the next three years, Lara successfully defended the title five times, leading to an anticipated April 2018 unification showdown with undefeated IBF counterpart, “Swift” Jarrett Hurd.

It was a grueling battle. Lara, 25-3-2 (14 KOs), lost his title by close split decision but gained universal respect and praise for the championship pedigree he put on display.

The bout won the Boxing Writers Association of America’s 2018 Fight of the Year. Lara, however, says his story is far from over. On Saturday night, “The American Dream” faces the undefeated Brian Castano at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, live on Showtime Championship Boxing (6 p.m. PT/ 9 p.m. ET).

For Lara, this is the first step on the road back to claiming his status as the world’s best super welterweight. Argentina’s Castano, 15-0 (11 KOs), is no walk-over, meaning fans could be in for yet another epic clash.

How did you feel when you learned your bout with Jarrett Hurd earned Fight of the Year honors?

It was bittersweet because I felt I won the fight. But everyone knows I’m always going to give it my all every time I step into the ring. So, in that regard it was nice to be recognized by the writers as a warrior. 

What is "The Cuban School of Boxing" all about?

It’s very simple: Hit your opponent and don’t get hit in return. Class. Skills. Heart. Smarts. That is what Cuban boxing is all about.

Aside from yourself, who is currently the best fighter out of Cuba?

That’s a tough question because Cuba currently has some great boxers. If I would have to pick one, I would go with (heavyweight contender) Luis Ortiz. 

My favorite Cuban fighter of all time is Teófilo Stevenson, the great Cuban heavyweight. He was an amazing fighter, an idol for Cuba and for Cubans everywhere. [Note: Stevenson won a record three gold medals for Cuba; at the 1972, 1976 and 1980 Olympic Games.]

Class. Skills. Heart. Smarts. That is what Cuban boxing is all about. Former Super Welterweight World Champion - Erislandy Lara

How do you feel physically and mentally returning to the ring at 35-years-old?

Because I haven’t taken too much punishment in my career, I feel like I’m still in my twenties physically. Mentally, I’m wiser and my ring IQ is at an all-time high.

I know you've worked with Shoe Palace in the past as your sponsor. Do you have any favorite shoe brands?

I love all shoes (laughs). But it would definitely be Louis Vuitton or Christian Louboutin.

How about cars?

A Lamborghini or a Rolls Royce. I own and love both cars. 

You've were a world champion for years. What are your goals now?

My goals are to regain my title and make it into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

Do you remember the first time you went into a boxing gym, or had your first fistfight?

Yes, I do remember. I wanted to play baseball at first, but eventually I was pushed towards boxing after getting into a fist-fight on the baseball field. I also like the fact that it’s an individual sport.

Erislandy, your nickname is “The American Dream.” What is it like to live the life where that dream is now being fulfilled?

It is incredible to say the least. I have a beautiful home and I live in a great neighborhood. I have everything a man could ever dream of. My kids go to great schools and they live comfortably. I have truly been blessed in my life.

What are some of the things you love about the US since you relocated here?

I love having my freedom and being able to go anywhere I want with no issues. And I love Japanese food. It’s become a tradition to go to Benihana's with my team after I weigh in for every fight. 

What are some of the things you miss about Cuba in terms of those same things?

I miss my family and friends back home. It’s tough to not be around the people you love. 

Do you feel you stop Brian Carlos Castano on Saturday night?

I never go into a fight looking for the knockout. If the knockout comes then cool, but I never have a problem winning by decision.  

For a closer look at Erislandy Lara, check out our fighter page.

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