Erislandy Lara: Misunderstood in His Own Time

The super welterweight world champion aims to stamp his Hall of Fame ticket when he battles Thomas LaManna for the WBA middleweight belt Saturday on FOX PBC Fight Night.

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Lara vs Vendetti - Watch Fight Highlights | August 29, 2020

The “American Dream” is back. 

WBA Super Welterweight Champion Erislandy Lara returns this Saturday, May 1, against high-volume puncher Thomas “Cornflake” LaManna in the main event of FOX PBC Fight Night and on FOX Deportes (7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT)

Lara, long considered one of the best 154-pounders in the world, is moving up to 160 and hopes to add the WBA middleweight title to his collection. Despite his obvious skill and accomplishments, the Cuban standout has found himself just outside of pound-for-pound consideration and the All-Time Great discussion. Lara has had the misfortune of being on the wrong side of a few close decisions. If the judges had been seated a little more to the left when he fought Canelo Alvarez, and when he fought Paul Williams, and if a few more of his jabs been scored, Lara’s Hall of Fame bio would have already have been written, a space on the wall reserved for his plaque. Instead, he’s one of those people Bill Watterson was speaking of when he said a genius is never understood in their own time. 

If this were the 1940s, Lara would find himself in Murderers Row along with Charlie Burley and Holman Williams. In the 1980s, he’d be on the sidelines with Mike McCallum, waiting and hoping for a big break. Like them, Lara is recognized as a damn good fighter, great even. But also like them, he is yet to receive the acclaim his skills warrant. Some fifty years after they retired, the books on Burley, Holman, and the rest of Murderers Row were written. And while the book on McCallum has yet to be published, the man he beat for his first title – Sean Mannion – already has one written about him. 

Much like Lara, Thomas “Cornflake” LaManna is a disputed decision or two from having received his due. Had the judges been seated a little bit to the right in a pair of his fights, the Jersey native might be known more for the threat he is rather than for being the son of a New Jersey Boxing Hall of Famer who drives some of the coolest trucks along the Jersey Shore. 

I want to be a Hall-of-Famer and go down as one of the best Cuban boxers to ever do it. WBA World Super Welterweight Champion - Erislandy Lara

In the ten years that he has been fighting as a pro, LaManna has never taken a round off. And it’s that busy style, the ability to complete his combinations even if some miss, that might spoil Lara’s plans for a second divisional title. Despite his boyish looks, he fights and talks like a grizzled veteran. He does not need anyone to tell him that opportunities such as the one he is getting on May 1st do not come often. And no one needs to tell Lara what he is up against. 

“I am fighting a person who is looking to accomplish his lifelong dream of becoming a world champion,” Lara told the press this week. “I’m expecting a tough fight.” 

Lara cited LaManna’s height and noted his busy, sometimes awkward style. “This is not an easy fight at all. I know I will have to be at my very best to come out victorious.” Anything short of that and the still-hungry veteran from Jersey could grind out a decision. 

This intriguing fight between two veterans who are not-yet-ready to be at a crossroads has the makings of a high output affair. LaManna throws a lot of punches and has a significant reach and height advantage. But in Lara, he will face a fighter who is not easy to hit cleanly and who punches back with precision. He’s also facing a boxer who is still thinking about his legacy. He wants all the big names at middleweight. 

“I want to be a Hall-of-Famer and go down as one of the best Cuban boxers to ever do it. For my legacy to be thought of that way, I have to fight the best.” 

Maybe he won’t have to wait fifty years for someone to write a book about him. 

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

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