Erislandy Lara staying on top of his game for Delvin Rodriguez

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Erislandy Lara has accomplished plenty in the ring since defecting from Cuba and embarking on a professional career in 2008, dispatching several big-name fighters on his way to winning a world title.

Erislandy Lara and Austin Trout

Erislandy Lara punches Austin Trout during their 154-pound bout in Brooklyn, New York, on December 7, 2013.

But he not taking his 154-pound title defense Friday night against Delvin Rodriguez any less serious, even though the Dominican veteran doesn’t possess the résumé of some of Lara’s past opponents.

“It’s very important for me to look good in this fight,” said Lara, who won a 12-round unanimous decision over Ishe Smith in December in his last bout. “In no way am I looking past Delvin Rodriguez. He’s a very good, smart fighter. I'll work the body, the head, show variety in my game."

To prepare for Rodriguez, Lara recruited the Charlo twins, Jermall and Jermell, who have a combined record of 47-0 with 27 knockouts, to serve as sparring partners while training in Houston.

“They’re two undefeated top contenders and future champions,” Lara said. “Every fight, you want to train as if you’re fighting the best, so we’re focused on this fight like that’s what we have to do.”

Erislandy Lara (20-2-2, 12 KOs) will face Delvin Rodriguez (28-7-4, 16 KOs) on Friday night at Chicago’s UIC Pavilion in the headlining bout of a PBC on Spike TV card, which airs at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

Lara, 29, can make a case that he still should be unbeaten. His loss to Paul Williams in July 2011 came under such scrutiny that the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board indefinitely suspended all three judges after they awarded Williams a majority decision, and he outworked and outlanded Saul “Canelo” Alvarez last July in a split-decision loss in Las Vegas.

Draws with former champion Carlos Molina in March 2011 and title contender Vanes Martirosyan in November 2012 are the only other blemishes on Lara’s record.

Rodriguez, 35, fought former world champion Joachim Alcine to a draw in Montreal in his last bout in May 2014. That followed a third-round technical knockout to Miguel Cotto in Orlando, Florida, in October 2013, which was the second time Rodriguez had been stopped early in his career.

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