Canelo Alvarez’s devastating sixth-round knockout of Amir Khan in Las Vegas on Saturday night made quite the impression on the boxing community—with perhaps one exception.
“I watched the fight at home, and I’m not impressed at all with the way Canelo looked,” says 154-pound champion Erislandy Lara. “Khan won the first few rounds, and then I knew the size difference would be the factor.”
A former 140-pound champion, Khan made the jump from 147 to fight Alvarez in a 155-pound catchweight defense of the 160-pound title Alvarez won from Miguel Cotto in November. After five rounds, Alvarez held a very narrow lead on the scorecards when he landed a right hand flush, sending Khan crashing violently to the canvas on his back.
The decisive punch was a textbook crowd-pleaser, but didn’t do much for Lara (22-2-2, 13 KOs), who has somewhat of a unique perspective in that he faced Alvarez in a 155-pound non-title fight on July 12, 2014. That night, Lara came up on the short end of a 12-round split decision, a result he still hasn’t accepted, insisting he won seven of the rounds.
One judge agreed, giving Lara the fight, 115-113. The other two judges scored it 117-111 and 115-113 for Alvarez.
After Alvarez’s destruction of Khan, talk immediately turned to him facing 160-pound knockout artist Gennady Golovkin in a much-anticipated showdown. Lara, who has an upcoming title defense against Vanes Martirosyan (36-2-1, 21 KOs) in Las Vegas on May 21 (Showtime, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m PT), wants it known that should Alvarez and Golovkin tango, he wants a piece of the winner.
“My goal is to unify all of the belts and clean out the [154-pound] division, and then move up and fight GGG [Golovkin] or Canelo again,” says Lara, whose third-round knockout of former 147-pound champion Jan Zaveck in November was his third straight win since losing to Alvarez. “My main focus is Vanes right now, but I would fight either guy or both of them in my next two fights.
“Golovkin has always been on my radar, and I’ve called him out many times, but I’m not chasing anyone.”
Lara and Martirosyan will be meeting in the ring for the second time when they square off May 21, having fought to a nine-round technical draw in a 154-pound title eliminator in December 2012.
In that first meeting, Lara and Martirosyan were locked in an even battle when an accidental headbutt caused a cut over the latter’s left eye 26 seconds into Round 9. When Martirosyan was unable to continue, the fight went to the scorecards, with one judge giving the contest to Lara, another to Martirosyan and the third ruling it a draw.
“ I know in my heart that Lara beat Canelo, and Triple G is a fight we would take. That’s the only other fight that means anything to him. ” Ronnie Shields, trainer for Erislandy Lara
Lara went on to win an interim world title in his next bout, scoring a 10th-round TKO of Alfredo Angulo. The Cuban-born, Houston-based southpaw, who was elevated to full champion status before defeating Ishe Smith in December 2012, has successfully defended his crown three times, while Martirosyan has gone 4-2 since facing Lara.
Lara-Martirosyan is the main event of a card that features two additional 154-pound championship clashes: Titleholder Jermall Charlo (23-0, 18 KOs) makes his third defense against ex-champ Austin Trout (30-2, 17 KOs), while Jermall's twin, Jermell Charlo (27-0, 12 KOs), vies for a vacant crown against John Jackson (20-2, 15 KOs) of the Virgin Islands.
Although Lara’s desire is to unify things at 154, it’s tough to envision him getting such an opportunity because of his close relationship with the Charlo twins, who also reside in Houston. Trainer Ronnie Shields handles Lara and Jermall Charlo, and says a fight between Lara and either of the siblings is unlikely.
However, that doesn’t mean Shields is in a rush to take the 33-year-old Lara up a level—unless he can get a crack at Alvarez or Golovkin.
“As long as Lara can make 154 pounds, and there are good fights there for him, then there is no problem with him” staying at 154, Shields says. “There’s no rush in him making 160 unless we can get a fight that makes a lot of sense, and those two make a lot of sense.
“I know in my heart that Lara beat Canelo, and Triple G is a fight we would take without a catchweight at 160 pounds. That’s the only other fight that means anything to him.”
Well, maybe not the only fight. While acknowledging it’s unlikely to happen, Lara says he would love a shot at the retired Floyd Mayweather Jr., who recently hinted at a return to the ring.
“My style would give Floyd so many problems. It’s master versus master, and I would love it if that happened,” Lara says. “It would be an honor to fight Mayweather, but I just don’t think it will ever happen, because he likes fighting flat-footed fighters.”
So for now, Lara is focused on looking impressive against Martirosyan.
“I have a tough fight in front of me with Vanes, and I’m not thinking about anyone else but him,” he says. “I look to fight the best, and when a challenge is [offered], you will see how fast I jump at the opportunity.
“The best of Erislandy Lara is yet to be seen.”
For full coverage of Lara vs Martirosyan, check out our fight page.