It's no secret that Erislandy Lara is a gifted boxer—sometimes a little too gifted.
The Cuban 154-pound world champion is such a skilled technician in the ring that his mastery can even be lost on ringside judges.
In fact, his most complete performance may have been in a fight he lost.
Lara dropped a majority decision to Paul Williams in July 2011 despite bloodying the two-time 147-pound champion and outlanding him 224-200 in total punches and 178-161 in power shots.
Even though Lara repeatedly found the target with his punches and caught many of his fellow southpaw’s blows with his shoulders—if not made him miss completely—two of the judges scored the bout 116-114 and 115-114 for Williams, while the third had it 114-114.
Lara’s trainer, Ronnie Shields, remains convinced to this day that his charge won that 154-pound fight—and won it convincingly.
“Erislandy was so precise it was like he couldn’t miss, placing his jab in the right spot, landing the more accurate punches and most of his power shots,” Shields says. “Paul Williams was bringing the fight to Lara, so I told him to keep boxing.
“Williams was the most avoided fighter in boxing at the time, but we made him miss and countered him right back. Sometimes we purposely missed the jab in order to land the left hand on-point. That’s what he did with Paul Williams all night long, so I don’t know what the judges were looking at.”
Since that questionable defeat, Erislandy Lara (23-2-2, 13 KOs) has gone 8-1-1 in his rise to becoming a 154-pound world champion. He will put his title on the line for the fifth time January 13 against former titleholder Yuri Foreman (34-2, 10 KOs) in a headlining bout at Hialeah Park Racing & Casino in Miami (Spike, 9 p.m. ET/PT).
Even though Lara now sits atop the 154-pound division, “The American Dream” believes the Williams fight is not the only time his slick style has gone unrewarded. His loss by majority decision to Canelo Alvarez in July 2014 and draws against Carlos Molina in March 2011 and Vanes Martirosyan in November 2012 all came in close bouts that could have gone in Lara’s favor.
“The Canelo-Lara fight was illustrative of how difficult it is to score on Lara,” says Showtime boxing analyst and historian Steve Farhood, who had Lara beating Alvarez, 115-113.
“It was the perfect example of a boxer who doesn’t get hit much and doesn’t commit to punching much, and an aggressor who was mostly ineffective. I don’t think Canelo landed three punches to the head the whole fight.”
Lara outlanded Alvarez 107-97 in total punches according to CompuBox, but most of that edge came from jabs, with Lara connecting on 55 of 246 while Alvarez landed just nine of 183. Alvarez had the advantage in power shots, however, 88-52.
After experiencing disappointment more than once in fights he believes he won, the 33-year-old Lara says his plan against Foreman is to take the judges completely out of the equation.
“I feel motivation to make it an early slugfest type of knockout,” Lara says. “I've proven I'm one of the best, and I've been active [in] fighting the best competition that will step in the ring with me.”
For a complete look at Lara vs Foreman, visit our fight page.