Lara not taking Foreman lightly in 154-pound title defense

The last time Erislandy Lara fought in Miami, he almost had more difficulty dodging raindrops than he did punches.

Erislandy Lara and Yuri Foreman

Erislandy Lara (left) is making the fifth defense of his 154-pound world championship against former titleholder Yuri Foreman, an ordained rabbi who ended a two-year ring hiatus in December 2015. (Ryan Hafey/Premier Boxing Champions)

The Cuban southpaw had to wait out a rainstorm in November 2015 before defending his 154-pound world title outdoors with a third-round TKO of former champion Jan Zaveck.

The quick stoppage came in an uncharacteristically aggressive performance for Lara, who has relied more on his slick boxing and defensive prowess to become arguably his division’s most talented champion.

“I remember it was raining, and I knew the fight was in jeopardy,” Lara said. “There was sense of urgency to finish the fight early, so I went out there and got the knockout.”

Erislandy Lara (23-2-2, 13 KOs) will return to the outdoor ring at Hialeah Park Racing & Casino in Miami on Friday when he makes his fifth title defense against former 154-pound champion Yuri Foreman (34-2, 10 KOs).

At Thursday's weigh-in, Lara hit the scale at exactly 154 pounds, while Foreman came in at 153.2.

Lara-Foreman headlines a PBC on Spike broadcast (9 p.m. ET/PT) that also features former 168-pound champion Anthony Dirrell (29-1-1, 23 KOs) facing Hungary’s Norbert Nemesapati (24-4, 17 KOs) in a 10-round bout.

While Lara hopes to not have to worry about the weather Friday night, “The American Dream” has other motivations in his desire to finish off Foreman as quickly as possible.

“I think there will be a tremendous Cuban crown in attendance, so my goal is to win impressively,” said the 33-year-old Lara, whose wife, Yudi, plans to be ringside with their daughter and two sons.

“I certainly want to come out and give the fans a good show, and 100 percent that's what I plan to do for my fans. You'll see me be more aggressive, but I don't feel pressure [to get the knockout]. I'm just going to fight my fight.”

Lara’s TKO of Zaveck was his first stoppage since overcoming a pair of knockdowns to gain a 10th-round TKO of Alfredo Angulo in June 2013. He followed the Zaveck victory with a unanimous decision win in a rematch with Vanes Martirosyan in Las Vegas in May. It was Lara's fourth consecutive victory since a dropping a split decision to Canelo Alvarez in a non-title bout in July 2014.

You'll see me be more aggressive, but I don't feel pressure [to get the knockout]. I'm just going to fight my fight. Erislandy Lara

Foreman, 36, has traveled an unusual path back to challenging for a title after competing sporadically over the past few years.

He became the first Orthodox Jew to win a world title in more than 70 years when he defeated southpaw Daniel Santos by unanimous decision in Las Vegas in November 2009.

Foreman lost his first title defense to Miguel Cotto in June 2010, however, when he was stopped in the ninth round after severely injuring his right knee in Round 7.

After losing his next fight to Pawel Wolak in a six-round stoppage in March 2011, Foreman took a year off before returning to win four bouts in 2013.

The native of Belarus—who moved to Israel as a child and has lived in Brooklyn, New York, since 2009—then took another two-year hiatus from boxing as he completed his studies to become an ordained rabbi.

“Being a rabbi, it is sometimes very interesting to mix that with fighting,” said the 5-foot-11 Foreman, who stands two inches taller than Lara. “But Friday night I won't be in rabbi mode; I will be all fighter. We are going to show skills and heart and power.”

Foreman returned to the ring in December 2015 by winning an eight-round unanimous decision over Lenwood Dozier in Brooklyn, and he earned a second-round TKO of Jason Davis in his last fight on June 3.

Whether those two wins have Foreman ready for a fighter the caliber of Lara is the biggest question entering Friday’s title bout.

“I trained for this fight to be more than troublesome,” Foreman said. “Me being from the [former] Soviet Union, I'm very familiar with Cuban boxing and have quite a bit of experience with their style, so I'm looking forward to stepping in and showcasing my talents and skills.

“I'm focused and I'm ready. I came here to win, and I feel very positive about this.”

For a complete look at Lara vs Foreman, visit our fight page.

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