Erislandy Lara has never been known for his devastating punching power, as just half of his 26 fights have ended in a knockout. Yet the 154-pound champion contends he’ll be channeling his inner Mike Tyson in his rematch with Vanes Martirosyan.
Their first meeting in November 2012 was ruled a technical draw after an accidental headbutt early in the ninth round opened a gash over Martirosyan’s left eye and he was unable to continue. Neither man hit the deck in that contest—which was scored 87-84 for Lara, 86-85 for Martirosyan and 86-86—but Lara's trainer, Ronnie Shields, insists there was a reason the Cuban southpaw couldn’t land a telling blow.
Shields says Erislandy Lara (22-2-2, 13 KOs) suffered a sprained right hand while training for the bout, then aggravated “the back of the middle knuckle” on the hand after landing a blow in the first round.
With the 33-year-old Lara fully healthy, Shields expects his man to display a lot more power Saturday night when he and Vanes Martirosyan (36-2-1, 21 KOs) clash at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas as part of a 154-pound championship tripleheader (Showtime, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
“All you have to do is go back and look at the tape [of the first fight], and you’ll see that Lara couldn’t use his right jab hand,” Shields says. “The first time Lara hit Martirosyan with a shot on the elbow, you’ll see him pawing it after that. Now he’s going to have [use of] both hands, and that’s going to be a huge difference.”
After the draw with Martirosyan, Lara won his 154-pound title (first as an interim champion) against rugged Mexican Alfredo Angulo. In that June 2013 bout, Lara rose from knockdowns in the fourth and ninth rounds to score a 10th-round stoppage. From there, Lara won a trio of unanimous decisions around a 2014 split-decision loss to Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in a non-title fight.
Lara’s power returned in his most recent fight in November, when he registered a third-round TKO of former 147-pound champion Jan Zaveck.
“My power has increased, and Vanes will notice that immediately,” Lara said. “Vanes definitely made some mistakes in our first fight, and I will take advantage of those things. Anyone can be knocked out. You will see everything on fight night.”
Lara’s first title defense came in December 2013 against fellow left-hander Austin Trout, who was coming off a loss to Alvarez but had never been knocked out. Lara dropped Trout in the 11th round and wanted to take him out in the 12th, but Shields ordered his fighter—who had a wide lead on the scorecards—to step off the gas.
“Lara hurt Trout bad in the 11th round, and I refused to let him go out and finish him off,” Shields recalls. “I said, ‘No, don’t take that chance.’ If you’re winning a fight so big, why take a chance at knocking a guy out just to say you’re the first one to do it? So I put him on the outside and made him box.”
If the same situation presents itself late in the rematch with Martirosyan, Shields will almost certainly issue the same command. Lara insists he’d obey his coach’s wishes, even though his desire is to make a statement against Martirosyan with a stoppage win.
“I’ve been in the ring with Vanes before, so I know what I have to do to win this fight,” Lara says. “Ronnie has a great game plan, but most important is that I will do what I always do, and that’s dominate my opposition and put on a beautiful display of boxing.”
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