Former super welterweight king Erislandy Lara will rely on his skill and experience when he faces young, talented and hungry Brian Castano Saturday night on Showtime.
Will we be seeing the triumphant return of a boxing elite mainstay or the emergence of a new star?
That’s question will be answered this Saturday, March 2, at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center when Cuban master boxer Erislandy Lara (25-3-2, 14 KOs) meets Argentina’s Brian Castaño (15-0, 11 KOs) in a twelve round junior middleweight contest for Castaño’s WBA “regular” 154-pound title.
Coverage of the PBC on Showtime card begins at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT. The show includes a heavyweight co-feature pitting Cuba’s Luis “King Kong” Ortiz against Christian Hammer.
This upcoming title challenge will be the 35-year-old Lara’s first bout since April 2018, when he lost a Fight of the Year title unification war to Jarrett Hurd via razor-thin split decision.
At his very best, the Guantanamo, Cuba-born, Houston-based former champion is a wizard of a fighter with a genius-level ring IQ who utilizes off-putting angles and impeccable timing to befuddle opposition.
“The American Dream” likes to poke and prod from his southpaw stance, using his skills to nullify an opponent’s strengths while cruising, unscathed, to a one-sided decision.
Lara can also be, as we’ve seen at various points throughout his career, a mean-spirited battler who can switch from the science of prizefighting to the art of war when pushed hard enough.
Against Hurd, for example, fans saw a bit of both sides from Lara as the onslaught from the bigger, younger IBF champion forced the Cuban stylist to fight back for fear of being overwhelmed. Make no mistake about it, Lara can and will go to a savage place if need be, but that’s certainly not his default mindset.
Against a relatively unknown factor in Castaño, perhaps Lara doesn’t know which version of himself will be needed. What he is sure of, though, is that he’s been places and done things that, at least on paper, make him the prohibitive favorite in this upcoming clash.
"Castaño is a good boxer, young, he's hungry, let's see,” Lara told ESPN Deportes. “I'm going to give the best of me, he has the...title, it's fine, but tell me a boxer he's fought with a name, a champion, someone of trajectory. He’s not fought with anyone. They’ve told me that he’s been talking. Let's see what he says on March 2."
Meanwhile the 29-year-old Castaño from Buenos Aires may be the defending champion, but he’s also the fighter with the most to prove.
An offense-minded fighter who likes coming forward, “El Boxi” carries with him the supreme confidence of an undefeated young star fully settled into the pro ranks after years as a highly-regarded thoroughbred amateur prospect. His hand speed and fan-friendly style, combined with a hefty dose of natural charisma, have made him a popular figure in his home country and someone with the raw potential to become a breakthrough star on the world stage.
Defensive liabilities, especially when pushed backwards, are clearly evident and a susceptibility to counter right hands, specifically, could be his downfall against next-level opposition. His tendency to be a bit predictable on the attack could also hurt him against savvier, skilled opponents. Even so, Castaño’s strengths and natural gifts have covered for his weaknesses thus far.
What he doesn’t yet have, though, is a resume befitting a world class player. In seven years as a pro, his high-water mark wins have come against fringe contenders Michel Soro and Cedric Vitu. The talented young fighter is, at this point, best known for wins that occurred before turning pro—notably, a win over Errol Spence as an amateur and a spirited decision victory over well-regarded middleweight challenger Sergiy Derevyanchenko in 2012 as part of the World Series of Boxing.
Castaño knows that a win over Lara stops the “who has he fought” talk and immediately removes any doubt as to his world class credentials
"I'm counting the days and hours to achieve the biggest win of my career," Castaño told ESPN Deportes. "This fight is very special for me Erislandy was, is and will continue to be one of the best super welterweights today.
"This March 2, you will see my potential, for many years I have been working to win a fight of this size, so that people know that Argentina has a champion with talent to compete with the best. Beating Lara will open the doors of the elite."
The outcome of Lara-Castaño will depend on two key factors—How much Castaño has to give and how much Lara has left. If the kid from Argentina is as good as his reputation suggests and/or if Lara has lost a step following his brutal battle with Hurd, then the boxing world may be in for a passing of the torch moment.
But if the Erislandy Lara returning to the ring this Saturday is the same magician of a fighter seen throughout his career, then we may see the Cuban quickly decipher his younger foe and step right back into his spot near the top of a talented 154 lb. division.
For more on Lara vs Castano, check out our fight night page.