Erislandy Lara has made four successful defenses of his 154-pound world title, and the 33-year-old native of Cuba is eager to add to that number as he attempts to fulfill a goal of unifying one of boxing’s deepest divisions.
At the same time, Lara (23-2-2, 13 KOs) is also prepared to pack on a few pounds and move up to 160 “right now” if it means a shot at champions Gennady Golovkin or Canelo Alvarez.
“If a big fight comes up with either of them, I’m ready now, and everyone knows this,” Erislandy Lara said. “I’ll fight anyone, anywhere.
“Actions speak louder than words, and I've fought the best fighters and will continue to do so. I’m not going anywhere.”
Lara is coming off a unanimous decision over Vanes Martirosyan in May, the southpaw’s fourth straight win since losing a disputed split decision to Alvarez in a 155-pound non-title fight in July 2014.
Alvarez is set to follow up his knockout of Amir Khan with a fight against unbeaten 154-pound titleholder Liam Smith on September 17, a week after Golovkin defends his 160-pound crown against Kell Brook in London.
Brook, a 147-pound champ from the U.K., is jumping up two weight classes in hopes of ending GGG’s 22-fight knockout streak.
“I think they are both looking for the easiest route to a victory,” Lara said of Golovkin and Alvarez. “Golovkin vs. Brook is a big fight in the U.K., but we all know Kell is a welterweight and has no business fighting GGG. Canelo is fighting Smith, who is a champion, but he’s not the best out of all the titleholders at 154 pounds.”
Lara admits to being frustrated that some in the national boxing media ridicule him for not facing top-level competition while at the same time giving a pass to other champions with suspect résumés.
“A lot of these critics don’t play by same rules with every fighter,” he says. “They have their favorites and are fans of certain guys and always defend their actions but criticize others.
“We’ve called out [Golovkin] several times, so no one can say we’ve tried to avoid him. I can’t take it personal. I can only control my career, and my résumé speaks for itself.”
GARCIA ENJOYING MOONLIGHTING GIG AS A TALKING HEAD
Danny Garcia’s year began January 23, when the 28-year-old Philadelphia native won a contentious unanimous decision over Robert Guerrero in Los Angeles to pick up the 147-pound title vacated by Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Since beating Guerrero, Garcia has moonlighted as a ringside commentator on four Fox telecasts, including the Andre Berto-Victor Ortiz clash in April and, most recently, heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder’s eighth-round knockout of Chris Arreola last weekend.
The analyst role has allowed Garcia, who vacated his 140-pound title last year to campaign at 147, a chance for his fans to see a different side of him, including his wardrobe.
“I’m the swag champ. I go to Neiman Marcus and get me a Tom Ford suit, get it tailored. I buy some shoes, and I’m good,” Garcia said. “The fans get to know your personality more. They’re used to seeing you fighting, but [then] they get to hear your voice, and it’s exposure for your brand. It’s nothing but good things.”
While Garcia has enjoyed his time behind the mic, he’s also eager to return to the ring, hoping to do so as soon as September. He’s been rumored as a potential opponent for Manny Pacquiao in November—something Garcia addressed on the Wilder-Arreola telecast—although no formal negotiations have taken place.
So as he awaits word on his first 147-pound title defense, Garcia will turn his attention to celebrating the first birthday of his daughter, Philly Swift. She was born August 15, two weeks after Garcia made his 147-pound debut with a ninth-round TKO of Paulie Malignaggi.
“She’s turning a year old in August, and we’re doing a Coachella-themed party for her,” said Garcia, whose father and trainer is Angel Garcia. “Crazy Angel is gonna dress up as Shaggy from Scooby Doo.”
NOW FULLY HEALTHY, BETERBIEV EYES TOP COMPETITION AT 175 POUNDS
Artur Beterbiev returned to action last month for the first time in nearly a year, scoring four knockdowns on the way to a fourth-round knockout of Ezequiel Maderna.
Injury-free following his recovery from shoulder surgery in November, the 31-year-old Beterbiev (10-0, 10 KOs) wants a quick return to the ring, hoping to do so no later than September. More importantly, he wants to ratchet up the level of competition.
“After a one-year layoff due to [shoulder] surgery, I think that was a good performance against a good technician, but now I want to face the best opponent possible,” said Beterbiev, who was born in Russia and resides in Montreal.
“There are a lot of good fighters and a lot of good fights happening in the light heavyweight division right now, so there are a lot of great challenges for me in the near future.”
Those marquee matchups at 175 pounds include champion Adonis Stevenson defending his crown against Thomas Williams Jr. on July 29 in Quebec City (Spike, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT), where Beterbiev plans to be ringside. Then there’s the highly anticipated Sergey Kovalev-Andre Ward showdown, which is expected to happen in November, so long as Ward gets past Alexander Brand on August 6.
How would Beterbiev fare against Stevenson, Ward or fellow countryman Kovalev?
“They all have different styles and they represent a big challenge for a variety of reasons, but there is a way to beat everyone,” Beterbiev said. “I would have no preference in which of them I fought first, because they are all very good fighters. But I’m in boxing to challenge myself, and I believe I can beat any and all of them right now.”
BROWNE ANXIOUS FOR REDEMPTION AFTER ‘A REALLY BAD NIGHT’
Marcus Browne finds it torturous to watch tape of his April 16 fight against Radivoje Kalajdzic, even though the Staten Island, New York, resident won the 175-pound bout by split decision.
That’s because Browne (18-0, 13 KOs) turned in an admittedly subpar performance, rising from a sixth-round knockdown after scoring a questionable one of his own in Round 1 against Kalajdzic (21-1, 14 KOs).
Although it could be argued that Kalajdzic did enough to maintain his perfect record, only one judge agreed, scoring it 76-74 in his favor while the other two judges had it 76-74 and 76-75 for Browne. The result was booed loudly by the crowd, despite the fact Browne was fighting in his backyard in Brooklyn, New York.
“Some nights are good. Others are bad. That was a really bad night that I just want to make a distant memory,” said Browne, a 25-year-old 2012 U.S. Olympian. “I’m holding, lunging, making a lot of mistakes and just looked like [expletive].
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched it, but I did just watch it again four days ago, as hard as that was to do.”
Lem’s Corner is published each Wednesday at PremierBoxingChampions.com.