Lubin determined to stay on track for 154-pound title shot by beating Cota

Erickson Lubin was ringside the only time Jorge Cota fought in the United States, so he’s well aware of the obstacle standing between him and a potential 154-pound world title shot.

Erickson Lubin and Jorge Cota

Undefeated Erickson Lubin (left) beat four opponents with a combined record of 99-9-2 last year entering Saturday's 154-pound title eliminator against Mexico's Jorge Cota, who is 25-1 with 22 KOs. (Amanda Westcott/Showtime)

It was in August 2015 when Cota twice knocked down 2004 Olympic silver medalist Yudel Johnson on his way to earning a 10-round unanimous decision. Cota’s win over the Cuban southpaw occurred in Winter Park, Florida, just minutes from Lubin’s hometown of Orlando.

Erickson Lubin (17-0, 12 KOs) will now get an even closer look at Jorge Cota (25-1, 22 KOs) on Saturday night when the fighters meet in a 154-pound title eliminator at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. The 12-round bout is the co-main event to the 147-pound world title unification between Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia (CBS, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).

“Yudel Johnson was a great fighter, but I’m not no Yudel Johnson,” says the 21-year-old Lubin. “I’m young and hungry. I can’t wait to get in the ring with Cota and show I'm much better than the man he just fought.”

That was indeed the last fight for Cota, who has won nine straight bouts since his lone defeat but has been inactive for 19 months. The 29-year-old Mexican fought entirely in his home country before beating Johnson, and predicts he will pull an upset in his second U.S. bout.

“Johnson came to fight and I still beat him," Cota says. "I’m a strong, versatile fighter with good rhythm and intensity. I'll enhance my reputation by looking spectacular when I beat Lubin.”

Both Lubin and Cota checked in at 153¾ pounds at Friday's weigh-in. The winner of the bout puts himself in line to challenge for the 154-pound world championship currently held by Jermell Charlo, who is expected to first defend the title against No. 1 contender Charles Hatley.

Lubin, who will turn 22 on October 1, hopes to become boxing’s youngest current world champion. Japanese 108-pound titleholder Kosei Tanaka, who was born 3½ months before Lubin, now holds that distinction.

“I’ve been sparring up to 16 rounds. I'm more explosive, faster and smarter," Lubin says. “ I can go the distance with ease, but I want a knockout for my coming-out party.”

The 5-foot-11 “Hammer” has seemingly been on track for a world title ever since forgoing a run at the 2016 Olympics and signing a professional contract on his 18th birthday in 2013.

The powerful southpaw, who calls his right hand “The Jackhammer and his left “The Sledgehammer,” has rapidly climbed the 154-pound rankings as he has plowed through a bevy of veteran opponents with impressive records.

I've proven myself in past fights but I'm still young. I will become the mandatory challenger on Saturday night. Erickson Lubin, on a potential 154-pound world title opportunity

Lubin went 4-0 with two KOs in 2016 against a lineup of fighters who possessed a combined record of 99-9-2 heading into those bouts. In December, he gained a crushing second-round KO of Juan Ubaldo Cabrera (23-1) in Los Angeles.

For his efforts, Lubin was named Premier Boxing Champions’ Rising Star of the Year for 2016. Now, he hopes to elevate himself even further in 2017.

“To be in this position right now is a great start for the year,” Lubin said. “To become a mandatory challenger is bigger, and becoming a world champion is the biggest. I want to be undisputed.”

First he has to get past Cota, who was scheduled to fight unbeaten Jarrett Hurd in November but withdrew from the fight after undergoing an emergency appendectomy in late October.

Cota’s only loss came in June 2012 against three-time 160-pound title challenger Marco Antonio Rubio, who gained a seventh-round TKO in the bout.

Cota dismissed that loss as an opportunity he couldn’t pass up against a larger fighter, and said that is not the case against Lubin.

“Lubin's past opponents are nowhere as skilled as I am,” says Cota, who lives and trains in the Mexican city of Los Mochis, Sinaloa. “I will either win by knockout or decision.

“My strength and power are greater at 154 because it's my best weight. I have a great plan for winning this fight. I’m confidence of neutralizing Lubin's speed.”

Lubin, however, said Cota will do nothing to keep him from realizing his ultimate goal of becoming a world champ.

“Come Saturday night I'm going to make my mark in the division,” Lubin said. “We know my opponent is coming to fight. I've proven myself in past fights but I'm still young. I will become the mandatory challenger on Saturday night.”

For a complete look at Lubin vs Cota, visit our fight page.

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