Why ‘American Dream’ Erislandy Lara is such a nightmare to fight

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At some point, a move to 160 pounds might be in the cards for Erislandy Lara. Could even be as soon as next year. And if the 154-pound champ does step up in weight, there’s a fighter in that division that has a reputation—as Lara does—for having slightly reluctant opposition.

Erislandy Lara and Delvin Rodriguez

With few worlds left to conquer at 154 pounds, Cuban star Erislandy Lara could move up in weight as early as next year. (Lucas Noonan/Premier Boxing Champions)

That’s Kazakh wrecking ball Gennady Golovkin.

While many fighters have been reluctant to name GGG as a potential foe, Erislandy Lara has never been shy about his interest in that fight. Even as soon as he was done shutting out Delvin Rodriguez in June, when Lara headlined a Premier Boxing Champions card in Chicago.

“We want to fight the best,” he said afterward. “We want to fight [Floyd] Mayweather, we want to fight [Miguel] Cotto, we want to fight Golovkin.”

So what would a match between the Cuban technician and the heavy-hitting Golovkin look like?

“Willie Monroe Jr. has got a little pop and he’s a hell of a southpaw with an extensive amateur background,” said former 154-pound champ Sergio Mora, who has spent most of his 15-year pro career competing at 160. “Monroe gave Golovkin problems [before being stopped in the sixth round in May], and he’s a C-plus fighter as opposed to an A-plus southpaw like Lara. You can only imagine what Lara would do.

“He’s short, but he has very long arms. This is a guy who has very long arms, a short stature, and he knows how to extend his punches and he comes from a shorter angle and southpaw angles. He’s just a mess to fight. I don’t care if he doesn’t punch as hard as Golovkin, because [GGG isn't] going to be punching anything. The power just becomes null and void. You’re going to start getting potshotted, and [Lara will] pivot to the side every time you try to corner him. I could see Golovkin winning that fight, don’t get me wrong, but he’s also going to look very bad doing it.”

Golovkin’s sharp jab took center stage in his impressive win over David Lemieux last month, but the boxing skills Golovkin displayed against a pure power puncher such as Lemieux might not hold sway when he comes up against another fighter who has as extensive an amateur background as Lara does—especially one who came up through the technical and precise Cuban school.

What makes Lara so difficult to fight is the pinpoint control he has over distance, and an impeccable sense of timing. Come in, and he’ll take a half step back and fire a counter left. It was his go-to move over 12 rounds against Rodriguez, and there wasn’t a moment where his opponent had an answer. Rodriguez got a few licks in, but nothing ever serious enough to do damage.

Lara will again put those skills on display Wednesday night, when he puts his world title on the line against former 147-pound champ Jan Zaveck in Miami (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT).

“The stepback is the No. 1 thing for a lot of counterpunchers, especially Cubans. It’s a tricky move to master,” Mora said. “Even though I consider myself a defensive fighter, I’ve never been able to do that back-step counterpunch. There’s a certain rhythm to it. You anchor the punch when you’re stepping back, you get the same leverage as going forward. Coming from a southpaw angle, you’re getting punched with a hard punch from an angle you’re not used to getting hit with. That’s what makes these guys so devastating.”

As for the notion that Lara has a hard time getting fights, that could be a key factor that helps push a fight against Golovkin into reality. Lara has hinted that there aren’t many fights left available to him at 154.

That doesn’t exactly come as news to Mora, who wrestled with the decision over whether or not to fight Lara before ultimately being unable to come to terms.

“They offered me that fight one time,” he said. “I wanted that fight. We were going to meet at 158 and I know he’s a small 154-pounder. My trainer straight asked me, ‘How much are they going to pay you?’ I said ‘such and such.’ He said, ‘Not worth it, man. That guy does everything right. You are going to have to fight the perfect fight just to make it competitive. You want my opinion? Ask for more money and make it worth it.’ I still wanted the fight.”

For full coverage of Lara vs Zaveck, make sure to follow along at our fight page.

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