Junior middleweight Erislandy Lara easily defeated Delvin Rodriguez on Friday night on a Premier Boxing Champions bout televised live on Spike. All three judges at ringside scored the bout for 120-107 for Lara, who said after the bout he was ready for fights against some of boxing’s biggest stars.
“The future is clear,” said Lara. “I want Floyd Mayweather, Miguel Cotto and Gennady Golovkin.”
Lara, a 32-year-old Cuban defector living just outside of Houston, defended his WBA title in style by completely outclassing Rodriquez, a good, but not elite, TV fighter from the Dominican Republic who lives in Connecticut. It was a masterpiece of the sweet science, but one that left many wondering if Lara could have picked up the pace to end things early.
Lara outboxed Rodriguez, age 35, from the opening bell in what amounted to a showcase fight for the southpaw stylist trained by Ronnie Shields in Texas. Lara stood in the center of the ring in Round 1 and landed jabs and straight left hands at will. Rodriguez was nary able to land a punch on the slickster despite the Cuban using very little movement around the ring as is sometimes typical of his style.
It was more of the same in Round 2. Lara’s jab was sharp and his left hand was deadly accurate. In Round 3, Lara unfurled his right hook. Soon he was throwing sharp combinations, landing at a ridiculously high rate and not getting hit back in return.
Lara moved more in Round 4 and did not let his hands go, instead focusing on a light jab as Rodriguez inched forward and Lara slid backward. Lara opened up more in the next round, perhaps encouraged to do so by some fans in attendance who had begun to boo. For the first time in the fight, Lara started throwing hard shots to Rodriguez’s body.
The strategy continued in the next round. Lara dropped Rodriguez with a vicious one-two just seconds before the end of Round 6 after lulling the veteran into a daze with fancy footwork and off-putting rhythm. Rodriguez rose to his feet and the bell rang before Lara could move in to finish him.
In the next round, Lara walked his opponent down and landed punches virtually at will, though he remained carefully responsible behind his jab. Round 8 was more of the same except Lara managed to stagger his prey toward the end of it.
Rounds 9, 10 and 11 were similar. Lara did his thing. He landed hard punches in high volume but didn’t close the show. Lara tripped Rodriquez down behind a punch in Round 11, but referee Celestino Ruiz correctly ruled it a trip and not a knockdown. Round 12 was just like the previous 11. Lara dominated Rodriguez, hurt him at times, but didn’t get the knockout.
Rodriquez is now 0-2-1 in his last three bouts, including a draw against Joachim Alcine last year and a one-sided Round 3 knockout loss to Miguel Cotto in 2013.
It was Lara’s second straight win after losing a controversial split-decision against Canelo Alvarez in a 155-pound catchweight fight in July 2014. In December of the same year, Lara dominated former titleholder Ishe Smith over 12 rounds at the Alamo Dome in San Antonio.
The win does two things for Lara. First, it keeps the oft-avoided fighter in the public eye. While some fans don’t particular enjoy the Cuban style he employs to wins fight, the fact remains he is one of the best junior middleweights in the world today, perhaps the toughest to beat in the division short of lineal champion Floyd Mayweather, who hasn’t campaigned at the weight since 2013.
Second, and maybe more important to his career going forward, the fight gave Lara a chance to showcase his skill set to a broad audience. Lara might not be universally loved for his defensive style, but there is no reason to believe the talented 32-year-old will languish in obscurity under the co-management of Al Haymon. Lara, who is also managed by Luis DeCubas Jr., needed to step up the pace against Rodriguez in an effort to show fans he can be more entertaining as a prizefighter. Most would probably agree he did not do that. Instead, Lara was the same fighter he always is: masterful but disinterested in taking needless risks.
Lara’s team has publicly lobbied for bouts against the likes of Mayweather, Cotto and Golovkin, but it’s more likely he will need to continue to clean out the division until a more attainable big fight comes his way. A unification bout against WBO titleholder Demetrius Andrade, who hasn’t been in the ring in over a year, would make the most sense at this point. The fighters, who met in 2005 as amateurs in a bout Lara won, are evenly matched southpaws who no one else seems eager to challenge.
They might as well fight each other.
Beterbiev Destroys Johnson
In the co-featured bout, Russian light heavyweight strongman Artur Beterbiev, age 30, remained undefeated with a one-sided beatdown of Alexander Johnson. The Montreal-based Beterbiev appears to be one of the brightest up-and-coming 175-pound prospects in all of boxing. He mercilessly annihilated Johnson, a 33-year-old veteran fighter from Maryland.
Beterbiev put pressure on Johnson from the opening bell. He stalked forward and threw thudding blows that were mostly blocked in Round 1. But by Round 2, he was catching Johnson clean and clearly making his mark. Johnson, a southpaw, landed a nice counter left hand toward the end of Round 2 but it didn’t keep the ruthless Russian from coming forward.
Beterbiev landed good body blows in Round 3 after allowing Johnson off the hook a bit early in the round. It appeared he was looking for punches to counter but couldn’t quite get the timing down so he went back to pressing forward. It was more of the same in Round 4, except Beterbiev was now throwing and landing more punches than ever. He landed a stiff jab in Round 5 to put Johnson down the first time in the bout, then landed an uppercut moments later which left Johnson hanging on the ropes.
Round 6 was Johnson’s best round, primarily because it looked like Beterbiev took a break before going in for the kill the next round. Beterbiev knocked Johnson down with a quick left in Round 7, then ended the bout with a wrecking ball right hand on the temple a few seconds later.
Beterbiev appears to be on his way to the top of the light heavyweight division. He appears capable of competing against anyone in the division right now after just nine professional fights, including lineal champion Adonis Stevenson and unified champion Sergey Kovalev.