“Give it up, or you’ve got to get in the ring with Erislandy Lara.”
That’s Ronnie Shields’ message to Floyd Mayweather. Shields’ fighter, Lara, is the interim WBA junior middleweight titleholder to Mayweather’s super champion, something sanctioning organizations such as the WBA do in order to ensure they have a steady amount of cash flow coming into their coffers.
But Shields told TSS he thinks it’s time for Mayweather to make a decision regarding his version of the WBA strap.
“I think Mayweather has to make up his mind. Am I going to defend this title or am I going to give it up?”
Shields doesn’t believe Mayweather wants any part of Lara.
“I really don’t think Mayweather wants to go that route. Because he realizes Lara is the real deal and that Lara’s a lot better than everyone he’s been fighting. He’s a lot bigger. Lara is a true 154-pounder.”
Shields does not consider Mayweather a true junior middleweight, and said the undefeated superstar’s future is likely at welterweight.
“Look, he has a whole lot of fights at welterweight. There are a lot of fights out there for him. Besides Tim Bradley and Manny Pacquiao, there are so many other fights. He could fight Keith Thurman, Marcos Maidana or Adrien Broner. You have so many guys that Mayweather can turn to [in order to] get to 50-0. He only has three fights left and he says he’s going to quit.”
But what would Shields prefer?
“I prefer Lara get the fight with Mayweather. I do.”
And does he believe Lara would be the first man to defeat Mayweather?
“Without a doubt. I think he has the style, and of course he’s going to be a lot stronger, and Lara’s used to fighting at 154. Mayweather’s not. And Mayweather is used to fighting slower guys. Lara is not a slow guy. He’s a boxer who can punch, and he has speed. So why would Mayweather want to fight someone like that?”
Sources indicated last week that Lara would likely meet former IBF titlist Ishe Smith this spring in a 154-pound bout. But a television industry expert said the bout would have to be part of a Mayweather undercard, as Showtime would not likely be interested in purchasing the fight on its own.
However, Smith is only one of the names being mentioned as a possible opponent for Lara, and no deal has been reached as of Saturday.
“We don’t have a definite date on Lara right now, but a lot of names are being thrown around. I know everybody has been saying Ishe Smith – he’s one of the names being thrown around – but there are a lot of other names out there also…we don’t have anything concrete yet,” said Shields.
No matter who it is, Shields believes Lara will fight on the undercard of Mayweather’s bout this spring, but that it could also be the weekend before or after. Mayweather is expected to fight May 3 in Las Vegas against either Marcos Maidana or Amir Khan.
Lara, age 30, lives and trains in Houston, Texas. The Cuban transplant enjoyed his finest year as a professional in 2013. Lara faced Alfredo Angulo last summer in Carson, California where he stopped “El Perro” in Round 10 of a rugged and fan-friendly fight, landing a vicious left that smashed Angulo's eye into an enormous hematoma to capture the WBA interim title. Then in December, Lara fought fellow southpaw slickster Austin Trout in Brooklyn, New York. The two junior middleweights were by-and-large considered the two most avoided boxers in the 154-pound division, but Lara dominated every minute of every round. He knocked Trout down to his knees with a lead left hand in Round 11 to help him earn a 12-round unanimous decision win.
Smith, age 35, has also been avoided by many in the division. The former star of NBC’s reality series The Contender made a name for himself in the junior middleweight division despite having trouble landing fights against the division’s most popular fighters.
But Smith defeated Cornelius Bundrage by majority decision in February 2013 at the Masonic Theatre in Detroit, Michigan to take Bundrage’s IBF title belt. He outworked and outboxed the rough-styling Bundrage to take a clear win. He lost the belt seven months later by split decision at the MGM in his hometown of Las Vegas, Nevada against fellow oft-avoided fighter Carlos Molina.
Lara is ranked the No. 1 contender to Floyd Mayweather’s lineal 154-pound championship by the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. While Shields conceded a Mayweather bout was only a very slim possibility, he said Lara is ready for any and every opponent at 154.
“It really doesn’t matter who Lara fights right now. The kid is hungry. He wants people to know who he is. He wants to prove he’s one of the best 154-pounders out there. He just wants to fight.”