Erislandy Lara moves up to middleweight for one final race
By: Hector Franco
This coming weekend, one of boxing’s most underrated pugilists will climb the weight ladder to join the middleweight division.
Erislandy Lara (27-3-3, 15 KOs) will make his middleweight debut against New Jersey’s Thomas Lamanna (30-4-1, 12 KOs) for a vacant version of the WBA middleweight title.
Lara, 38, is only a few years old before she turns 40. This means that the move to middleweight was likely an opportunity for the Cuban stylist to maximize any remaining opportunities that would open up to him in his career.
Over the years, Lara has featured in important games, most notably in July 2014, losing a controversial split decision to Canelo Alvarez. His last two notable fights were in 2018 and 2019.
In 2018, he faced Jarrett Hurd of Maryland in the Boxing Writers Association of America’s Fight of the Year. A 12th round reversal made the difference in a split decision loss for the WBA and IBF junior middleweight titles.
The following year, in 2019, Lara challenged current WBO junior middleweight title holder Brian Castano. At stake, the WBA 154-pound championship. As he built an early lead, a push from Castano in the second half saw their showdown end in a draw.
The increase in weight will give the aging fighter a less strenuous time on the scale.
“I feel like I’ll be a bigger puncher at middleweight, and that will be the main difference,” Lara told Boxingscene.com. “Having six more pounds behind my punches might not seem like a lot, but it’s a big difference.
“Not having to lose those extra pounds makes me feel like a freak.”
Lamanna, Lara’s next opponent, will be one of the greatest of her career. Although the 6’1 fighter from New Jersey is the underdog and lesser-known, he has just achieved two back-to-back wins with a save in Mexico.
Against Lamanna, Lara finds herself in a situation where her way of winning will be just as important as winning. A dominant stoppage win will only help Lara fight the middleweights.
“Thomas Lamanna is a great middleweight with a lot of experience, and I take this fight very seriously as always,” said Lara. “I arrived weeks ago for training camp, and Ismael Salas immediately made me work on the basics of boxing.
“At this point in my career, I’m all in action, I fight inside and I let my hands fly. I’m going to make a statement in this fight with a knockout.
In the middleweight, the landscape seems open although fractured, with more fights discussed than organized. The division has four champions with Gennadiy Golovkin (IBF), Jermall Charlo (WBC), Demetrius Andrade (WBO) and Ryota Murata holding another version of the WBA title.
When Golovkin held the court at the top of the division in the mid-2010s, Lara was one of the few fighters who called for a fight with the Kazakh puncher. Unfortunately, Golovkin is currently linked with future fights with Murata and Jaime Munguia.
The fight that is most likely to happen would be against Jermall Charlo. The Texas native, since moving to middleweight, hasn’t faced elite competition consistently.
Both men were coached by Ronnie Shields, giving the fight a natural scenario. If Lara emerges victorious against Lamanna, it would be a unification fight.
At this point, Lara has arguably done enough to be on the International Boxing Hall of Fame ballot after her retirement. Being inducted, however, is quite another thing. The move to middleweight for Lara is motivated to be mentioned along with some of Cuba’s greatest boxers.
“I think I did enough to be considered one of the best Cuban boxers of all time,” said Lara. “Winning a world middleweight title will definitely help me get closer to the top of the list. Every fighter wants to be remembered for what he accomplished in the ring, and I’m no different.
“I am fighting for my legacy and I want to be remembered as one of the best to do so.”
The heritage of boxing from the country of Cuba reverberates throughout amateur and professional boxing. Fighters like Luis Rodriguez, Jose Napoles, Kid Gavilan, Sugar Ramos, and Kid Chocolate are names that Lara wants to be mentioned with.
The final round of Lara’s middleweight career will give her that opportunity.
Erislandy Lara-Thomas Lamanna takes place on May 1 at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, Calif. As the main event on FOX leading up to the Andy Ruiz-Chris Arreola PPV.