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14 NOVEMBER 2018

Where am I? Home Columns Marc Livitz

Lara And Smith Prepared For San Antonio

By Marc Livitz: The American dream is one which is sought by many who flock to the United States and last July, Erislandy Lara was set to finally experience the culmination of his own. It’s an all too familiar story. A better life is sought and the ambitious search for one’s unique idea of living forces them to make very difficult choices. Lara essentially walked out on his homeland, which is fully understandable once the oppressive nature of his homeland of Cuba is taken into consideration. He had amassed an impressive record as an amateur fighter, yet he chose to flee the iron fisted Caribbean nation in 2007 and sought not to represent Cuba in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.


Erislandy turned pro just over six years ago and developed a reputation as a hard, no nonsense style of combatant while amassing an impressive array of early knockouts and walkover wins. The Cuban exile came to call the city of Houston, TX home and was riding high with an unbeaten record until he met Paul Williams in July of 2011. He suffered the first loss of his professional career in a contest which many felt he’d been unfairly robbed of a victory. Lara didn’t slow down, however and his subsequent wins over fighters such as Alfredo Angulo (TKO 10) and Austin Trout (UD 12) proved to be the variety of triumphs which vault a boxer into pole position for a big time bout.


He finally got it five months ago when he met Saul "Canelo" Alvarez in a co-headlining pay per view bout from Las Vegas. The contest pitted the top two junior middleweights in the world against one another and Lara was supposed to give the Mexican superstar a true test in the ring. It didn’t happen and event that night entitled "Honor and Glory" gave both such qualities to Canelo. Lara (19-2-2, 12 KO’s) by many accounts was too patient in his approach and was seemingly unaware that he needed to not only beat his red haired opponent, but the hold over Las Vegas owned by Alvarez as well. In the end, he was given a seven to five round victory by one ringside judge, but saw the same count go to Canelo in addition to a wide 117-111 for his opponent from Guadalajara.


Lara will make his return to the ring in about ten days time in San Antonio, TX, where he’ll meet Ishe "Sugar Shay" Smith for the WBA light middleweight title. Smith himself is no stranger to odd and character defining circumstances. The native Las Vegas resident took part in the American reality television series "The Contender" in 2001 and has gone on to have what many might call an up and down career. Regardless, Smith always fights with the passion and will of a devoted pugilist. His signature win came last year when he topped Cornelius Bundrage via majority decision to capture the IBF light middleweight crown, only to lose it in his next bout seven months later (to Carlos Molina as part of the undercard to the aforementioned Canelo Alvarez’s shutout loss to Floyd Mayweather, Jr.). Since then, Ishe Smith (26-6, 12 KO’s) has fought once and scored a second round knockout victory. The bout will be televised in the United States on the Showtime network.


Lara and Smith as well as their respective trainers took part in a media call this afternoon to discuss next week’s bout. Selected highlights listed below.


Ishe Smith, Opening Statement: "I’d like to thank Mayweather Promotions for putting me back on the stage. It will be another fight to add to my legacy. Blessings all the way around. I’m just happy to be back."


Eddie Mustafa Muhammad (Smith’s Trainer): "We’re in great shape, mentally and physically. We are ready to go."


Erislandy Lara, Opening Statement: "Everything’s gone great and I’m ready to go."


Ronnie Shields (Lara’s Trainer): "Erislandy is in great shape. He’s ready to go and ready to defend the title. Looking forward to a great night in San Antonio."


Ishe Smith on facing adversity: "The hardest thing I had to overcome was when I was dealing with a divorce and I found myself on the edge of suicide. I hadn’t fought in about 18 months. I couldn’t get any fights, but I was lucky to have found Mayweather Promotions."


"Floyd felt as if boxing hadn’t given me my fair shake. I remember all the talks we had and I’m so grateful for what he’s done. He said he’d get me to the doorstep and the rest would be up to me. I was looking for the fight with Lara earlier on, but he took a bigger fight with Canelo. I understood that. He did what he had to do and that’s that."


"I never say that a fight is a "make or break" fight. You just make the most of every opportunity."


Erislandy Lara on previous defeats: "Those fights are in the past. Everyone saw that I won those fights. The fans know it. I just have to look towards the future and I have Ishe Smith in front of me now. When I fought Canelo Alvarez, I did what I did. I thought I won and I feel like I dominated many parts of it. There’s no reason in boxing that you have to win ten rounds to two if you’re not the star attraction on the card."


"Every fight is important. The main focus is to go out there and win."


Smith on Training Camp: "We had some great sparring. We started off with some hungry amateurs. We brought in Willie Monroe, who will be fighting Brian Vera in January. This has been one of the best and also most expensive camps I’ve had and it just kept getting better."


Mustafa Muhammad on the same: "It’s going to be a very competitive fight. We respect Erislandy and his people, but now it’s time to fight. All the hard work is over and now it’s time to fight. The game is to hit and not be hit. Ishe is in the best shape he could possibly be in and we’re coming back with the championship."


Lara on Previous Preparations to face Smith: "Yes, of course. We went back to many of the things we had worked on. We’ve adjusted a few things."


Ronnie Shields on Lara’s Condition: "We’re not going in thinking that the fight is going to be easy. Ishe is a great fighter. We’re training hard all the time and with a championship mentality. Ishe has been around for a long time and he’s fought everybody. Lara is in great shape as always and he’s ready to go."


"Lara is the kind of guy who comes to the gym everyday ready to work as hard as he can. He’s done this as long as I’ve been training him. Every fight for him is a championship fight. He realizes that he has to work hard for the American dream. He feels great and he’s looking great in the gym."


"There’s no question that he’s the most talented 154 pound fighter. People have realized that he’s the best and they’re now lining up to fight him. Lara’s been sparring with both of the Charlo twins. We won’t try to replicate the style of Smith. I don’t believe in that. Never have and never will. We have a game plan to stick to and we’ll be victorious on December 12."


Eddie Muhammad’s Thoughts on Smith: "It’s been a pleasure as always. We’ve picked up ways to fight southpaws. When I was a world champion, I fought five southpaws and I knocked out all of them. We have all southpaws in sparring and we’ll be ready."


Erislandy on his future: "My main focus is on handling business first and next year, we’d like to go after his (Smith’s) boss (Floyd Mayweather, Jr.). I have a very difficult style and maybe because I’m Cuban is why I’m not mentioned among the world’s top fighters."


Ishe Smith on fighting in San Antonio: "I didn’t really care one way or another. The fans out there showed me a lot of love and respect. They have some great fight fans. I’ll be able to mark that off my bucket list as a pro."


Erislandy’s Response: "San Antonio is a beautiful place. I go there a lot with the family. There’s some great fans there and I can call it home."


December 5, 2014

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