By: Robert Aaron Contreras
The Minneapolis Armory in Minnesota was ready to welcome back its pride and joy Caleb Truax on Saturday, August 31, until the hometown champion was scrapped from his rematch with Peter Quillin, leaving Erislandy Lara to carry the bill.
Lara, a former unified beltholder, meets Ramon Alvarez, of Mexico, elder brother to one Canelo Alvarez. In chief support, Sebastian Fundora puts his giant blue-chip reputation on the line against a standout southpaw in Jamontay Clark.
The broadcast begins on FOX at 8pm ET.
Erislandy Lara (25-3-3. 14 KO) vs. Ramon Alvarez (28-7-3, 16 KO), WBA super welterweight title
In more ways than one has Lara broken the mold of the boring, avoided Cuban stylist. First, he traded fire with Jarret Hurd over 12 rounds in one of the most exciting fights of 2018. Now, after losing his two world titles, he is this weekend being pushed back into the title picture.
Not only is the WBA allowing Lara to skip the line back to the top—note, without winning a fight in almost two years±he is clearly the A-side, the betting favorite to lift the strap against what could be described as a prizefighter’s dream come true: an opponent with a big name but subpar game. His opponent is Alvarez, that being “Inocente” Ramon, the more crude, the inferior sibling of the fighting family.
In 2014, Lara engaged in a stylistic clash with Canelo Alvarez. This after crashing the Mexican superstar’s post-fight presser, where Alvarez publicly accepted Lara’s challenge against behest of his promoter. The two fought the complete 12 rounds. Lara plied his trade, accurately tagging his front-foot opponent. The Cuban technically landed more punches than his counterpart (107 total punches to Canelo’s 97). But the ringside panel were not a fan of fighting in reverse, turning in a split-decision nod for Canelo.
The loss was just the second of Lara’s career. In fact every blemish of his career has come with some sort of asterisk.
Earlier this year, Lara fought Brian Fastano to a split-draw. Castano’s efforts were valiant, though Lara clearly controlled the mid-range fighting. In his fight before that, Lara against connected at a higher rate than his man. This time against Hurd, remaining neck and neck with the sizable champion until sugaring a score-swinging knockdown in the final round.
Alas, Lara settled for a split-decision loss—again. The same way he did against Canelo. And unsurprisingly it was a disputed decision that really introduced his immense skill to the boxing world back in 2011.
In New Jersey, Lara met the nightmarish fighter that was Paul Williams, a freakishly long southpaw. Williams was another underrated fighter, who had arguably at the time got the better of every man he fought: avenging himself against former contender Carlos Quintana and pushing middleweight luminary Sergio Martinez to the limit.
Williams employed his usual strategy against Lara, as he would anybody else. But Lara wasn’t anybody else. The Cuban matched Williams’ high output with supremely accurate counterpunching and Lara wasn’t shy about matching the bigger man’s holding and ruffian tactics.
Still a majority-decision loss was all that Lara was left with—HBO’s Harold Lederman memorably scored the widely in Lara’s favor. The state commission found the cards so poor that all there judges were barred from working in Jersey ever again.
Alvarez heads into the weekend with a much lighter reputation, banking on his familial name. He has never before fought for a world title, and will be making just his second stateside appearance. He somehow appeared on the WBA rankings in April after edging out Jose Carlos Paz, an unheralded veteran who had just been flattened by Anthony Fowler inside a round.
In his first fight in the U.S., Alvarez battled the ever-brawling Brandon Rios, who was interchanging wins and losses since 2015. Fighting far above the lightweight limit where Rios found short stardom for his brawling ways, the former champion eventually pounded out Alvarez in nine rounds.
The rest of Alvarez’s ledger includes a split-decision loss to Antonio Margarito—that being a washed, 2016, squinty-eyed version of Antonio Margarito. Alvarez also split a pair of fights with Omar Chavez, a ferocious puncher and another fighter unable to shake the shadow of their younger, more talented brother.
Given their contrasting career arcs and pedigree, the 36-year-old Lara is far and away the favorite to win—opening as high as -5000. Alvarez, 33, is sitting at 25-to-1 dog odds.
Sebastian Fundora (13-0, 9 KO) vs. Jamontay Clark (14-1, 7 KO)
Making his third appearance of the year, and for the second time in his career over the 10-round distance, Fundora continues to turn heads. The great Tommy Hearns was once marbled at for fighting around 154 pounds at a towering 6’3”. Fundora actually has nearly three inches on Hearns, and drastically more height than any of his current day competition.
Clark, for one, is no chump at the junior middleweight limit. He is 6’2” and is equal measure with Fundora’s staggering reach at 80 inches long.
There still isn’t a super welterweight—or middleweight or super middleweight—alive who can match Fundora’s massive frame. He is a spindly puncher, aged just 21, and will likely pack on much more weight over the years. But at the moment he is jarringly thin.
More shocking is his preference for fighting inside of his shorter opponents. To his credit, he doesn’t cower away from scraps, nearly having his head spun around in multiple fights, eating giant right hands from Ve Shawn Owens for example.
Still undefeated, Fundora has recently proven more adept at leveraging his giant arms. In February, the California native tore up the previously unbeaten Donnie Marshall, with a keen focus on his left uppercut, overwhelming Marshall along the ropes until the referee jumped between the two in the third round.
Previously, in June, Fundora added to his repertoire, pelting away at Mexican prospect Hector Manuel Zepeda: extending a long jab, and ripping left hands up and down. Zepeda’s corner couldn’t bring themselves to send him back out for the fifth period, resulting in the first loss of his career.
Clark, 24, has the athleticism to make him competitive. He will look to extend his record on the year, where he is already 1-0 after decisioning the previously undefeated southpaw Vernon Brown as a part of the PBC on FS1 undercard in March. The Ohio native does have a notable name on his ledger in the form of the standout sharpshooter Ivan Golub. But Clark’s decision over the touted Ukrainian has been widely disputed, aided by an incompetent judging panel.