By Andrew Johnson
Cuba’s finest fighters were on display at the Armory in Minneapolis on Saturday night’s PBC on FOX event. Erislandy Lara (25-3-3, 15 KOs), Frank Sánchez (13-0, 11 KOs ) and David Morrell Jr. (1-0, 1 KO) recorded dominant victories against a trio of uninspiring opponents, but provided a glimpse of Cuba’s future in professional boxing.
The most dramatic moment of the weekend occurred at Friday’s weigh-in when Ramon Álvarez (28-8-3, 16 KOs) didn’t show up.
Photo Credit: Peter Johnson
Promoters paced in the lobby and frantically poked their cell phones trying to find the super welterweight with the famous brother. Their calls and texts were answered with bad news, Alvarez was reportedly seven pounds over the limit and no sauna on earth was going to get him close to 154 lbs. The contracts were hastily rewritten and Lara agreed to go ahead with what should be Álvarez’s last fight as a pro.
Lara outclassed Álvarez from the opening bell until the middle of the second round when referee Mark Nelson mercifully stopped the mismatch. The Cuban fighter looked sharp in the short fight, though he said he wasn’t planning on a knockout.
“I don’t train for a knockout” Lara told the BoxingInsider after the fight, “I prepare to let my hands go and if the knockout comes, it comes.”
With the victory and the WBA World Super Welterweight belt around his waist, Lara is now scheduled to fight fellow WBA belt holder Michel Soro (34-2-1, 23 KOs), but the 36 year-old veteran has his eyes on more lucrative match-ups.
“I do want to fight the best boxers out there in the division, or go up or down a division to fight Errol Spence Jr. or rematch Canelo Alvarez.” said Lara.
Heavyweight Frank Sánchez, who like Lara was born in Guantanamo, Cuba, was a late addition to the televised portion of the card when Caleb Truax had to withdraw because of a torn Achilles tendon.
Sánchez took advantage of the opportunity, looking both nimble and powerful in four rounds against Victor Bisbal (23-4, 17 KOs). Though Bisbal’s best rounds are clearly behind him, he gave an honest effort. His corner stepped in after the fourth round, deciding their fighter had absorbed enough of the Sáchez’s heavy-handed shots, and called the fight.
Earlier in the evening, David Morrell Jr. won his professional debut in just over a minute against Yendris Váldez (2-7, 2 KOs). Morrell (listed as Osvary in the amateur records) is being hailed as one of the best amateur fighters ever to come out of Cuba and just signed a long-term contract with Warriors Boxing Promotions.
Váldez had a decidedly different reputation coming into the fight after losing his last five bouts, he hardly threw a punch on Saturday night.
Morrell is a powerful, polished light heavyweight who will make his home and fight out of Minneapolis. His promotional team chose Minnesota because of the PBC’s affinity for the Armory and the renewed interest in boxing that the recent successes of Jamal James and Caleb Truax have inspired in the state. Look for him to return in December on the PBC’s next Minneapolis show.