This Saturday live on Showtime from the Barclays Center, in Brooklyn, former two-time 154-pound titlist Erislandy Lara faces unbeaten contender Brian Castano. At stake is what amounts to something like a title eliminator–basically for the right to at some point become mandatory for Jarrett Hurd’s WBA belt. This main event is a clash of styles, the younger Argentine applying pressure and the older Cuban vet doing his best work on the outside. Will Castano’s aggressive nature be too much for Lara or will experience and high-level skill rule the day? Regardless of the outcome we should get an intriguing fight, close to a 50-50 or maybe 60-40 on paper in favor of Lara.
Erislandy Lara has fought the who’s who of the junior middleweight division over the past 5 years or so. A razor close decision loss to Canelo Alvarez, a damn near whitewash of Austin Trout, and most recently a Fight of the Year winner against Jarret Hurd in a loss. In the Canelo fight people focused more on how he fought rather than which fighter was winning the close rounds. The Hurd fight came down to the wire with a 12th round knockdown by Jarrett. To be fair Lara beat Trout like few if any have by outclassing him.
The majority of the boxing fanbase, including media members, do not like the way Lara boxes. To most he’s just another boring fighter that rarely gives his all or goes out of his way to entertain. The pleasing the crowd by putting himself in harm’s way complaint is understandable. The boring or he’s not trying hard enough critic is more about what one prefers to watch rather than effectiveness in the ring.
A few things come to mind judging Erislandy Lara’s fight game but one stands way out. Lara tends to fight at the level of his opposition, which leads to a bunch of criticism when in with a stay-busy type guy. Rarely do we see Lara let his hands go, throwing caution to the side. All and all when matched versus a real threat, especially an aggressor, Lara tends to deliver or at the very least make the opponents look bad.
Re-watching Lara’s fights against Vanes Martirosyan, Alfredo Angulo, and of course last April vs. Hurd, tells us all we need to know about Saturday night. This weekend and yes quite possibly in back-to-back outings, Erislandy Lara will be involved a helluva fight. As previously mentioned Lara needs a dancing partner to bring the very best out of him offensively. In walks an undefeated hungry fighter Brian Castano.
Castano is not really on the common (or even some so-called hardcores on Twitter) boxing fan’s radar. But don’t let the lack of buzz during fight week fool you. If you need proof take a gander at how Las Vegas has the bout slated. Know him or not, there’s a legit chance we see an upset or an ultra competitive scrap between these two pugilists.
Brian Castano has only 15 fights as a professional but he does have an extensive amateur background. What he lacks in flashy skills as a pro he more than makes up for in grit. His ability to take the fight to his man and do damage when inside bodes well for this particular matchup.
Castano will have no choice but to cut the distance and eventually force Lara to the ropes or trap him in the corners. Brian’s measurements could be a real issue standing at 5’6″ with just a 67 inch reach compared to Erislandy’s 5’9″ and a 74 inch reach. Can Castano find a path to the inside on a consistent basis? If so we could get a breath of fresh air added to the already deep 154-pound weight class.
Once inside look for Castano to limit Lara’s counter shots, it’s crucial for him to make Erislandy employ his earmuff defense. Lara’s bad habit of shelling up has reared its ugly head from time to time. The judges will be able to see the clean punching of Lara whereas Castano will have to use a high work rate to combat it.
Another item of note pertaining to Castano is the mistake of thinking he’s just your average everyday come-forward fighter. To the contrary, ‘El Boxi’ has a plan of attack by using his lateral footwork and quick hand speed on the way in. Castano has a knack of attacking the body, or if need be, finding the openings in order to score points and remain active, as was the case in his split-decision victory over Michel Soro.
Castano sometimes over-commits with his overhand right to the point of lunging with it. Also, his head and upper body movement is no doubt there just not at all times. Using a jab he can turn into a left hook along with a steady diet of body work is the best recipe for success.
This podcaster/blogger thinks the two-way action won’t take all that long to commence. The outside boxer tends to get an early lead in style-matchups like this one, so give Lara the early frames. Once Castano figures a way to cut the distance it’s anyone’s fight to be had. Expect the younger fighter in Castano to get tagged a fair amount but he will also be able to catch Lara in bunches. Castano will be targeting the midsection in effort to slowdown the crafty Cuban.
The last major point to focus in on is Erislandy Lara’s legs and what is left in his tank in general during the second half. Just how much did the Jarrett Hurd fight take from him? If Lara can continue to move just enough to keep Castano off balance he should be victorious. If Castano’s work rate, especially to the body, is present it will be a very long exhausting night for Lara.
Does Lara have one or two more impressive nights left in him or will we see his fighting spirit deteriorate before our eyes? In what should be a compelling bout, Lara’s clean punching and escape-ability shines brighter.