AC Weekly's boxing writer Rob Scott interviews boxer Erislandy Lara's veteran trainer, Ronnie Shields, and longtime boxing figure Luis DeCubas.
Pictured above: Veteran boxing trainer Ronnie Shields (left) with writer Rob Scott
The worst thing a fighter can do is take lightly and judge a book (i.e. fellow fighter) by their cover.
Erislandy Lara (15-0-1, 10 KOs), who originally from Guantanamo, Cuba, but now resides in Miami, Florida, has a story that actually has many chapters to it. He and his followers have every intention on coming into Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall on Saturday, July 9, and not only add to their saga, but also become one of boxing’s best sellers.
Lara takes on former two-time world champion and still highly avoided, Paul “The Punisher” Williams (39-2, 27 KOs), who resides in Aiken, South Carolina. Lara, who went from a Cuban National amateur superstar, to a Cuban defector, to a professional world boxing contender, has truly written his own story.
I had the pleasure of talking to two key figures in the ongoing book of Lara when I interviewed his veteran trainer, Ronnie Shields, and longtime boxing figure Luis DeCubas, regarding their star, and what to expect when the bell rings on fight night.
I’ve followed the Erislandy Lara story and seen many of his fights, but let’s face it, there are going to be many in attendance who have not, and who will actually just come to see Williams because they’ve seen him fight here before or on HBO. Tell us just who Erislandy Lara is.
Shields: Well Lara is one of the very best boxers in the world, and come Saturday night, people are going to finally realize just how good a fighter this guy really is. Also Paul Williams will realize that they made a mistake in picking Lara, because Lara can’t be judged off of his last fight. I think that is why they chose us for this fight, but they will realize that they made a mistake. I mean you have to look at Paul Williams, who has two losses, and both to southpaws. Lara is a southpaw, so I guess this will just be Williams’ third loss to a southpaw.
DeCubas: Yes, Lara has a great amateur pedigree. He is a three-time world amateur champion and has won every single title other than the Olympics. He was the favorite to win gold in the 2008 Olympics before he defected, and no one thought otherwise. He is a special fighter that has that aura when you are around him, and I have been around plenty of fighters to know. He is skilled and willing enough to face any fighter, even with just 16 pro fights. He’s more than ready to fight guys Williams and the [Miguel] Cottos of the world.
Williams has been known to be a very confident fighter. You receive the call for this fight, but with a (15-0-1, 10 KOs) record, it shows a lot of confidence in you guys to take this fight. They say you have to crawl before you walk, but what do you see as Williams’ Achilles’ heal in this fight? Why do you feel you can beat him?
Shields: Well you can’t take too much away from Paul Williams, because he is one that’s good for boxing because he gets in there and fights. But Lara is a real fighter. He is a Cuban National Champion, and Cuba has a lot of great fighters coming out of there, and Lara is definitely one of them. I mean looking at Williams, he deserves all the accolades that he gets, but he got knocked out in his last fight. Now while that doesn’t mean his career is over, he’s now been talking about retirement after just two more fights, and that just shows to me that his head is just not in it anymore. What we want to do is send him into early retirement.
DeCubas: Well he’s a throwback fighter, and if you look at his record, he has had eight 10-round fights, with five not going the distance. He beats a guy like Grady Brewer with just nine fights and knocks him out, then Brewer faces a Fernando Guerrero who had 24 fights, then gets knocked out by Brewer. I just think things like that shows that Lara is so much more advanced than these other prospects out there. I just think he can beat a Paul Williams and all these other fighters out there, and I am so positive of that.
I’ve always been curious about returning fighters, especially coming off of a knockout loss. What after effects do you think Williams will have lingering in his head?
Shields: Well you know it was a clean knockout; he didn’t take a beating and then get knocked out. A lot of guys take a beating before a knockout, he didn’t. He got caught, and it was over, so I still expect the same old Paul Williams.
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