Q&A WITH ERISLANDY LARA AND TRAINER RONNIE SHIELDS
Promoter Oscar De La Hoya: We are counting down the days [to July 12th when Saul "Canelo" Alvarez faces Erislandy Lara in a twelve-round junior middleweight bout to be shown on pay-per-view in Las Vegas]. Everybody's really excited. Just to point out to you, the event is almost sold out, a complete sell out. We are also hearing from all the cable operators that this fight is tracking extremely well, so it's obviously a great indication not only of Canelo's star power and not only of the great stacked card that we have, but also because this is a great fight that a lot of people feel is a toss-up fight. Before I introduce the trainers and the fighters, let me introduce to you the Vice President of Communications at Showtime, Chris DeBlasio, to say a few words.
Showtime's Chris DeBlasio: Thanks to the press for participating on this call. Some housekeeping: Stephen Espinoza, our Executive Vice President and Head of Programming couldn't join us today and he extends his apologies. So briefly, our Emmy Award-winning documentary series All Access has returned to chronicle Canelo and Lara's preparations for this fight. Our first episode you may have seen premiered last Friday night. Our second episode in advance of the PPV event will be televised on Wednesday, July 9th on Showtime (9 p.m. ET/PT). We encourage you to tune in. That is the linchpin of the shoulder programming that is airing on Showtime Extreme, available on our website, Showtime On Demand, as well as on mobile devices via Showtime Anytime.
All Access, as I previously mentioned, is the linchpin of that content, but in addition we have past fights from Canelo, Erislandy Lara, Abner Mares and Mauricio Herrera. We have several past fights available; these are some of the gems from each of these fighters' careers, as well as a ton of other content available throughout the week leading up to the PPV event, including our "Canelo vs. Lara: Coundown Live", which airs live on Showtime on Saturday, July 12th. The countdown show will air at 7:30 p.m. Eastern/4:30 p.m. Pacific live from MGM Grand, and it will include a live championship fight leading up to the 9:00 p.m.ET/6:00 p.m.PT live PPV event from MGM Grand.
So, we're excited about the content and mostly excited about the live fights that will take place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, as I'm sure the rest of you are looking forward to it.
O. De La Hoya: Thank you very much, Chris. And let me take this opportunity to say a few words. He is a trainer that we all know very well. He's a great trainer, and he is in Lara's camp getting him ready for the big showdown, and that is Ronnie Shields. Ronnie?
Lara's Trainer, Ronnie Shields: I just wanted to say that everything's going great here in camp. Erislandy Lara's in great condition. Like always, he's been doing everything that we've asked of him. Our whole team is really, really focused on making sure that you get the best possible fight out there. It's going to be a really, really great fight. We're looking forward to it. Lara's condition is really great, and we really give all the credit to [indiscernible] Jackson [indiscernible] conditioning coach. He's been doing a great job. And everybody else in camp has really been doing really good, and Lara's in good spirits. He can't wait until July 12th to get in the ring with Canelo Alvarez.
O. De La Hoya: Thank you very much, Ronnie. And now let me introduce to you the fighter who hails out of Guantanamo, Cuba. He suffered a controversial decision, lost to Paul Williams in 2011. He's won the WBA Junior Middleweight World Championship, defeating Alfredo Angulo. He has a great win, a 12-round unanimous decision over Austin Trout. He is obviously here and ready and willing, with a record of 19-1-2, with 12 knockouts, let me introduce to you Erislandy Lara.
Erislandy Lara: Hi to everybody on the call; thank you guys for being present. There's not much more to talk about. I'm ready to fight. I'm in great shape. And you'll see against Canelo on July 12th.
Q: When you came to America to pursue your professional dream to fight, was this everything that you thought it would be, to get into these kinds of fights? I know it took a little while to get here, but you're here now, how do you feel looking back, the way things have gone over the past few years getting to this point?
E. Lara: One hundred percent. That's what I wanted to do, that's the reason I came to this country was to fight in these types of fights, and to fight at this level.
Q: And when you came here Canelo wasn't a big name or anything at the time, but were you thinking not only world titles and those types of fights, but significant opponents and pay-per-view level fights? Did he even know what pay-per-view was? They don't have that in Cuba.
E. Lara: Yes. One hundred percent, that's exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to come to this country and fight the best. That's what I wanted to do since my seventh professional fight. I was asking to fight for a world title. And championships come and go, but these are the types of fights that will leave history, so that's what I plan on doing on July 12th.
Q: You and Canelo have a couple of common opponents, both have fought Austin Trout, both have fought Alfredo Angulo, each one of them had, one was easy for one guy and one was tough for the other guy. I'm curious, do you put any stock into the fact with the way that those went down, or is this just a totally separate situation?
E. Lara: No. They have nothing to do with each other, basically all styles are different. And I'm focused on Canelo and I dont think it makes a difference on who that he fought in the past. What makes a difference is how our styles mesh, and I plan on dominating Canelo Alvarez on July 12th.
Q: Ronnie, you've been training Lara for a while now. I just wonder, from the point of view of the trainer, he's had some really, really outstanding performances, he's had a couple of fights that were maybe a little inconsistent. How do you go about trying to make sure that we see the dominant top notch Lara come next Saturday, as opposed to the guy that kind of gets through the fight and maybe doesn't look great but does what he has to do, but maybe there's a question when the fight's over in some people's minds about the result, to have him really primed for that night?
R. Shields: Well, the most important thing is style, and he's one of these guys that, Canelo, I think is who's in front of you that makes a big difference in any fight, some guys are hard to get out front, some guys are not. But obviously I think Canelo Alvarez is one of the guys that you know you have to be at your best, and I think that's what you're going to see on July 12th. I can't say that I can worry about anything else other than doing the right things. And we've been working on [indiscernible] in camp and he's showing it up real good in training, everything's great, the sparring has been really great. So, we're just looking forward to it and we're going to follow our game plan on July 12th.
Q: Ronnie, do you think that Lara seems to be a better level of technique and skill than Canelo does, maybe a little bit better quickness, do you think that is going to basically be the difference in the fight, that he can take over because he's going to basically be making Canelo missing him while he's countering him?
R. Shields: Yes, without a doubt. Also, I think that Lara is just a better fighter, period, than Canelo. You can't take anything away from Canelo, he's a really good fighter, you can't take anything away from that, but understand this, Erislandy Lara has a better amateur career and he's having a better pro career. It's just as simple as that. And Erislandy Lara is one of the best fighters and [he fights] anybody and everybody who will invite him. Lara doesn't have a pick-and-choose career. If you take Canelo's career, his career has been pick-and-choose.
Q: Ronnie, why is this a good style match up for Erislandy?
R. Shields: Well, it's a good style match up because if you look at Canelo, he's one of these guys that, he's a good puncher with both hands and he's an arrogant guy, in a great way, because he talks a lot, but he backs it up. And Lara is basically the same way. But when you look at the styles, if you look at Canelo, he's a guy, he likes to throw combinations. And that's perfect for Lara, because Lara's a perfect counter puncher. So, as far as style match up goes, this is going to be a great fight. It's going to be a great fight because I know both guys are in great condition, and that's what the people want to see.
Q: Erislandy, why is this a good style match up for you? Why do you feel comfortable going into this fight? And obviously it's a high stakes fight too.
E. Lara: It's a good style match up because I know Canelo's going to try to press forward and press for action, and that's a style I like. I like guys that come and fight, and I pick them apart, like I've done to several guys coming up. These are the fights I like. I like guys who come to fight and I like to put them in the dirt, and that's what I plan on doing.
Q: The controversy notwithstanding, Ronnie, when he fought Paul Williams everybody at ringside thought he won the fight [Williams was given an undeserved decision], and obviously he dominated Trout probably the same way. It occurs to me that both of them are southpaws and skillful fighters, did that have anything to do with why he performed so well against both of those guys, as opposed to Angulo and Carlos Molina, both were good fights but there were some people who thought Molina beat him, and obviously Angulo dropped him twice.
R. Shields: Well, I think when you go back, I remember in the Molina fight that we took the fight on very short notice and we really didn't have a whole lot of time to prepare for Molina. Molina is a good fighter, we can't take anything away from him, but I still go back and look at that fight, and there's no way in the world Lara lost that fight. Lara won that fight. He won six rounds of that fight, so I know he won that fight.
But with the Angulo fight, Alfredo Angulo was a tough, tough fighter, and you can't take that away from him. He was one of the best junior middleweights in the world who can punch with both hands, and Lara as a fighter, he got caught and he went down. But you know what a good fighter does, he gets up and he comes back, and he stopped Angulo.
That's just the way it is, to have to deal with whether a guy is a southpaw or a right hander. Lara, he fights anybody and everybody. Lara asked for this, he asked for every fight that he's been in basically because nobody wants to fight him. He only wants to fight the best fighters, and this is why you'll see him fight on July 12th with Canelo Alvarez.
Q: But the two fights that I mentioned before, though, Trout and Williams, why was he so dominant in those fights, and what did he do well in those fights that you think is part of his signature?
R. Shields: Well, he counter punched and he boxed the way he's supposed to box. And I think those guys with the come forward styles really complements Lara's style. But at the same time Lara punches harder than people give him credit for, and on Saturday July 12th you're going to see that.
Q: I've got one more question for Erislandy. One of your countrymen, Yuriorkis Gamboa, lost [to Terence Crawford], and I wonder if you feel any patriotism to step up for the Cubans in the wake of his loss?
E. Lara: Gamboa is Gamboa, and in the Cuban system there's teams, here, this is an individual sport, I'm focused on what I've got to do. It has nothing to do with my game plan or changes what I've got to do. My main focus is beating Canelo Alvarez, and that's what I plan on doing July 12th. And obviously I always want to stand up and show why Cuban boxing's the best, and that's what I'm going to do on July 12th. And it has nothing to do with Gamboa, obviously we have completely different styles and we're completely different fighters. Other than being Cuban, that's the only thing they have in common.
Q: Mr. Lara a lot of popular fighters would go the easy road and avoid you. Do you feel you owe Canelo some debt of gratitude for actually agreeing to meet you in the ring?
E. Lara: Absolutely not. I don't owe him anything other than left hands. I forced this fight. It wasn't because he wanted to take this fight. We've been after this fight for two years and I've been putting pressure on social media or interviews and jumping on stage, that's what pressured him to take this fight. I know he didn't want this fight, and on July 12th you're going to see the reason why he didn't want this fight.
Q: Just a quick question. For the year, all in all, through whether it's Top Rank, Golden Boy, Showtime, HBO, pay-per-view results haven't been too, too impressive. Are you worried about the amount of buys this fight will receive? It's a very good match up, probably the best all around match of this year so far, but are you worried that there might be some fatigue as far as buyers go?
O. De La Hoya: No, not at all because, first of all, when you have Canelo involved in a pay-per-view fight, as the numbers show, his very first pay-per-view that he was headlining generated close to 400,000 homes. Having this fight with Erislandy Lara, having the stacked card, people know what they're going to watch and people are going to tune in to watch a spectacular event, so, we're not worried one bit whatsoever.
Q: Ronnie, there is no question that Canelo Alvarez was having trouble with Austin Trout up until he dropped him in the seventh. Was it a bad style match up until then, or was it the mere fact that Austin Trout is a big junior middleweight?
R. Shields: Austin Trout is just a good fighter, period, as simple as that. Austin Trout knows his way around that ring. This is why you've seen him beat several great fighters. This is why you've seen him beat everybody he's fought up until he met Canelo. And that fight was very, very close, to me, even with the knockdown. But just to say Austin Trout is just a good boxer, no. Austin Trout is a great boxer.
Q: The question was basically, given the political situation in Cuba, have we missed a lot of great fighters that haven't made it to the U.S.?
E. Lara: Absolutely. Obviously Cuba's a very strict country, it's a country that you've got to do a lot of things to get over here to be free, and there are a tremendous amount of fighters in Cuba that would be world champions or very good fighters over here that are never able to make it.
Q: My question's for Erislandy. I'm just curious, Erislandy, if you've had a chance to view the fight that Saul Alvarez had with Alfredo Angulo. I wanted to know if you thought that he looked good in that fight, or if he was facing a lesser version of Angulo?
E. Lara: Yes, I was there in person and I didn't see the same Angulo, the same fighter that I saw in my fight. I thought that it was a decent fight, nothing special, and I dont think that that benefits either guy either way.
Q: Do you feel any extra pressure being the fact that Canelo's the big star or whether or not he believes he can get a fair decision?
E. Lara: I've got no pressure to knockout, the knockout comes along. My main focus is dominating Canelo Alvarez. We have three great officials with the Las Vegas Commission that we know they're going to do their job, and I've got to do my job.
Q: All right, my last question's for Ronnie Shields. Ronnie, when you've got Erislandy Lara and he was experienced, he could come as a fighter, I'm just curious through your time working with him what do you believe you've improved in him most?
R. Shields: Well, I think if you look at him everything has improved. I think there's just an improvement in him on him being just a pure boxer. And he's probably one of the best counter punchers out there. You're not going to find anybody else better. That's number one. And he had that already, but the most important thing is I think is the guys that they put in front of you, and he's beaten everybody that they've put in front of him. What else could you expect from a guy like Erislandy Lara? The kid trains as hard as anybody I've ever seen, and this is every day. So, I think it is what it is and it all depends on who's in front of you.