Tonight, Showtime presents a special edition of boxing programming, with Erislandy Lara headlining in San Antonio against Ishe Smith, the main event of a triple-header from Mayweather Promotions. It's not the most promising fight on paper -- neither Lara nor Smith are known to press action, and both can be downright dull to watch -- but it's a moderately significant fight at 154 pounds, and hey, we're watching, so here's why you should, too.
1. It's a moderately significant fight at 154 pounds
If we're counting Floyd Mayweather, I rank Erislandy Lara as the third-best junior middleweight in the world. If we're not, I rank Erislandy Lara as the second-best junior middleweight in the world, just barely behind Canelo Alvarez, to whom Lara lost a contentious split decision in July.
Since that fight was fought at a catchweight just above 154, Lara still has his WBA "regular/world" title, and since Floyd Mayweather hasn't defended his WBA junior middleweight "super" belt since September 2013, and frankly may never defend it again, it's fair enough to consider Lara a legitimate titleholder at the weight, even though that seems pretty weird since he just lost.
Smith is a former titleholder himself, beating Cornelius Bundrage in February 2013 before dropping the belt seven months later to Carlos Molina. Lara-Smith was originally slated for May 2 of this year, but Lara got the offer for Canelo, and Smith fought Ryan Davis instead. That's his only fight since then, and rust could be a factor, as well as the belief that he's simply not on Lara's level.
Am I convincing you yet?
2. Do you like crafty, tactical boxing?
Then this is a fight for you. Smith (26-6, 12 KO) is a pretty basic fighter in most ways, but he's subtly clever, and has wound up having a pretty nice career despite the fact that much of his career was spent struggling to land fights. Lara is considered one of the finest boxers in the game today when he's at his best, and does very well when he finds space, but he really never puts his foot on the gas pedal.
If you're a big fan of chess match boxing, this could be a doozy.
3. Smith has a potentially troublesome style for Lara
Lara (19-2-2, 12 KO) can be a masterful boxer-puncher at his best, but he thrives against more aggressive foes, as we saw with Alfredo Angulo and Paul Williams.
However, when in with a fellow patient fighter who doesn't just give him openings, Lara can struggle. He was half-comatose through much of his snoozer with Canelo, and had major problems with Carlos Molina, a draw Lara is just lucky wasn't a loss in 2011. Even Vanes Martirosyan, a pretty solid boxer himself, gave Lara plenty of trouble in a technical draw in 2012.
Lara did pretty much smoke Austin Trout, but Trout was a lefty, too, giving Lara a southpaw vs southpaw look that he handled nicely. Smith, like Molina, Martirosyan, and Canelo, is a right-handed fighter who takes his time and doesn't worry if a fight gets boring or ugly. I'm not saying Lara shouldn't be considered the strong favorite, but he might not win this as easily as most are betting.
4. Badou Jack is always ripe for an upset
Jack (17-1-1, 11 KO), a Mayweather Promotions "prospect," was upset in February of this year when Derek Edwards stopped him in 61 seconds. He did bounce back from that with an August win over Jason Escalera, but it's worth noting that Escalera had fought a hard-paced, eight-round fight with Norbert Nemesapati just 22 days prior, and had also fought six rounds on July 18. Escalera had to have been pretty well exhausted at that point.
Jack, 31, has really failed to impress in recent fights, and it's worth noting that Edwards isn't thought of as a big puncher by any means. Francisco Sierra (26-7-1, 23 KO) is a one-dimensional fighter who absolutely should lose to Jack, but he can punch. Sierra, like Escalera, just fought recently, and that may be to Jack's advantage. Sierra won an RTD-6 against Francisco Rios on November 14 in Mexico, and comes into this fight a short notice replacement opponent. Prior to that, Sierra hadn't fought since November 2012, when he lost to Marco Antonio Periban. Before his return this year, he'd lost four of five. It's not a good bet, but it's not unthinkable.
5. Chris Pearson vs Steve Martinez is a competitive matchup
Pearson (11-0, 9 KO) is a Mayweather Promotions prospect from Dayton, Ohio, a lanky southpaw at 5'10" with good power. He did have some issues in his February 28 fight with veteran Lanardo Tyner, though, escaping with a split decision win after going down in round six, and Martinez is no walkover for him. This could be a really good test.
Martinez (15-1, 12 KO) has won four in a row since his 2012 split decision loss to Denis "Momma's Boy" Douglin. Martinez is also taller than Pearson and has some power. Pearson may well roll here, but on paper this is a solid matchup between two prospects.