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Erislandy Lara: I’m still at the elite level

Erislandy Lara is confident of victory on Saturday night against Brian Castano.

Stephanie Trapp/SHOWTIME

No, just because Brian Castano is 15-0,and isn’t known to the masses of fight fans here in the U.S., Erislandy Lara will not be taking the Argentine lightly.

That’s what the lefty Lara told me late Thursday morning, and with his track record, he deserves to be believed.

The Cuban-born Texas resident is 35 years old, but stated explicitly that he’s detected no drop in reflexes and he expects to down the 29-year-old Castano, who is the third straight unbeaten boxer he’s faced.

This 154-pound title fight — as Castano holds a secondary WBA strap — unfolds at Barclays Center on Saturday night and screens on Showtime.

“The stakes are high,” said Lara, through interpreter/manager Luis De Cubas Jr. “I’m always in big fights, this is another main event, this is as high as you can get.”

Not totally, though, because Castano is a high risk/lower reward fight. The champ has beaten names in the amateurs but hasn’t faced the elite, like a Lara (25-3-2), as a pro.

So, does Lara get as fired up for a Castano as, say, a Jarrett Hurd?

“Absolutely, not just Castano alone, I want to prove naysayers wrong. I feel the last fight (versus Hurd) was a bad decision, and it was Fight of the Year. This is the fifth fight I’ve gotten a bad decision. two against Martirosyan (draw in 2012, loss in 2016), against Paul Williams in 2011, against Canelo in 2014 and now Hurd.

“Why? We all know the politics of boxing. Williams was an American big name, those judges were all suspended. Canelo, that’s self-explanatory. Hurd, it was a close and entertaining fight, the closest of them all.”

”I think he won seven, eight rounds versus Hurd,” said De Cubas.

Now back to the present.

“I think Castano is a tremendous fighter, has a lot of amateur pedigree. Beat Esquiva Falcao, Sergiy Derevyanchenko, Errol Spence. You don’t beat them in amateurs or pros without being good. He’s traveled to France twice (against Michel Soro and Cedric Vitu) so it shows he’s not afraid,” said the fighter.

Assuming for argument’s sake Lara wins Saturday, we wonder what’s next. Hurd looks to be on a collision course with the 154-pound Charlo — and Tony Harrison and Jermell have to do it again, too. (Harrison said he might rematch Jermell in June when I asked him on Wednesday.)

“Hurd knows he got a gift, he got beat up on the inside,” Lara said.

“He wanted to be a world champ again, so we looked on the board and Castano is a world champ,” explained De Cubas. “But we want a Hurd rematch.”

Yep, the Cuban says he’s feeling more than fine, reflexes are aces and “this is one of the best camps I’ve had.” No injuries, no cold or flu coming in, he said.

“I’m 35 and still at the elite level! No prediction, but I’m going to win. I do think this will be entertaining, it’s a good style mesh. Castano comes forward, he’s aggressive and I like that style. I was in a Fight of the Year-type fight versus Angulo in 2013, and Williams and Hurd. I’ve been in great fights!”

He’d be pleased to get the winner of the Tony Harrison vs Charlo rematch, but knows that he’s the wily vet and someone easy to steer clear of.

“Lara is the biggest name in that division, he’s been there the longest, and he will keep on being that,” said the manager.

”Young guys,” Lara finished, “let’s see what you got!”

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