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Lara’s Shaft

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You’re more arrogant than accurate,” says this woman out of nowhere, whose actual first name would rhyme with the last of Irene Cara, of “What a feeling” screaming “Fame!”

I think I’ll remember her name.

After 3 or 4 seconds of WTF?! wondering, I’m really trying to fixate my mind on the upcoming 11th round between new WBA super welterweight champion Brian Castano (15-0-1, 11KOs) and old ruler Erislandy Lara (25-3-3, 14KOs). But that couldn’t happen.

“Not only were you wrong about Luis Ortiz V Christian Hammer, really badly, but you missed this too… Asshole.”

Whoa. Aight I’m going in. Her voice isn’t aggressive; it’s sarcastically friendly, one more cryptic than crass. Seated at ringside on the aisle, there’s a security guard patrolling the lane looking directly at me and smiling. I turn around to face this acerbic, smirking black woman of wit with both hands on her hips.

“Well this isn’t ‘Fantasy Boxing’ and I never said I needed them to win… I’m sorry I didn’t catch your name,” I say to her with a mirrored smirk and all of the smart ass I can muster.

“It’s Lara,” she deadpans, as the bell sounds for round 11. I’m thinking, “Who’s being more arrogant than accurate now?” I extend my hand for a cordial shake and present a superficial “Good to meet you.”

As one of the announced 7,329 fans in attendance virtually all of us in the press question the veracity of, I decide “Lara” is probably one of at least 329 people inside of the Barclays Center smoking a skunk infused version of marijuana just permeating the building and reduce her to ash. 
🥊 🥊 🥊

I have this fight even after 10 rounds, but from what I can see of the 11th, Castano wins it. I feel he clearly wins the 12th, which in my estimation gives him a totally subjective 115-113 victory. No one can argue with a Julie Lederman card that reads 114-114, which cancels out two other scores that read like mine for both fighters to make it a Draw

More than likely, it sets up a crossroads rematch for a more attractive PBC card that (Tony Harrison V Jermell Charlo II, anyone?) will take the Argentinian to greener pastures, while sending the Cuban on a boxing raft somewhere between Miami and a homeland revolutionized by Che Guevera.

Lara fought Castano March 2, 2019 at Barclays. (Tom Casino pic)

He’s had to swim with sharks before, but he was a little younger Mako then and could outpace the minnows. Things are different now.
He hasn’t been necessarily shafted on this night, as was clearly the case against Paul Williams so long ago. And if you’re of the opinion that he was shafted against Canelo Alvarez I won’t argue with you. But see, habits are just like rope. If you add a thread everyday until it’s impossible to break, it won’t.

Watching this fight, I’m reminded of Floyd Mayweather V Marcos Maidana I, while realizing this is sort of a generic version of that fight. 
But just as Floyd had mastered the art of knowing exactly when to dare to be just great enough through repetition, which allowed him to authoritatively fight and control Maidana [just enough] to clearly beat him, Lara only knows how to camouflage daring in a very good way – technically – and has a very calcified habit of refusing to go beyond that.

His amazing war with Jarrett Hurd was an aberration owed to “Swift” — Lara doesn’t appreciate a declaration of war, just as much as Castano does. And therein lies the reason we had a Draw; Lara couldn’t produce Mayweather’s instinctive offensive magic, while Castano wasn’t born with the punch to make him disappear.
🥊 🥊 🥊


It’s been revealed by Luis Ortiz (31-1, 26KOs; below, in Tom Casino pic) immediately after he doesn’t nail an unholy Christian Hammer for a desultory UD, that he’s injured his hand early in the fight.

When that doesn’t really fly, King Kong prances around Barclays cavorting with fans for selfies, before admitting Hammer was just a tougher than expected S.O.B who really pushed him hard. At that point I realized– based on what I’d lied to myself about while watching him workout on Wednesday, that this is no longer an elite heavyweight. I simply wanted him to be. Smiling to myself and shaking my head, I’m like: “That crazy woman was right.”

I first saw him on an enchanting October night in 2015, looking like any heavyweights’ worst nightmare on the undercard of Gennady Golovkin V David Lemieux at Madison Square Garden. That night he destroyed Matias Ariel Vidondo and made an indelible impression on me.

Just moments before he’d entered the ring, Donald Trump had walked directly past me, making ever so brief eye contact along the way.

Gennady Golovkin and Donald Trump.

I’d chosen to immortalize Ortiz with that moment and sort of crystalized his ability. Wilder would hang him from the Empire State Building were he to see King Kong again, while Anthony Joshua would straight up Godzilla his ass. 

As I’m leaving Barclays and waiting on a Lyft two minutes away for a really late studio session in Manhattan, there’s that voice again out of nowhere. 

“So John… Are you going to go do some soul searching tonight?” she asked, spraying the air with sarcasm.

I demand to see her ID, revealing her name is indeed Lara.

“It seems I’ve already found it. Can you sing?” I ask.

She smiles. The night is still young, even if Erislandy Lara and Luis Ortiz are not.   

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About John Gatling

Senior correspondent for NY Fights and author of upcoming book, "The Fist Club." Conscious indie recording artist "T@z" and humanist advocate for the Green Party.

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