Some people do needlepoint. Others play board games.

But Erislandy Lara prefers an outlet with a bit more excitement.

Particularly when it helps pay the bills, too.

“To be honest, boxing comes so easy to me, it’s like riding a bike,” he said. 

“I can do this walking in my sleep. I was just born to be a boxer. My focus is on leaving a lasting legacy in the sport, something I can look back and say to myself that I was one of the best, who never ducked anyone. I’m fighting for my legacy. I have kids that need me so that is my motivation. I have to provide for my children and that’s all the motivation I need.”

Championships don’t hurt either.

Though the belt he’ll fight for this weekend is dubious at best, the now-38-year-old views this weekend’s WBA “world” title opportunity against Thomas Lamanna as a steppingstone to something better.

Better titles. Better paychecks. Better chances to boost his legacy.

“I think I’ve done enough to be considered one of the best Cuban boxers of all time. Winning a world title at middleweight will certainly help me get closer to the top of the list,” he said. “Every fighter wants to be remembered for what they accomplished in the ring, and I’m no different. Like I said earlier, I’m fighting for my legacy and want to be remembered as one of the best to ever do it.”

He’s has no illusion that a win over the underwhelming Lamanna – who’s never beaten a fighter coming off more than two straight wins – will earn him a plaque at the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

But having some hardware will boost his street cred in a new weight class, and his already-established name might open doors that could lead to matches with other claimants at 160 named Golovkin (IBF/IBO), Murata (WBA), Charlo (WBC) and Andrade (WBO).


And if it’s less weight-cutting strain on a body nearing 40, that’s OK, too.

“I’ve been fighting at 154 pounds for most of my life and now that I’m getting older it’s getting harder to make the weight, but I can still fight at super welterweight if I want to,” Lara said. “On the other hand I want to challenge myself and become great by winning a world title in another division. 

“I feel I’ll be a bigger puncher at middleweight and that will be the main difference. Having an extra six pounds behind my punches might not seem like a lot, but it is a big difference. Not having to lose those extra pounds has me feeling like a monster.”

He’s been drifting more in that direction across his last several fights, after developing a reputation earlier in his career as a safety-first – and not particularly fan-friendly – operator.

A non-title match with Canelo Alvarez in 2014 was one of the duller high-profile events of the decade, while a three-belt unification four years and seven fights later against Jarrett Hurd was voted Fight of the Year for 2018 by the Boxing Writers Association of America.

Ironically, he lost both by split decisions.

But he’s 2-0-1 since the more recent setback and looking to blend the approaches against Lamanna.

“Because I come from the traditional Cuban style of boxing, I haven’t had a lot of wear and tear on my body. For most of my career, I’ve boxed my way to victory,” Lara said. “Now I’m staying in the pocket more, but only because I’m older now and my legs are not what they used to be. 

“I can still box my way to victory if need be.  

“My body is feeling great at this time in my career and as long as I’m feeling great, I’ll continue to fight. I know one day it will come to an end, but I’m not there yet. I still have some fight left in me. 

“Only time will tell how long I can do this.” 

And, no, don’t ask him to get more specific on that timing. He won’t.

But whenever it ends, he insists he’ll be content.

“I’m the type of guy that lives in the moment,” he said. “I don’t want to look too far into the future, I just want to focus on the task at hand when the challenge presents itself. When I retire from boxing, I know I’ll be able to look back and say I did my best. That’s all one can ask for.”

* * * * * * * * * *

This week’s title-fight schedule:

IBF flyweight title – London, United Kingdom

Moruti Mthalane (champion/No. 2 IWBR) vs. Sunny Edwards (Unranked IBF/Unranked IWBR)

Mthalane (39-2, 26 KO): Fourth title defense; Held IBF and IBO belts at 112 pounds (seven defenses)

Edwards (15-0, 4 KO): First title fight; Two KOs in fights scheduled past six rounds (8-0, 2 KO)

Fitzbitz says: It’s awfully tempting to pull the trigger on a talented 25-year-old on his home turf, but there’s a reason the 38-year-old is highly regarded. Too much, too soon. Maybe. Mthalane in 10 (60/40)

Vacant IBO lightweight title – Manchester, United Kingdom

James Tennyson (No. 10 IBO/No. 26 IWBR) vs. Jovanni Straffon (No. 56 IBO/Unranked IWBR)

Tennyson (28-3, 24 KO): Second title fight (0-1); Lost bid for IBF title at 130 pounds (TKO 5) in 2018

Straffon (23-3-1, 16 KO): First title fight; Fourth fight outside Mexico (1-2, 0 KO)

Fitzbitz says: Let’s not pretend either of these guys is ready for the 135-pound elite. Still, regardless of his true level it seems like Tennyson has a made-to-order foe in front of him. Tennyson in 8 (80/20)

WBA light heavyweight title – Manchester, United Kingdom

Dmitry Bivol (champion/No. 4 IWBR) vs. Craig Richards (No. 5 WBA/No. 77 IWBR)

Bivol (17-0, 11 KO): Seventh title defense; Four straight decisions in title defenses (6-0, 2 KO)

Richards (16-1-1, 9 KO): First title fight; First fight in Manchester

Fitzbitz says: Richards is a hometown guy and he’s been talking a good game leading into this one, but Bivol is considered a special talent by people who know what they’re looking at. Bivol by decision (99/1)

This weekend’s trash title-fight schedule:

Vacant WBA “world” middleweight title – Carson, California

Erislandy Lara (Unranked WBA/Unranked IWBR) vs. Thomas Lamanna (No. 8 WBA/Unranked IWBR)

Why it’s trash: Make no mistake. Lara gets a lot of respect in this space and he deserves all of it. But the WBA is a manufacturer of ridiculous title belts and this is one of them. The only question is where the Panamanians will place it in their 160-pound order with Murata (super) and Eubank (interim). Garbage.

Last week's picks: 3-0 (WIN: Magnesi, Teraji, Navarrete)

2021 picks record: 17-2 (89.4 percent)

Overall picks record: 1,173-377 (75.6 percent)

NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.

Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.