Ronnie Shields Erislandy Lara from criticism
As WBA junior middleweight titlist Erislandy Lara attempts to unify with IBF beltholder Jarrett Hurd, on Saturday night, from the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino (Showtime, 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT), Ronnie Shields will be in his corner, as he has been for much of his professional career.
And from the start of their union, there’s one thing the respected trainer has never done: change who he is.
“I tell you what; from the very beginning, (Lara) asked me if he needed to change anything and I said, ‘Lets just wait and see how you do things,’ and once I started seeing how he does things, I realized one thing – he frustrates the hell out of people. So why would I try to change that?” said Shields, who understands the Cuban southpaw is the pure, consummate boxer.
To Shields, those who have tried to turn Cuban fighters into something they are not have been met with disastrous results. “Everybody that has been changed is done. Just look at all these guys,” said Shields, who refers to Rances Barthelemy, Yuriorkis Gamboa and Diosbelys Hurtado, among others, who struggled as they tried to be more fan-friendly fighters. “They try to change their style to something that suits somebody else but it’s not for them.”
Cuban boxers are no doubt skilled and come with heavy amateur credentials but with a style that isn’t all that crowd-pleasing – even within their own community – they don’t always get unanimous support. Most never connect all that much with the viewing public or the media. Yeah, it’s a tough business but it’s a really tough business for these guys.
Shields, who’s trained many foreign fighters says, “I think they already know that. It’s something they already know. They see what it’s like to come from Cuba and come to a country where you don’t have as many people rooting behind you, as, say, an American because so many Americans are here. (Lara) understands one thing – I just have to be myself and I just have to do what I do best and people are going to love it or they’re going to hate it.”
Pro boxing is tough and “Once your careers over, where are those people that are standing up rooting for you?” asked Shields, rhetorically. “Where are they when you need money? When you need help? If you look at all the fighters today, you got some that are making some money; most aren’t making money but when that career’s over…”
With that, Shields insists that Lara should be Lara, for better or worse.
“If you’ve got a certain style that works for you, that’s what you have to work with because my guy, Erislandy Lara, is not the type of guy that can sit there and go toe-to-toe with you because he doesn’t have the power to do it. He doesn’t have the power to stand up to anybody and go toe-to-toe. That’s just not who he is. He’s not that kind of person, so why would I make him fight in a way that doesn’t suit him,” stated Shields, who cut his teeth as a trainer in the Main Events camp and was around Pernell Whitaker during his prime.
So would “Sweet Pea” have been popular today?
”No, absolutely not because he was a master boxer but the thing about Sweet Pea was he was a guy that could sit down and throw combinations and then, boom, he’s gone. Lara is basically the same guy. Lara’s legs are much better than Pernell Whitaker’s was. Pernell Whitaker, he was one of the best boxers ever to lace on a pair of gloves. He would box when he wanted to but he had the ability to sit down (on his punches) and he had a good chin also.
“So a guy like Pernell Whitaker, if he wouldn’t stay on the outside, people wouldn’t like it but he didn’t come outside a whole lot. He did it when he fought (Julio Cesar) Chavez. He boxed the hell out of him and still didn’t win the fight; he got a draw.”
Lara is for the purist but not for the general public.
“It’s a shame that a guy like Erislandy Lara, not only does he have to fight the fight, he has to fight the judges too because of his style,” lamented Shields, who, to this day, is convinced that Lara out-boxed Saul Alvarez when they met in the summer of 2014. ”Absolutely, without a doubt. There’s no way in the world Erislandy Lara lost that fight. There’s no way. He had ‘Canelo’ flat-footed; he had him turning. He had him swinging at the air and, c’mon man, they say he didn’t engage enough.
“The point system is: You hit, you score points. And Erislandy hit him with so many clean shots and it was obvious Canelo hit him with a good shot, and cut him over the eye, but that was one of the few punches that he landed. But other than that, there was no way in the world (Canelo) won that fight. No way.”
In a debated split decision, Lara came up short by the scores of 115-113, 113-115 (for Lara) and 117-111.
This weekend, Lara faces a young, physically-imposing fighter who throws a high volume of punches. Shields believes these contrasting styles will make for an interesting bout.
Logic says Lara should be able to out-manuever Hurd early on and will most likely build an early lead. But will the 34-year-old be able to hold off the hard-charging Hurd for 36 minutes?
“Absolutely, absolutely,” insisted Shields. “Look man, Lara is used to pressure. It’s not something that’s new to him. He’s used to guys coming forward and throwing punches at him. That’s what he wants. People want to see an exciting fight; they’re definitely going to see an exciting fight on Saturday night. It’s going to be exciting because Jarrett Hurd is going to bring it.”
Here’s this week’s edition of “The Next Round,” with Gabe Montoya and Yours Truly (a full two-hour edition).
On the latest episode of “The 3 Knockdown Rule,” Mario Lopez and I talk all things boxing and we discuss at length Saul Alvarez withdrawing from the May 5 rematch with unified middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin.
Speaking of May 5, there was another twist to this saga as it’s being reported that the Nevada State Athletic Commission, led by “BoxRec” Bob Bennett, would not approve the inexperienced Jaime Munguia as Golovkin’s opponent…Tickets for the Jeff Horn-Terence Crawford welterweight title bout go on sale, starting at $50. You can charge by phone at 866-740-7711 or in person at any MGM Resorts box office…There’s some real animosity between junior middleweights Julian Williams and Nate Gallimore, who open the Showtime broadcast on Saturday night…Showtime announced that a bout (a very good one, at that) between junior welterweights Devin Haney and Mason Menard will headline a May 11 edition of “ShoBox” from Philadelphia…Watched the first episode of “The Last O.G.” on TBS, starring Tracy Morgan, and I thought it was good…Sorry, Paul George is not the answer for the Lakers, if you’re relying on him to be your leader…I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and I tweet (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.