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This Saturday, Canelo Alvarez’s road to the top of the light middleweight world meets one of its biggest obstacles yet: fast-rising Cuban native Erislandy Lara. Canelo is one of the world’s best young boxers in any weight class, but Lara will pose one of the toughest tests he’s faced in the ring. Lara’s record as a pro is 19-1-2, and beyond the raw numbers…

1. He’ll hit you hard.

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2. He’ll put you on the ropes, and keep you there.

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3. He wanted this fight, and went to great lengths to make it happen.

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The guy at the mic? That’s Lara, interrupting the post-fight press conference after Canelo’s last bout in March. Canelo downplayed the maneuver at first, but it worked: Lara got the fight he wanted.

4. After what he’s been through, 12 rounds in the ring is nothing.

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Lara was born and raised in Cuba, where he was trained in the country’s boxing system. He was a prodigy, but he wasn’t happy. “Boxing in Cuba, you’re not living a normal life,” Lara said. “We didn’t have a standard of living that we deserved. It’s as if you are a soldier.”

So he made a decision:

5. He defected… and got caught.

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After which the stifling environment in which Lara had lived for years only got worse. “When we got back to Cuba they put us in one of Fidel’s houses on the beach,” he said. “We were there a week. Locked up. We weren’t allowed to train in another boxing gym ever again.”

He had one option: defect again.

6. This time, he made it.

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But it wasn’t easy. “It was very intense,” Lara said. “We got in at night. About 25 people got on. It was 18 hours on the boat. There was bad weather too. The ocean was rough and when the boat would go fast, the water would come into the boat on top of us. I knew it was dangerous, but it was worse to stay in Cuba.”

Think a boxing match is going to faze this guy?

7. One of his main hobbies: raising pigeons.

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It might not sound like a reason not to mess with him… that is, until you remember who else loves raising pigeons.

8. His one loss is shrouded in controversy.

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Lara has one loss on his résumé, a 2011 defeat to Paul Williams. And that loss comes with the biggest possible asterisk: not only was the decision immediately questioned (and booed by the fans in attendance), but every judge involved was suspended indefinitely. There was reason for the outrage: according to statistics released after the fight, Lara landed more punches than Williams, and did so at a much higher rate. Lara didn’t let the defeat derail him, though: he’s 4-0-1 since…

9. And considering he can do this, is there any wonder why?

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The Alvarez-Lara fight card begins Saturday, July 12 at 9 p.m., Showtime PPV. Footage and screencaps via Showtime and Golden Boy Promotions.

 

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