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Unbeaten Lara, early KO specialist, expects tougher test against Molina

Erislandy Lara hasn’t spent much time in the ring lately. And it’s all his fault.

The Cuban super welterweight has won his last four fights by first-round knockout, vastly cutting into his ring time, but that’s what happens when a boxer is too talented for his opponents.

Lara declines to predict another first-round stoppage when he faces Carlos Molina tonight in the 10-round main event on the first fight card at the Cosmopolitan.

“If it happens, it happens,” Lara said through a translator. “I never go into a fight predicting an early knockout. But I’ve trained for 10 rounds, and (Molina) is a tough guy. He’s never been knocked off his feet. So I expect a tough fight.”

Since last fall, the 27-year-old Lara (15-0, 10 knockouts) has been training in Houston under Ronnie Shields, whom he credits for making him “more thorough, much more professional.”

Lara’s manager, Luis DeCubas, said Shields has sharpened Lara’s defense and footwork.

“(Lara) has been more aggressive,” DeCubas said. “He’s slipping and sliding and his defense is more effective.”

Lara hopes to fight for a world title this year. A victory over Molina (17-4-1, five KOs) on ESPN2 would keep him on that fast track. Lara would love to get a crack at Miguel Cotto, the WBA super welterweight champion. He also wouldn’t mind fighting Sergio Martinez, the WBC middleweight champion.

“Without a doubt, I’m the best junior middleweight in the world, and I’d love to fight all the top guys, including Sergio Martinez,” Lara said. “I think I have the style to get that guy. At 154 (pounds), I’ll fight him anytime.”

Lara has wanted a shot at WBA junior welterweight champion Austin Trout, but Lara is convinced Trout (22-0, 13 KOs) is ducking him.

“I’m supposed to fight (Trout), but now I hear he’s getting cold feet,” Lara said. “It’s only a matter of time until one of the world champions is forced to fight me or vacate.”

Lara’s journey from Cuba to boxing fame has not been easy. He attempted to flee Cuba in 2007, only to be caught and sent back. He managed to defect a year later and said he’s grateful for freedom.

“I love being around people. I love the fans,” Lara said. “But when I was in Cuba, I had to be careful what I said. You could get in trouble if you said the wrong thing. Here, I can be myself.”

It shows in his eagerness to be a world champion. He’s seen fellow Cubans Yuriorkis Gamboa and Guillermo Rigondeaux win titles at featherweight and super bantamweight, respectively, and would like to join them as a champion.

“No, I’m not frustrated,” Lara said. “I know I will get my opportunity soon.”

First bell for the card at Cosmopolitan’s Chelsea Ballroom is at 6 p.m.

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or at 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.

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