"I was sure we would die on the sea," he says. "I've never felt fear like on the Gulf."

For 12 hours, the boat navigated gaping troughs, skipping from one tempest to the next on a bullet-line to Cancun. At 2 a.m., he finally slipped onto an unguarded scrub beach in Cancun. With Öner's help, he obtained a passport and flew to Hamburg, Germany. He spent five months there, and through another Cuban fighter, he met the woman who's now his wife: Yudi, a full-figured Cuban beauty with wavy black hair.

In late 2008, after a brief holdover in Santo Domingo, Lara finally made it to Miami. He raged up the pro circuit. Ten of his first 15 matches ended in knockouts; the other five came with unanimous decisions from the judges.

Erislandy Lara
Giulio Sciorio
Erislandy Lara
Lara at home in West Kendall with his youngest son, Landy.
Giulio Sciorio
Lara at home in West Kendall with his youngest son, Landy.

Last May, before beating Chris Gray on a Manny Pacquiao undercard, Lara married Yudi in a Las Vegas chapel. The couple had a son, Landy, a few months later.

With a steady income for the first time, Lara finally supported himself as he had dreamed in Havana. He and his wife rented a $315,000 home in West Kendall on a quiet street blocks from the Everglades. Then they picked up a flashy bright-blue Toyota FJ Cruiser with chrome rims.

Before the Williams bout, Lara's only true test came this past March, when a Mexican-American named Carlos Molina held him to a draw in Las Vegas on a card with his former teammate, Yudel Jhonson. "I wasn't ready for Molina," Lara admits.

Williams would be different. Lara hired Ronnie Shields, a legendary Houston-based trainer, and flew to South Texas to train for six weeks. "No one I've ever worked with is hungrier than Lara," Shields says. "We knew Williams would throw a lot more punches, so we focused on landing more in return."

That's exactly what Lara did for 12 punishing rounds in Atlantic City on July 21. By the 11th, Lara's brutal left hooks to Williams's head were landing with such precision that HBO's announcing crew begged Williams's corner to end the fight. "I wish his coach would take him out before he's knocked out," Roy Jones Jr. said on-air. "It's not safe out there for him, and he's not going to win. The kid is teeing off on him."

With two rounds to go, even Williams's trainer, George Peterson, admitted the truth. "You gotta knock him out to win," he told his fighter while rubbing ointment on a gushing wound above his left eye. "You hear me? You gotta knock him out to win!"

Lederman, HBO's scorer, gave the fight to Lara; eight other ringside reporters from ESPN, USA Today, and several boxing websites all agreed. They marked Lara the clear winner on their own scorecards, reported BoxingScene.com.

Yet when the fight ended, here are the final scores the refs turned in: Donald Givens: 116-114 for Williams; Hilton Whitaker: 115-114 for Williams; and Al Bennett: a 114-114 tie.

In the weeks that followed, boxing writers and state regulators all posed the same question: How could this happen? An ESPN writer called the decision "the worst boxing has seen in years." Industry blog Queensbury Rules labeled it "grand larceny" and "obscene."

Finally, Aaron Davis, commissioner of the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board, was forced to admit his judges had failed. In a virtually unprecedented step, four days after the fight he suspended all three indefinitely. "I'm ashamed this happened on my watch," he says. "They missed this one completely."

Davis maintains that the blown call was the result of spontaneous mass incompetence, not corruption. "This was an isolated incident," he says.

As for the judges, at least one stands behind the decision. "We're there to call it the way we see it and not worry about whether we're satisfying the TV crews," Givens says. "The commissioner bowed to pressure in suspending us. He should have stood behind his people." (New Times was unable to reach Whitaker or Bennett.)

That's laughable, says Ecksel, the Boxing.com editor. "Standing behind a horribly blown call to the end, huh?" he says of Givens's interview. "There's no question in my mind that corruption on some level lies behind these kinds of problems."

Here's the ugly truth behind Williams's phony win: All too often, promoters have influence over a fight's judges. And those promoters can make fortunes based on who wins. (Williams took home $1.5 million instead of $135,000.)

In this case, many believe Williams's promoter, Dan Goossen, had some say in picking the three judges, all of whom were virtual rookies; Givens had never scored a major fight, and Whitaker and Bennett each had only one prime-time match on their records.

"It wasn't three blind mice out there; it was three corrupt rats," says Luis De Cubas Jr., Lara's manager. "The margin was so wide in favor of Lara winning this, I can't see how else these judges missed this so badly."

Goossen has a history of controversy. He was forced out of his first promotion company and has fended off several federal lawsuits. In 2001, he resigned as head of Denver-based firm America Presents after a string of financial losses and a raft of lawsuits filed by fighters who said they weren't paid, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. The company's owner, Mat Tinley, accused Goossen of spending "lavishly" on hotel stays and other perks. Goossen later sued Tinley in federal court, claiming he'd been "harassed, intimidated, [and] coerced" with legal threats; Tinley countersued in Texas. The ex-partners settled out of court in April 2002.

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You are talking about one fight. My husband and me we are the biggest foxing fans since 1980. Do you know how many times we have encountered the same thing?. It is countless. It happens over and over and when someone dares to approached the judges my god you can even be taken out of the place and not allowed to return. Sorry to say it is still a big mafia. The boxers are the victims with their dreams and so so many times that dream is shatter by this group of people called judges. I got into a big fight with one of them this month, a fighter gets knock out and for sevens minutes he remain in the floor unconscious and the rescue was not called I confronted him and this 80 year old man almost got physical with me.


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Pedro Lara
Pedro Lara

My last name is Lara to. Maybe where related.


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C.O. Jones
C.O. Jones

My father was a professional boxer in Cuba. I grew up with boxing all around me. I can tell you that the sport was always shady, but what is happening now is simply a crime. The sport has been smeared and tarnished to a level which is losing fans by the millions every year. There was a solution proposed a long time ago. It was to have one unified international governing body and one belt per weight. The referees would be answerable to and appointed by this governing group. There would be one set of rules and certainly drug testing before every fight. If this does not happen....dig a hole...bury boxing.

This is a very good article.

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