Best Boxer (2011)

Erislandy Lara

In a sport that has given us Rocky, Million Dollar Baby, The Cinderella Man, and The Fighter, a boxer's rough-and-tumble life story is as vital as his left hook when it comes to carving out a place in pugilism history. Lucky for Erislandy Lara, he has a killer swing and a hell of a backstory. The five-foot-nine southpaw, a native of Guantánamo, Cuba, caught the world's attention in 2005 when he bested a heavily favored Magomed Nurutdinov to take the world amateur crown in Moscow. The next year, he won gold at the Central American and Caribbean Games. But disaster struck in '07 when he tried to defect before a bout in Brazil. Local cops caught the young fighter and shipped him back to Havana, where his punishment was a ban from sparring. Faced with a life without boxing, Lara in 2008 took the ultimate risk: He hopped a speedboat for a treacherous cross-gulf journey to Mexico. He survived, made it to the States, and has been knocking suckas out ever since. As a pro, Lara has gone 15-0 and shot up the middleweight ranks. He has fought on ESPN2 and Telefutura, and played to Vegas audiences seven times. This past January, he destroyed Delray Raines, a highly ranked kid from Arkansas, in less than five minutes with a devastating left hook to the jaw. Hollywood, you payin' attention?


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