<
>

Erislandy Lara-Ishe Smith set

Junior middleweight titlist Erislandy Lara, recently elevated from an interim titleholder to a full one, will make his first defense against former beltholder Ishe Smith on May 2 at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Golden Boy Promotions chief executive Richard Schaefer told ESPN.com on Monday.

"Great fight on a great weekend. Can't wait," Schaefer said. "Lara is one of the top 154-pounders and Ishe Smith wants to get a world title back. Big fight for both guys."

The fight will headline a Fox Sports 1 card the night before the weekend's major boxing event, Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s pay-per-view welterweight unification fight with Marcos Maidana the following night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Mayweather will be an interested observer of the fight as his Mayweather Promotions represents Smith. Lara (19-1-2, 12 KOs) and Smith (25-6, 11 KOs) traded some barbs via social media as the fight was being finalized.

"Ishe Smith talks a lot on the internet. Let's see if he fights as well as he talks," Lara said. "I'm on a different level and he'll know that as soon as the first bell rings. He's fighting the best (junior middleweight) in the world and the pressure is mounting on him, so he's trying to build himself mentally. Come May 2, I'm gonna do Mayweather a favor and retire this clown. I'm ready to fight."

Lara, 30, a former Cuban amateur standout who defected and now lives and trains in Houston, claimed a vacant interim belt last June when he survived two knockdowns and stopped Alfredo Angulo in the 10th round. He made his first defense of the interim belt on Dec. 7, handily outpointing former titleholder Austin Trout.

Smith, 35, became the first Las Vegas native to win a world title when he outpointed Cornelius "K9" Bundrage by majority decision in Bundrage's hometown of Detroit in February 2013.

However, Smith lost the title in his first defense, dropping a split decision in September at the MGM Grand on the Mayweather-Canelo Alvarez undercard. Thanks to his close tied to Mayweather, Smith is getting another title opportunity despite coming off a lackluster defeat to Molina.

"This is a dream come true, not only fighting for a chance at claiming another world title, but to be doing it in front of my hometown fans and family is a blessing. I'm truly honored," Smith said. "Lara was offered a chance to fight me back in 2012. He turned it down and went with Freddy Hernandez instead. On May 2, I will show him he was right in turning the fight down the first time. I'm ready to lay it all on the line to regain one of the junior middleweight championships. Come May 2, I will turn his American dream into an American nightmare."

With a victory, Lara looms as a possible July opponent for Alvarez, a former unified titleholder, who stopped Angulo in the 10th round on March 8. Luis DeCubas Jr., Lara's manager, said his fighter is not looking ahead to a potential fight with Alvarez.

"I think when Lara is on his game, it's an easy fight for him against anyone at 154 pounds," DeCubas said. "Ishe Smith is a solid fighter, a former world champ and he's been in with a lot of good guys. We hear he's like Floyd Mayweather in sparring but then when he takes the head gear off for a real fight he turns into Ishe Smith. So come May 2, Lara is going to prove that Ishe Smith doesn't belong in the same ring with him. He's been talking a lot and he's really lit a fire under Lara.

"Canelo is not even on our mind. Our complete focus is on Ishe Smith. Once Lara handles the business with Ishe Smith, then we'll be thinking about a big fight and we'll let (adviser) Al Haymon get to work on getting that big fight for him."