Cuban defector Erislandy Lara, wife Yudi earn U.S. citizenship

Junior middleweight world titleholder Erislandy Lara gave himself the nickname "The American Dream" after defecting from Cuba, where he was a star amateur.

On Thursday, Lara and his wife, Yudi, became United States citizens after completing their eligibility requirements and taking an oath of allegiance to the country.

Lara first went from Cuba to Germany, where he turned pro in 2008. He came to the United States in 2009 and has lived here since.

He was elated at becoming a citizen.

"When I arrived in the United States in 2008, my main goal was to become a citizen of this great nation," Lara said. "It brings me great joy to know that I am now a legal citizen of the United States of America. It's been a long journey to get where I'm at today, and I couldn't have done it without my beautiful wife Yudi. Together, we fulfilled all the legal requirements that were mandated to become a U.S. citizen."

The 33-year-old Lara (24-2-2, 14 KOs), who settled in Houston, where he lives and trains, won a vacant interim 154-pound world title in 2013 by knocking out Alfredo Angulo and defended it by lopsided unanimous decision against former titleholder Austin Trout later that year.

Lara was later elevated to a full titleholder and has successfully defended the belt five times, most recently by fourth-round knockout of faded former titleholder Yuri Foreman on Jan. 13. He knows his success would not have been possible had he not come to America.

"Living in here in the States has been a tremendous blessing to me and my family." Lara said. "With hard work, and the help of many good people around me, I've been able to provide for my loved ones. My goal is to continue my boxing career with my core team, and someday, God willing, become a boxing Hall of Famer."