NEW YORK -- On a night when three junior middleweight world titleholders and their challengers jockeyed to separate themselves from the pack, undercard winners Jermell Charlo and Jarrett Hurd did so in their victories against Erickson Lubin and Austin Trout, respectively.
That did not happen for titleholder Erislandy Lara in the main event. Although Lara, generally considered No. 1 at 154 pounds going into the card, easily outboxed Terrell Gausha before 7,643 on Saturday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, he hardly impressed in a fight that was akin to watching grass grow or paint dry.
The crowd booed the lack of action often, even though the safety-first Lara toyed with Gausha, a 2012 U.S. Olympian who was taking a monumental step up in his competition level and could not really compete. The judges scored it 117-110, 117-110 and 116-111 for Lara, who retained his 154-pound title for the sixth time but largely against soft opposition. ESPN.com scored the fight 120-107 for Lara, a 34-year-old Cuban southpaw, who defected and fights out of Houston.
"We want to give a lot of credit to Gausha. He's an Olympian, and he came to fight," Lara said through a translator. "I take the rhythm of the boxing match, and that's when I take over. He's fighting with the best in the division. He's not a stupid fighter, but he knew who he was facing today."
As many expected, there was little action. Much of the fight resembled a staring contest, with both fighters also feinting. They mixed in a few shots, but they were sporadic and one at a time. By the third round, the crowd was booing the lack of action.
Gausha, who made $250,000 to Lara's $700,000, showed moments of aggressiveness that Lara (25-2-2, 14 KOs), a southpaw, tried to counter with his left hand. In the fourth round, Gausha (20-1, 9 KOs), 29, of Cleveland, left himself open, and Lara nailed him with a right hook followed by a left hand to knock him down. They were the best punches of the fight, and Lara was excited by the knockdown.
As he walked to the neutral corner while referee Charlie Fitch counted Gausha, Lara flexed and pointed to his biceps. The action-free fight continued round after round. Gausha threw a few combinations but rarely could muster more than two punches in a row, and he missed by several inches with many of his jabs.
In the seventh round, Gausha landed a short right hand that knocked Lara off-balance, but he quickly recovered, and the fight continued as it had been going, with long stretches of nothing happening other than occasional missed punches well short of their targets. The booing continued during one such stretch in the seventh round.
During the eighth round, what was left of the crowd launched into a chant of "This is boring! This is boring!" As the time wound down in the 10th round, one section of fans began counting down the final 10 seconds and then cheered wildly when the round ended. Then they did it again late in the 11th round. Most of the crowd had cleared out by then.
According to CompuBox punch statistics, Lara landed 121 of 528 punches (23 percent), and Gausha connected with just 77 of 329 (23 percent), but not one of them appeared to even remotely hurt Lara. Gausha didn't land double-digit punches in any round.
"Tough loss, but I'm a true fighter and a competitor. This is only going to bring out the best in me," Gausha said. "I'm going to be a better, smarter fighter. Lara was a good fighter, very crafty. It happens. I hate to lose, but I know it comes with the sport. I'm going to come back even stronger. I'm a warrior. I'll never quit. I'm just going to keep climbing. I don't lay down. I'm going to keep getting better."
Lara now hopes to unify world titles, even if it means facing his pal Charlo.
"I'm ready to box anyone that comes my way. I'm the best boxer at 154 pounds, and I won't shy away from anyone that wants to fight me," Lara said. "I'll box whoever -- just line them up. I'm not afraid. I have proven that I'm a true champion. I'll fight Charlo if I have to. We are friends, but business is business."