- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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So far three opponents for junior middleweight titlist Saul "Canelo" Alvarez's Sept. 15 defense have fallen by the wayside: Paul Williams (a career-ending motorcycle accident), James Kirkland (a shoulder injury and ridiculous purse demands) and Victor Ortiz (upset by Josesito Lopez).
So Golden Boy continues to hunt for an opponent for the fight, which is scheduled on Mexican Independence Day weekend at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, although it remains unresolved if the fight will air on Showtime pay-per-view, Showtime or CBS (Showtime's sister network).
Wherever it airs, Alvarez's fight is due to go head to head with the middleweight world championship fight between Sergio Martinez and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. on HBO PPV from the Thomas & Mack Center, also in Las Vegas, which is being promoted by Top Rank, Golden Boy's archrival.
The friction between the companies over the date has been intense, making it all the more important for Golden Boy to sign an opponent as soon as possible. It seems as though the promoter has mentioned just about everyone for the fight except for one contender it promotes: Houston-based Cuban defector and former world amateur champion Erislandy Lara (16-1-1, 11 KOs).
Golden Boy folks won't even utter his name in connection to an Alvarez fight.
Luis DeCubas Jr., Lara's manager, said Golden Boy matchmaker Eric Gomez told him Alvarez "refuses to fight Lara."
Lara has tried not to let it get to him.
"I'm not frustrated that fighters avoid me," he said through a translator at Wednesday's open workout as he continued to prepare for his fight against Freddy Hernandez on a "ShoBox: The New Generation" tripleheader on Saturday night (Showtime, 9 ET/PT) at the Fantasy Springs resort in Indio, Calif. "I just have to keep working hard and taking care of the fighters my promoter puts in front of me. The big fights will come sooner or later. These guys can run, but they can't hide."
Lara is seemingly so avoided that he's worried if he looks too good against Hernandez (30-2, 20 KOs), it will become even harder for him to get meaningful fights.
"If I go out there and do what I did to Ronald Hearns, no one is going to want to fight me," Lara said, referring to his sensational first-round knockout win on April 20.
Golden Boy knows Lara would pose serious danger to Alvarez and, understandably, nobody at the company wants to see the cash cow bumped off, especially in a non-megafight.
Lara's one loss, a majority decision to Williams last July, was highway robbery. It was such an outrageous decision and so controversial that the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board suspended all three judges for their poor scorecards -- an unprecedented move.
It took nine months before Lara was given another fight, the Hearns blowout. Although Lara has remained calm, DeCubas boils over in frustration when the subject comes up. He is angry that Lara hasn't even warranted consideration for the Alvarez fight.
"It definitely bugs us," DeCubas said. "Lara and Canelo are both promoted by the same people, and there's no reason they shouldn't mention Lara as a possible opponent. Lara is a top-rated 154-pounder, and they mention everybody else but him. Lara is relaxed and focused on Hernandez, but he knows what's going on and I think it's time for Golden Boy to treat him fairly, like a human being.
"Golden Boy makes Amir Khan versus Danny Garcia, they make all in-house fights. The only one they can't make in house is Lara. He has to go and fight other promoters' fighters. We offered to move down in weight to fight Victor Ortiz. They thought we were crazy. We fought above junior middleweight to fight Hearns. We offered to fight Canelo, and now we must be crazier. I guess I'm crazy like all the fans and media members who feel Canelo against Lara should be the fight."
DeCubas said a deal could be made easily. They just want the shot.
"They offered Kirkland $900,000, and that wasn't good enough for him," DeCubas said. "We'll take $500,000 and they can put the other $400,000 in their pocket. How much easier can we make it on these guys? What's the point of being with a big promoter like Golden Boy if you can't get a big fight? It makes no sense."
Other names who have been raised as a possible Alvarez opponent are titleholders Austin Trout and Cornelius "K9" Bundrage.
Trout (25-0, 14 KOs), who outclassed Delvin Rodriguez on June 2, wants the fight and was a leading candidate, although Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer recently reversed field and said that Alvarez's opponent won't be Trout. That hasn't stopped Trout from campaigning for the bout.
"Canelo, if you want my belt, come try and take it," Trout said. "After I beat your brother [Rigoberto Alvarez] in your hometown to win my title, you came forward and stated you wanted to fight me to avenge your brother's loss. Ever since I immediately accepted your challenge, you have disappeared. Now we have a chance to unify the titles and give the fans a fight between two young, undefeated world champions. But it seems as though you are more interested in taking on lesser-quality opposition and avoiding me again."
Bundrage (31-4, 18 KOs) will headline Saturday's "ShoBox" card in a mandatory rematch with former titlist Cory Spinks (39-6, 11 KOs) and has heard his name tossed around for Alvarez.
"That's what I want," Bundrage said. "It's time for the big fights now. I've watched Canelo fight. He's a good, young fighter, a force to be reckoned with, and they're moving him good. He ain't a world champion for nothing, making millions of dollars. After I take care of business on Saturday, I want Canelo."
Just like everybody else.