Dominant Erislandy Lara gets no love from Pavilion crowd

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BY LARRY HAMEL

For the Sun-Times

Erislandy Lara did what he does best: frustrate and demoralize his opponent with superior boxing skills. So it took until the fifth round Friday night before an impatient crowd at the UIC Pavilion rained the ring with boos, whistles and catcalls.

A beautiful straight left by the southpaw Lara that sent 35-year-old Delvin Rodriguez to the canvas a round later silenced the boo birds for a while, but they were back in force by the eighth. The fans were itching for the superbly talented WBA super-welterweight champion to close the show against an overmatched foe. But the controversial Cuban was content to retain his ‘‘regular’’ 154-pound world title by pitching a 12-round shutout, outpointing Rodriguez 120-107 on all three cards.

Lara (21-2-2) didn’t get on his bicycle, and there hardly was a clinch in the fight. He got the knockdown in the fifth with a beautiful shot on the button and should have scored another when Rodriguez went down in the 11th on what was ruled a slip. He sat down on his punches, landed pretty much at will, left his mark on Rodriguez’s battered face . . . and still failed miserably to win over the crowd. In fact, the biggest response of the night came when Rodriguez (28-8-4) postured with his hands raised after getting tagged by a crisp combination in the 12th.

After the scores were announced, Lara, 32, through his translator, called out Canelo Alvarez, Miguel Cotto and Gennady Golovkin.

‘‘The future is clear,’’ he said. ‘‘We want the best. We want Mayweather. We want Cotto. We want Golovkin at 160 pounds.’’

Virtual silence by his critics at the Pavilion spoke volumes on why none of those matches is likely.

On the ease in which he handled Rodriguez, Lara said, ‘‘I was able to land my left. Delvin was really just trying to survive in there, so I knew what I was doing was working.’’

In the co-feature, fearsome light-heavyweight Artur Beterbiev ran his unbeaten streak to nine, all by knockout, with a seventh-round stoppage of game-but-outgunned Alexander Johnson (17-3). Beterbiev knocked Johnson down twice in the fifth, the first on a sharp jab-and-left-hook combination, the second with a series of clubbing rights.

After seemingly taking the next round off, Beterbiev finished it in the seventh. He caught Johnson, a late sub, with a short left hook that dropped him to one knee. A few seconds later, he clocked Johnson with a huge single right hand along the ropes. That crushing blow prompted referee Mark Nelson to immediately wave off the action as Johnson crumbled in a heap. The end came at 1:38 of the round and added more credence to Beterbiev’s reputation as a devastating finisher.

‘‘I’m ready for a championship fight,’’ said Beterbiev, who is being fast-tracked up the 175-pound ranks. ‘‘I don’t care who it is, but I want a title fight.’’

A match against Sergey Kovalev, a fellow Russian, would seem to be a natural. Beterbiev and Adonis Stevenson both are aligned with Montreal promoter Yvon Michel. Beterbiev is ranked as the No. 7 contender behind champion Stevenson in the Ring Magazine ratings.

The early rounds were slow and Beterbiev barely used his jab against his left-handed opponent but nonetheless was well ahead in the scorecards going into the seventh.

‘‘I only had three days of sparring to prepare for a southpaw,” Beterbiev said. ‘‘Nothing was really working that well for me tonight. Maybe the righty-to-lefty switch in the last week made a difference.’’

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