Paul Williams to fight Erislandy Lara

Updated: May 20, 2011, 7:16 PM ET
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com

Four days after HBO withdrew its approval of Japan's Nobuhiro Ishida to face Paul Williams in a July 9 "Boxing After Dark" main event, former Cuban amateur standout Erislandy Lara got the call.

Williams and Lara, both southpaws, will meet at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., in a fight contracted at a maximum weight of 155 pounds, Williams promoter Dan Goossen told ESPN.com on Friday. Goossen said the deal has been signed.

HBO confirmed that it had approved Lara in place of Ishida, who scored a first-round knockout in a major upset of James Kirkland on April 9, but whose impending appearance in an HBO main event was heavily criticized throughout the boxing world.

"Erislandy is another outstanding Cuban amateur that has been put on the fast track in the pros along with his former teammates Yuriorkis Gamboa and Odlandier Solis," Goossen said. "We're looking forward to getting Paul back into the ring, especially against a young, hungry tiger like Lara. We have all the confidence in Paul overcoming all the odds and fighting his way back to the top."

Williams (39-2, 27 KOs), 29, a former welterweight titlist, will be fighting for the first time since November, when he was knocked cold in the second round of his rematch against middleweight champion Sergio Martinez.

Lara (15-0-1, 10 KOs), 28, who defected from Cuba and is based in Miami, was considered one of boxing's elite prospects, but he stumbled badly in his last fight. He appeared lucky to escape with a majority draw against Carlos Molina in an ESPN2 "Friday Night Fights" main event on March 25.

Goossen also said the televised co-feature has been finalized. It will pit junior featherweight titlist Akifumi Shimoda (23-2-1, 10 KOs), 26, of Japan in a mandatory defense against 23-year-old rising contender Rico Ramos (19-0, 10 KOs).

Ramos, of Los Angeles, is also promoted by Goossen and, like Williams, is managed by Al Haymon. Shimoda will be making the first defense of the 122-pound title he won by outpointing Ryol Li Lee in January.

Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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