On January 1, 2009, Erislandy Lara made his ESPN debut and scored a first-round TKO against Rodrigo Aguiar. Lara's following fight came on February 20, 2009, against Keith Gross. Lara dropped Gross with a left hand, but Gross beat the count on wobbly legs. Lara continued unleashing combinations to the head and body. A left uppercut finished the fight within round one. On May 2, 2009, on the Pacquiao vs. Hatton undercard, Lara faced Chris Gray. Lara won the fight via unanimous decision. On May 22, 2009, Lara faced aging Edwin Vazquez. Lara finished the fight with good combinations, prompting the referee to stop the fight in round four. On that same night, fellow Cuban boxer Guillermo Rigondeaux made his pro debut, which he also won via referee stoppage in the third round. After beating Edwin Vazquez, Lara went on to win nine straight fights punctuated by four consecutive first-round knockout victories.
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