The buzz this week in the boxing world is the return of Andre Ward. The undefeated former champion at 168 pounds will be going up in weight to his new weight of 175 pounds, also known as the light heavyweight division, this upcoming Saturday night from the Oracle Arena in his hometown of Oakland, California. He will be taking on fellow undefeated Cuban sensation Sullivan Barrera in a special attraction twelve rounder live on the HBO network. Ward is the known commodity here, the super six champion of some years ago, the part-time commentator for the same network he is competing on and the man who was the man in the news for his legal issues with his past promoter, the late great Dan Goosen.
The question here is who is Sullivan Barrera?
Born in Guantanamo Bay,, Cuba, the thirty-four year old began his professional boxing career late by boxing standards at age 27. Like nearly all Cuban pro fighters if not all, Barrera had an impressive amateur record going 285-27 in the unpaid ranks while capturing gold at the World Junior championships in 2000. After two failed attempts, third time proved to be the charm for Barrera in 2009 when he again tried to defect from Cuba and succeeded with other four men. After reaching Mexico and being held for over three months, Barrera found himself in the United States.
Like the majority of Cubans in this country, Barrera found himself in Miami, Florida, where he made his debut the same year winning by TKO. Barrera went on to win his first five fights as pro by either first or second round knockouts proving not only he could box but punch. With no promoter or representation, the Cuban found it difficult to get action, fighting only ten times in his two years as a pro with only once in ’09, ’12 and ’13. Big changes came in 2014 when he signed with promotional outfit Main Events and trekked west to begin working with renowned trainer Abel Sanchez in Big Bear, CA.
Focused and working alongside a number of highly ranked stablemates including middleweight champion Gennady “GGG” Golovkin, Barrera went on a tear in 2014 fighting four times, winning all except one by stoppage. 2015 has been his year with stoppages over former champion Jeff Lacy, Hakim Zoulikha in his first scheduled ten rounder and Karo Murat in his last fight in December of last year.
Now he will face Andre Ward.
Based on experience, Ward is the huge 6-1 favorite with at press time. Those odds do not tell the whole story. Ward is moving up to Barrera’s natural weight. Despite Ward being two years younger, Barrera might be the fresher of the two with less ring rust. Because of a long-running legal dispute with his former promoter, Ward has only fought once since 2013, a TKO win over unknown Paul Smith in June of last year. The Barrera fight comes almost a year later.
Barrera has a real opportunity here to upset the apple cart. It is said with a Ward win here, a fall fight against the feared Sergey Kovalev is all but done. Despite promoted by the same outfit, Main Events, Barrera is looking to be the man facing Kovalev, the WBO, IBF and WBA 175-pound champ, come November. First he must beat Ward.