HBO Boxing Preview: Andre Ward vs. Sullivan Barrera
By: Matthew N. Becher
This Saturday, live from the Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. HBO and Roc Nation Sports will present, yet again, the return of one of the sports top pound for pound fighters, Andre “S.O.G.” Ward (28-0 15KO) and former Cuban amateur standout and undefeated light heavyweight contender Sullivan Barrera (17-0 12KO).
Barrera was a standout on the Cuban national team until, like many of his fellow countrymen, he defected to the United States for a chance at fame, money and a shot at fighting for a World title. Barrera is 34 years old, and is looking to make his statement fight happen right now, with a win over a phenomenal fighter in Andre Ward. Barrera has been busy with seven fights in the last two years. His last seven opponents from longest to closest were Larry Pryor, Lee Campbell, Eric Watkins, Rowland Bryant, Jeff Lacy, Hakim Zoulikha and Karo Murat. Barrera fought all of those fights across the country, coast to coast. This weekend he will look to take on a champion that he has yet to face in his career and possibly set up a world title fight with Sergey Kovalev, who Ward is said to have signed to fight later on in 2016. A win here and Barrera would almost certainly ruin those plans and insert his own name into that contract. At 34 years of age, this may be the closest he gets to that title shot.
Ward is on the other end of the fighting spectrum when it comes to consistency and fight atmosphere. After winning the Super Six tournament in 2011, a lull began in the top pound for pounders presence in the ring. Since 2012, Ward has only fought three times, a win against lineal super light heavyweight Chad Dawson in 2012, an easy walkthrough of Edwin Rodriguez in 2013 and his initial comeback fight against an overweight and outclassed Paul Smith in June of 2015. All fights being held in his home state of California, and two being held in his hometown of Oakland. Due to disputes with promoters and numerous injuries, Ward has been held back and forced to work the sidelines as a commentator for HBO sports.
If there was a time to pick Ward off, it would be right now. He is coming off an injury, he has been extremely inactive for a top caliber fighter, and even in his last two fights, 3 years apart, he has fought much lesser opponents then he should have been. The question is, Does Andre Ward Still Have It?
Ward also comes with an extremely decorated amateur career, winning an Olympic gold medal and following that up with an undefeated record so far, beating the likes of Mikkel Kessler, Sakio Bika, Arthur Abraham, Carl Froch and Chad Dawson. But that was almost 7 years ago, and that was in the Super Middleweight division. The fact of the matter is, Ward is going to have to prove, once again, that he has that greatness that he once shown. He is still the favorite going into the fight, but not like the one he once was. Sullivan Barrera is no Sergey Kovalev, but he will be a live dog in this fight and possibly have the chance to make history and make a name for himself in the Light heavyweight division.