Ward seeks successful light-heavyweight debut in Barrera bout
Lee Gormley | March 25, 2016
Andre Ward v Sullivan Barrera
- Light-heavyweight fight
- Sunday, March 27th
- Scheduled for: 02:00 GMT
- Oracle Arena, California
- Live on BoxNation
Ward makes testing light-heavyweight debut
After securing an emphatic return to the ring last year, former super-middleweight champion Andre Ward looks to make a successful step up in weight this weekend, as he prepares to face dangerous Cuban Sullivan Barrera on his light-heavyweight debut.
In front of his home fans in Oakland, California, Ward (28-0, 15 KOs) enters the Oracle Arena ring for his 175lbs bow, having dominated his former division. He overcame Mikkel Kessler to be crowned champion in 2009 and toppling both Arthur Abraham and Carl Froch among others during his reign.
The 2004 Olympic Gold medalist faced a frustrating period of inactivity after outpointing Edwin Rodriguez in November 2013 due to contract disputes and injury setbacks, but he returned last June to stop gallant Liverpudlian Paul Smith in nine rounds at a 172lbs catchweight encounter.
Next up, the 32-year-old is odds-on 1/9 favourite to overcome Barrera (17-0, 12 KOs) on home soil, as a mouth-watering showdown with the division’s imposing unified champion Sergey Kovalev beckons later this year, a fight which would generate a mammoth following.
Confident Ward relishing opportunity
Ward looked rarely troubled during his supreme super-middleweight ruling and is relishing this chance to shine, following his previous out-of-ring stumbling blocks, stating: “When I was off, I cared about the sport. I commentated. I stayed in the gym. Days when I didn’t want to be there, I stayed in the gym.
“It seemed like you’re wasting your time but then when you get the phone call that it was all done and resolved, then you see the results and all the fruits of your labour.
“That’s been the key over the last couple of years. Just keep hammering away. Just stay in the gym and keep working your craft and then you’ll see the fruit later on down the road.”
“I like what I’m seeing in my fights…”
The established American believes he has undergone the best preparation possible ahead of a new career chapter and is ready to adapt to the threat of Barrera (5/1 to triumph), claiming he is now in his prime years.
“I hope I’m getting better. I’m very hard on myself personally but looking at my performances in the gym and different things like that, given the lay-offs, I’m pleased,” added Ward, who is 25/1 to endure a draw in Oakland.
“It could always be better, but I feel like I’m in the middle of my prime right now. Not looking behind too much, really just focused on my future and I like what I’m seeing in the gym. I like what I’m seeing in my fights.
“I just think I’m evolving in to a more mature fighter. You look at a 20-year-old Floyd [Mayweather Jr] and he’s moving all over the ring and then you see Floyd in his 30s and he’s moving just enough. That’s the zone I’m getting into right now.”
Barrera seeks shock success
Hard-hitting Cuban Barrera takes to the ring with plenty of confidence, despite being the big outsider, and is ready to prove to the world he belongs at this level.
“One of the main reasons that I targeted him was because he is considered one of the top three or four fighters in the world. I admire him a lot. He’s a great talent,” declared the 34-year-old fighter.
“I love what he’s done. But I also consider myself a great talent and I also consider myself one of the best fighters in the world. And this opportunity is something that will prove to the world that I am at the top.
“I like everybody else, recognise that Andre is a great boxer. But I too am a great boxer I believe. The only thing that’s missing in my resume is that I haven’t had the opportunity. I think this is the opportunity for me to prove that I am just as good.”
Sanchez: “Barrera won’t let Ward breathe…”
His esteemed trainer Abel Sanchez, who also mentors middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin, holds his man in high regard, stating: “It’ll make for a great fight because Andre I think has to prove – in my opinion anyway has to prove that he belongs at 175.
“He’s staring at a full-fledged 175-pounder that’s very athletic, that has a long history of a Cuban background and has had a great history with me. We think that we’ll be too good for him at this moment in Andre’s career.
“The attacking style that he [Barrera] has now and the knockouts that he has now are some of the stuff that we practice in the gym. It’s just a matter of going at Andre and taking what he gives us but not to let Andre breathe.”
With such a high-profile match-up against light-heavyweight kingpin Kovalev potentially resting on his latest performance, former Olympic champion Ward is seeking a successful division debut to build on for what could be a defining year in his already illustrious career.
Watch Andre Ward stop Liverpool’s Paul Smith on his return to the ring last summer.
Coral’s top tip: Back Andre Ward to overcome Sullivan Barrera this weekend at 1/9.