Sullivan Barrera says goal is to KO Ward
Sullivan Barrera will fight Andre Ward Saturday night in Oakland, California.
Barrera may not have faced someone as talented as Ward in the ring, but he has tackled and conquered hardship while growing up in Cuba.
He did not have some basic essentials while growing up, but that did not stop him from persevering in an island nation that has produced many great amateur standouts – he was twice a bronze medalist in the Cuban National Championships (2002 and 2003) and the gold-medal winner at the World Junior Championships in 2000.
The 12-round bout between the unbeaten light heavyweights will answer a number of things: How will the extra weight help or hurt Ward in a potential showdown later this year with Sergey Kovalev?
On Barrera’s side, is he ready to face and do more than hold his own against the elite fighters in the 175-pound division?
Some think so. Barrera is considered a live underdog. His high-output, boxer-puncher style was enough to knock out Karo Murat in December and some think it could give Ward, whose main strength is counterpunching, some problems. Ward returned to the ring in June of last year, stopping overmatched Paul Smith in the ninth round.
“I’m well-prepared,” Barrera told RingTV over the phone earlier this week. “I’m mentally and psychologically strong. The most important thing for me is to just be relaxed and ready.”
Barrera (17-0, 12 knockouts) will be fighting at Oracle Arena, where Ward has fought half a dozen times before Saturday’s fight. Ward will have the hometown crowd in his favor and has the luxury of having Roc Nation as the lead promoter.
While Barrera does not mind fighting in front of a pro-Ward crowd, he is not leaving anything to chance
“I have to knock him out,” said Barrera, who is promoted by Main Events. “It’s the main mentality I have.
“He (Ward) has to be more worried about my style. I know how to box because I was exposed to the style that many Cubans utilize, especially from a distance. But I know my strength is being able to be aggressive and to set up my punches. I’m a difficult fighter for anyone to face.”
Barrera may be 34, but he has never been in a fight where his body took much abuse. With the work he has done with trainer Abel Sanchez, Barrera has gained more confidence and bravado over the last couple of years.
Oakland, where Ward was born and raised, may be a city that is rough around the edges, but Barrera believes his upbringing has given him a psychological edge.
“My upbringing allowed me to focus. That focus came from the years of dedication and success I had from it. I don’t give anything away. I win because I worked hard for what I had, even if it was little in Cuba.”
Barrera talks a good game, but he is motivated from a personal standpoint as well. In his third attempt to flee Cuba, Barrera made it across the sea to Mexico and defected in 2009, the year of his first professional fight. His family still lives in Cuba.
“My desire to see my family again is my main drive. This is my main reason.
“I have skills just like Ward. I’m stronger and bigger. I know opportunities only come once, so I have to shine.”
Francisco A. Salazar has written for RingTV since October of 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (CA) Star newspaper, Boxingscene.com, and Knockout Nation. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing