Sullivan Barrera will fight Felix Valera on Nov. 25 under Kovalev-Shabrankskyy
In the wake of Andre Ward’s retirement, the light heavyweight division is wide open.
With Ward’s three belts now scattered, fighters will be jockeying for position in a talent-laden class with just two established names: Adonis Stevenson and Sergey Kovalev.
Stevenson remains the lineal champion, while Kovalev, on the heels of consecutive defeats to Ward, will return November 25 against Vyacheslav Shabranskyy. Kovalev figures to be in line for a title shot in early 2018, but Sullivan Barrera, also promoted by Main Events, is gunning for his first opportunity at a belt.
He’ll fight Felix Valera in the HBO co-feature to Kovalev-Shabranksyy, Main Events announced Tuesday.
“I am happy to be back in action, happy to be fighting in New York where boxing is big,” said Barrera, THE RING’s . “Felix Valera is a tricky and tough fighter. He is just another obstacle in my way towards fighting for a world title.”
Barrera (20-1, 14 knockouts) was offered the Kovalev fight on this show, but the 35-year-old Cuban turned down a $400,000 payday armed with the belief he’d be fighting for the vacant WBA title. Instead, Dmitry Bivol was upgraded from interim champion status, and Barrera was left without a title fight or a payday.
He’s rebounded with an appearance on the HBO card, and a chance to set up a bout next year with Kovalev. But he’ll have to impress against Valera, an unknown puncher from Dominican Republic whose lone defeat came to Bivol last year.
Valera (15-1, 13 KOs) was dropped twice in the bout but the 29-year-old lasted the 12-round distance, a feat in and of itself considering Bivol’s vaunted power.
“I am warning Barrera right now that I am not going to New York for a vacation,” said Valera. “I am going to score that upset and get the win.
“After my win against Barrera, I am then going to call out Sergey Kovalev because I want to fight the best fighters in my weight class. I am going to put my country, the Dominican Republic, back on the map and make them proud!”
Barrera has established himself at 175 pounds after he was outclassed by Ward in March 2016. He showed off his boxing ability with a decision over Joe Smith this summer, and proved his power with a seventh-round knockout of Shabranskyy.
Barrera is on the doorstep, now he just needs one more solid performance.