By Ian S Palmer
Undefeated American Andre Ward steps into the ring again this Saturday, March 26th when he takes on unbeaten Sullivan Barrera of Cuba at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, California, Ward’s hometown. Ward is a former super middleweight champion, but this 12-round bout will be taking place in the light heavyweight division. Barrera now fights out of Miami, Florida and is a true light heavyweight who could give Ward a few problems along the way. Ward definitely needs the work though since he’s been relatively inactive over the past few years with just two fights in the last three-and-a-half years and they were against Edwin Rodriguez and Paul Smith. The fight can be seen live in North America on HBO.
Ward is now 32 years old and has built up a perfect record of 28-0 along with 15 Kos to his name. Barrera is two years older at 34 and is also perfect at 17-0 with 12 Kos under his belt. Barrera has the height advantage as he stands 6-feet-2-inches tall and Ward is 6-feet even. And yes, Barrera has a longer reach at 73 inches compared to Ward’s 71. Ward has the edge when it comes to pro experience though as he’s fought 194 rounds since turning pro in and Barrera has gone 70 rounds since 2009. However, Barrera did have an extensive amateur career back in Cuba. Ward isn’t known as a heavy puncher and has a knockout ratio of 54 per cent while Barrera’s stands at 71 per cent.
Ward also has a wealth of amateur experience since he was a gold-medal winner at the 2004 Olympic Games. He’s an excellent technical boxer, but to be honest, most of his contests are simply quite boring. This isn’t to underestimate or take anything away from Ward though, as he has all of the skills required to be a Grade A world champion. The former super middleweight champion has beaten some top-notch opponents over the years such as Carl Froch, Chad Dawson, Arthur Abraham, Mikkel Kessler, Edison Miranda and Sakio Bika.
Ward isn’t exactly a power puncher, but he’s basically the complete package when it comes to being an excellent overall boxer. Perhaps he’s simply too good for his opponents and that’s why his fights are relatively dull. Barrera will need to utilize all of his skills and land power shots to trouble Ward, but he can’t leave himself open for Ward’s counterpunches. Ward will utilize his mobility and boxing skills to rack up points round by round and will only go after for a stoppage if Barrera is obviously hurt.
Barrera’s most well known opponents up to now have been Jeff Lacy and Karo Murat, who he stopped in the fifth round in his last bout back in December 12. Barrera has a good selection of punches to choose from and has an effective jab. He doesn’t mind the infighting either, but it’s hard to tell how good is he due to his level of opposition up to now. Barrera would be wise to force Ward into a fight right from the opening bell instead of giving him time to adjust to the Cuban’s style and movement.
Barrera is the biggest opponent Ward has ever faced and he needs to use his size to his advantage. It might be futile to try and outbox Ward so Barrera needs to stick to his strengths, which includes his power. Ward might be able to frustrate the Cuban due to his skills and style, but if Barrera stays focused and is as good as he record indicates, then this could be a tense and intriguing contest. It’s hard to go against Ward at this stage of his career though since Barrera is more or less an unknown quantity. At his best, Ward wins this fight.