Andre Ward vs. Sullivan Barrera: Preview & Prediction
On Saturday, March 28, California’s Oracle Arena will host a light heavyweight contest featuring Andre Ward and Sullivan Barrera.
Despite being opponents, they both share the same goal: to eventually face Sergey Kovalev (29-0-1, 26 KOs), the universally recognized light heavyweight world champion.
The fight will signify Ward’s full debut at light heavyweight, after leaving the super middleweight division he ruled for several years. The man standing opposite him is an adequate opponent for his light heavyweight debut, the undefeated, IBF mandatory challenger, Sullivan Barrera.
With Andre Ward vanquishing the preeminent super middleweights at the time, moving to light heavyweight was a rational choice.
A chance to become a two-division world champion would undoubtedly add shine to an already-impressive boxing career.
However, Ward has to deal with Barrera first, and undoubtedly Barrera will be coming with ambition himself.
Tale of the Tape
|Andre Ward||Sullivan Barrera|
|Record||28-0, 15 KOs||17-0, 12 KOs|
|Hometown||Oakland, CA||Miami, FL|
A substantial difference between both fighters is the wealth of experience Andre Ward has acquired at the professional level, as opposed to Sullivan Barrera.
Within Ward’s 28 fights, he has fought in seven world title fights, defeated five current or former world champions, and went 12 rounds seven times.
This is a stark contrast to Barrera, who has never fought 12 rounds, defeated only one former world champion, and defeated one former world title challenger. Furthermore, Barrera has only boxed 70 rounds, whereas Ward has boxed 194 rounds.
Ward is known for being an elusive boxer, who establishes an authoritative jab while on the back foot. Nevertheless, he also has a tendency to be rough on the inside. Ward has regularly utilized his physical strength at super middleweight by clinching the opponent. As a consequence, the opponent’s inside work is smothered.
This is one aspect that makes this fight noteworthy. Barrera is a “natural” light heavyweight, a fighter who has even weighed as high as 196 pounds. This undoubtedly means that his rehydration weight will exceed Ward’s on fight night, posing the question whether Ward can hustle and clinch a bigger fighter.
A common thing brought up when Andre Ward vs. Sullivan Barrera was announced was how Ward would be facing an Abel Sanchez fighter, albeit not Gennady Golovkin (34-0, 31 KOs), the consensus No. 1 middleweight right now.
Countless times throughout the last three years, a fight between Ward and Golovkin has been touted.
Obviously with Ward moving to light heavyweight, the idea of a Golovkin fight is now a pipe dream. A fight, which would see two of boxing’s most dominant competitors, is now insurmountable.
Still, it has not stopped the verbal sparring, with both teams inevitably blaming their contemporaries for the fight not happening.
Focusing on this fight, the aforementioned IBF mandatory spot will be up for grabs, an accolade Barrera currently has. Although nothing would stop a Sergey Kovalev vs. Ward fight being sanctioned, acquiring a reputable place in one of the sanctioning bodies never hurts–if Ward wins.
Additionally, a win for Ward would be a fitting induction into the light heavyweight division, as he would beat the IBF’s top contender.
This fight will be his second scrap since signing with Roc Nation Sports in 2015, and hopefully eradicates any more periods of inactivity for one of boxing’s most talented fighters.
Strengths for Each Man
A notable strength of Ward is his jab, a thing that is complemented with speed when thrown. Ward keeps his left hand moving in front of the opponent before jabbing, which impairs the opponent’s vision, as they are unaware of the direction the jab will come from. Then to mix things up, Ward will occasionally fire the jab from a lower position, therefore confusing the opponent.
Another thing that should be highlighted is Ward’s judgment of distance, which may look subtle, but is incredibly effective in nullifying the opponent. Ward will land a jab or straight right hand, and then take a step back, which allows him to get out of range of the opponent’s punches. This is a key attribute, which exemplifies Ward’s excellent footwork.
A final strength to consider is Ward’s upper body movement, which, when combined with his judgement of distance, makes him hard to hit consistently. Ward will land his punches, but sometimes lean to one side, or land a punch and then duck his upper body immediately.
This prevents the opponent from landing their punches, as Ward is not standing right in front of them. Ward constantly refrains from being a stationary target for opponents.
Photo by Marilyn Paulino/RBRBoxing
Sullivan Barrera has shown he can box and move, but pressure has been a key to his success thus far. Although his success has come against fighters not close to Ward’s level, Barrera has shown that he has an imposing presence when pressuring his opponents.
Furthermore, whenever Barrera has had an opponent hurt or dazed, he has been merciless and has not let them recover.
Secondly, it is hard to gauge how true Barrera’s power is until he fights the top fighters, but he has shown to be a decent puncher by recording 12 knockouts in 17 wins.
Barrera has also shown that he is a strong body puncher, with straight right hands, hooks and uppercuts to the body being common parts of his arsenal. Potentially, Barrera may target Ward’s body to slow him down and reduce his movement around the ring.
Weaknesses for Each Man
The inside is a thing that Andre Ward utilizes a lot, as mentioned previously. It may not be aesthetically pleasing to clinch and smother the opponent’s work, but it is undoubtedly canny and effective in neutralizing the opponent. It is not a weakness, but one thing I am interested in seeing is how he can work on the inside against a natural light heavyweight like Barrera.
Whether the size difference will be telling is something worth wondering about, and it may be a sign of how Ward fits in the light heavyweight division in terms of strength and physicality. Once again, this is not an explicit statement of a weakness of Andre Ward, but more of a question waiting to be answered when he fights Sullivan Barrera.
Of course, the knockdown against Darnell Boone was over a decade ago, and Ward has shown he is by no means ‘chinny’ when hit by fighters like Arthur Abraham and Carl Froch. But fighters at 175 pounds with decent knockout ratios may fancy their chances, especially as Ward is moving to a larger weight. Questions may be asked about how Ward can take a clean shot at 175 pounds.
One concern with Sullivan Barrera is his tendency to have lapses in concentration defensively. During some of his recent fights, he had his hands low when throwing punches, or when moving around the ring in general.
This means he is susceptible to counter-punches, which is a dangerous prospect when facing a slick, accurate boxer like Andre Ward. Giving Ward any opportunity to exploit defensive errors would be a costly mistake.
Despite training in high altitude environments like Big Bear, California, there can be question marks surrounding Barrera’s endurance. At times, he can seem lethargic during rounds.
Also, the fact he has never gone 12 rounds means the jury is out on whether Barrera can last the distance.
Ward is experienced in going the distance and pacing himself, so it would be a massive disadvantage for Barrera if it turns out he cannot sustain 12 rounds.
The Winner and Why
It is not the hardest prediction I have ever made, but I am picking Andre Ward by decision over Sullivan Barrera.
I believe the experience of Ward, his punch accuracy and defensive ability will outclass Barrera over the distance. Barrera can be wild and defensively vulnerable, and fighters of Ward’s class exploit and punish mistakes like that.
I still wonder about Barrera’s endurance over 12 rounds, so I would not rule out a stoppage in the last few rounds. Potentially, he may get fatigued, and an onslaught by Ward would cause Barrera to capitulate.
However, I am more sold on Ward winning by decision. Barrera’s physicality may cause moments of discomfort, but I believe Ward will win most of the rounds based on the aforementioned reasons.
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