On Saturday, March 26, 2016, two-time world champion Andre Ward (28-0, 15 KOs) returns to the ring for the first time as a full-fledged Light Heavyweight as he takes on undefeated and No. 1 rated IBF contender, Sullivan Barrera (17-0, 12 KOs).
The bout will take place at Oracle Arena in Ward’s hometown of Oakland, California and is scheduled as a 12-round scrap. The fight will be televised live on HBO World Championship Boxing beginning at 9:45, pm EST/PST.
Both Ward and Barrera took part in a media conference call on Wednesday to begin the short promotion of their fight.
Barrera, who has been vocal about Ward not wanting to fight him, said that he feels talks surrounding a potential Ward versus Sergey Kovalev fight are premature and disrespectful.
“I think it’s a big lack of respect from Andre Ward. I’m No. 1 in the rankings and passing over me without giving me the credit I deserve I think is just a big lack of respect,” said Barrera. “[His words] are a big motivation for this fight.”
“I’m a warrior and a gladiator and I don’t feel any type of pressure,” said Barrera.
Barrera is skilled fighter, coming from the fabled Cuban school of boxing, but he also packs a punch, having dispensed of 12 of his 17 opponents by knockout. Based on the game plan him and his trainer, Abel Sanchez, come up with, Barrera is ready to try and impose his will on Ward.
“Ward is very skilled, but I’m a bigger and stronger fighter. Ward has never been hit by someone like me,” said Barrera.
“Andre is a tough guy and I respect him, but I will try to destroy him. I have to knock him out to win.”
Ward, who began the call by seemingly going through the motions with run-of-the-mill responses, picked up steam and focused in on some of Barrera’s choice words via social media.
[otw_shortcode_quote border=”bordered” border_style=”bordered”]Not that I need any more motivation, but when guys like him talk the way that they talk, and I know it’s not all him, but it’s unfortunate because he’s the one that’s going to be in the ring when the referee tells everyone to get out, it’s just going to be him and me and he’s going to have to answer for everything that he said. – Andre Ward[/otw_shortcode_quote]
Ward also stressed the fact that he was given a number of choices for potential opponents and that he could have gone an easier route, but that it was his decision to face Barrera.
“What he needs to realize is after all the talking he did, he was hand chosen by myself and Virgil for this fight,” said Ward.
As opposed to a guy like Canelo Alvarez, who is facing a smaller fighter (a Welterweight) to prep himself for a bigger one (a Middleweight), Ward is facing a big and legitimate challenger that should give spectators a good idea of how Ward fairs at 175 pounds.
“I want to be remembered not just as a good fighter, but a great fighter who always tried to fight the best,” said Ward.
If Kovalev is indeed around the corner for Ward, this is a great first step in getting himself prepared.