Boxing is no stranger to fighters named Sullivan. Indeed, John L. Sullivan was a 19th-century Heavyweight champion whose barn-storming promotional style did much to promote the sport.
Today, Gary’s Spike O’Sullivan claims an direct lineage to that former champion. Yet, the most prominent Sullivan may be an entirely different “Sullivan”: Sullivan Barrera.
“Well, my mom is the one who decided on it,” said Barrera in a recent interview with Round By Round Boxing. “It came ultimately from my dad’s sister. She gave that name to my mom, and she liked it. I don’t know why or where they got it from.”
Cuba’s own fighting Sullivan is age 39 and believes he is on the cusp of a title run. First, though, he must get <center>through the hard-punching Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez this Friday.
“Ramirez is a good fighter. We had worked together before when I trained in California,” said Barrera. “He is a very good fighter. He was a world champion at 168 and moved up to Light Heavyweight.”
Barrera even sparred his future opponent two or three times when Zurdo was campaigning in the 168 pound division. In accepting this fight, Barrera saw something in Zurdo that makes him think that he can beat him.
“You have to back him up and not let him get comfortable,” said Barrera. “You can’t let him throw those 1-2’s, and I am surprised those that have fought him have let him do that.”
Oscar De La Hoya, who heads Golden Boy Promotions, also sees something in Zurdo – a potential start—carefully branded with his Sinaloa pedigree and cowboy hats. Zurdo has an affable personality who much rather watch movies and play golf between fights than rustle steers with Marlboro Man.
Yet, that is exactly what makes Zurdo a potential superstar. His working-class approach to fighting and willingness to take a couple of punches to land one of his own is a fan-pleasing style that has taken him to 41-0.
First, he has to get past the talented and versatile Barrera in the first-ever boxing card at the Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles. Barrera, who has faced an all-time great in Andre Ward in a 168 pound title fight, is not concerned with the fact that it will be the first fight at a new venue.
“I have fought before outside. It’s a little bit different. What is good in the air is very fresh,” said Barrera. “It is in July, and it’s the summer so it will be a good temperature. It is really cool to be part of the first boxing card at this venue.”
Barrera, for his part, has also built his own unique brand and will be more than willing to dig deep and go to war with Zurdo. Barrera has signed a partnership with Litecoin for this fight. He will see part of his fee for this fight in crypto-currency as a result.
“We have a partnership, and we work together,” said Barrera. “The sports world is evolving now, and that’s part of it.”
Barrera was born in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 1982. Cold War-era Cuba was a vastly different place. Then as now though, it was the U.S. dollar that remains a “Crypto-currency,” if you will, in Cuba’s communist system, which stifles entrepreneurship and the potential stardom of its athletes.
Barrera finally defected to the United States in 2009. Barrera’s approach to boxing is somewhat unique in that he more quickly adapted a style of boxing that made sense
“I feel I fought in a style in Cuba that was already aimed at the pros,” said Barrera. “I fought the same in Cuba. I love both fighting and boxing. I love fighting, and it was the same in Cuba. When I came in 2009, I learned a lot but, to be professional took some adjustments.”
His trainers said Barrera was a quick learner in adapting to the different styles of professional boxing.
At 39 years, Barrera still believes he has much to give to the sport of boxing. After all, this is an era when former Heavyweight champion Mike Tyson is still fighting at 55.
First, though, Barrera must get past Zurdo Ramirez, who is one of the top 10 contenders in the sport according to the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. Barrera shrugs off concerns that inactivity may be a serious issue in this fight.
“COVID-19 has impacted everybody,” said Barrera. “Yes, I know [Zurdo] fought in December. But, I feel prepared we have kept training and doing the preparations – both the training and the sparring. For our next fight, know any time I could be asked to fight. So I am ready and prepared for this.”
Joe Smith Jr., who Barrera defeated, is now a WBO Light Heavyweight champion. Barrera thinks Smith may be keen to avenge his loss.
“I want to be a world champion. I could fight Joe Smith Jr., who now is the WBO champion, and I can fight Dmitry Bivol again,” said Barrera. “He defeated me but, a rematch would be different. I made a mistake in that fight, and I am not going to say but, I think I can correct it next time.”