From Cuban Defector to Rising Prospect in the Light Heavyweight Division
On July 25, 2015 undefeated Cuban light heavyweight Sullivan Barrera (15-0, 10 KOs) will face his biggest challenge to date in the ring since his professional debut in 2009, Vasily “The Professor” Lepikhin (17-1, 9 KOs), but for the 33 year-old from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the hardest time in his life is most definitely in his past.
In 2009, Sullivan defected from Cuba with four other fighters from the Cuban National Team. It was his third attempt to flee Castro’s regime and become a professional fighter in the United States. After many days at sea, the five men finally landed in Mexico where they were detained for more than three months. Eventually, Sullivan was able to make it over the Mexican border into the United States.
Shortly thereafter, he made his professional debut, a first round TKO over Anthony Adorno in Miami, Florida. For several years after his debut, he would reside in Florida and continue to fight on many local cards until he met his manager, Luis Molina. Barrera and Molina then met Egis Klimas, manager to Main Events’ stablemate Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev and countless other young prospects, who helped Sullivan sign a promotional contract with Main Events.
According to Sullivan, “I ran into some promotional issues and did not fight for a year and a half. When I was 11-0, with the help of Egis Klimas, we approached Main Events about possibly signing with them.” Then last year, after he knocked out Lee Campbell in the sixth round, Sullivan began to work with world-renowned trainer, Abel Sanchez at Sanchez’ compound in Big Bear Lake, California, The Summit.
After his first training camp with Sanchez, Sullivan decided to leave Miami and take up permanent residence in California at The Summit. Barrera said, “This will be my fourth fight with Abel Sanchez. Technically I live in Big Bear now because I spend most of my time here. I have nobody with me here, all of my family is still in Cuba. I like living in Big Bear because I am by myself and I am comfortable training. I can stay focused. I am around other world-class fighters who push me to want to get to that next level. Most importantly, I am in a place where I am focused daily.”
On July 25, Sullivan will face previously undefeated light heavyweight and Main Events’ stablemate Vasily “The Professor” Lepikhin (Lepikhin is co-promoted by Main Events, German Titov Promotions and Interbox). Lepikhin suffered his first career loss on the Kovalev-Pascal undercard in March at the hands of WBC #1 contender Isaac “Golden Boy” Chilemba. Sullivan hopes this fight will be a stepping stone to take him to the next level in the division. He said, “I wanted a fight against Pascal but he didn’t want to accept the fight against me. At this point I have to settle for the opponents that come my way. I understand that it is only going to get tougher and tougher to get the fights I want, but I am fighting a guy that is obviously coming with everything. He’s got a good record and I am sure he is coming to try and redeem himself.”
When asked about the hot light heavyweight division he added, “It is great that it is a busy division. After this fight I hope that I can demonstrate that I am ready to fight any of the top tier guys. As long as there is action in the division that is good for me.”
About Kovalev vs. Mohammedi
WBO, WBA and IBF Light Heavyweight World Champion Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev (27-0-1, 24 KOs) will compete in his first mandatory title defense against Nadjib “Irondjib” Mohammedi (37-3, 23 KOs) on Saturday, July 25 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, Las Vegas, Nevada. The co-feature will include a ten-round light heavyweight match-up between Jean Pascal (29-3-1, 17 KOs) and Yunieski Gonzalez (16-0, 12 KOs). Tickets are on sale now and start at $25. Tickets can be purchased through TicketMaster and all MGM Resorts Properties Ticket Offices. The HBO World Championship Boxing® telecast begins at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT.