By Dan Ambrose: Andre Ward (28-0, 15 KOs) will be fighting Sullivan Barrera (17-0, 12 KOs) in less than two weeks to try and earn a title shot against IBF/WBA/WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev for November 19. Ward’s fight against Barrera, 34, will be taking place in 13 days on March 26 on HBO Boxing from the Oracle Arena in Oakland, California.
This is almost a self-defeating fight for Ward, because it’s so dangerous. You can’t call a warm-up fight for Ward by any means, because Barrera has a real chance of winning this match. The unbeaten Cuban Barrera isn’t a simple tune-up opponent that you normally see fighters take. He’s someone that you face in a title fight, not in a tune-up match.
Ward could very well lose to Barrera and that would completely mess things up for Ward and for HBO. They want the Ward-Kovalev fight later this year. HBO might still go ahead with the Ward vs. Kovalev fight anyway, because they would still have Ward under a 3-fight contract at that point. They wouldn’t want Ward to finish out his 3-fight contract fighting scrubs. They would want to get value for their money. Unfortunately, the interest from the boxing public probably won’t be there for a Ward vs. Kovalev fight if Ward loses to Barrera.
Ward, 31, did not look particularly powerful, youthful or impressive in his victory over Paul Smith last June. Ward got a 9th round knockout victory, but he looked slower, weaker and not the same fighter that had captured the Super Six tournament four years previous. I think Ward’s inactivity has hurt him, causing him to lose part of his game. When you sit on the couch for four years, you’re not going to be able to regain the skills that you once had no matter how hard you try.
There are some fans that feel that the only reason why Ward is taking the Barrera fight right now is because Ward was afraid to face Kovalev. Main Events, the promoters for Kovalev, were ready to make the fight with Ward right now. They don’t see the point in waiting for him to take a dangerous fight against Barrera first. They realize that Ward could very well lose that fight, and they didn’t want to risk it. They also don’t see Ward being able to shake enough rust off with the Barrera fight to help him beat a talented fighter like Kovalev.