The CBZ Newswire

Andre Ward Outclasses Tough Challenger Sullivan Barrera in Light Heavyweight Debut

by on Mar.28, 2016, under Boxing News

 

Ward, at left, and Barrera mix it up (photo courtesy of HBO Boxing)

Ward, at left, and Barrera mix it up (photo courtesy of HBO.com/Boxing)

 

OAKLAND, CA, March, 26, 2016 – In front of a packed house at Oracle Arena, Andre Ward made his Light Heavyweight debut successful as he mostly had his way with previously undefeated challenger Sullivan Barrera over 12 give and take rounds. Sullivan Barrera performed much better than was anticipated by most experts either due to Ward electing to slug more and clinch less, ring rust, age related decline or a combination of all of the above. Please read along as I give my impressions of the main event!

The arena has filled up, local stars including Golden States Stephen Curry and Draymond Green, Marshawn Lynch and Frank Gore are in attendance, the fight night atmosphere has engulfed Oracle. Sullivan Barrera (17-0, 12 Kos) enters the ring first and is treated with surprising ambivalence by the crowd, much different from the malice usually reserved for Wards challengers in Oakland. The loud cheers signal that Andre Ward (28-0, 15 Kos) has begun his walk to the ring which is fast and business like, no show boating or playing to the crowd with this man. As Andre disrobes in the ring it is instantly apparent that he is carrying the new 175lb weight very well, he looks thicker, defined and strong. As Barrera disrobes he also appears to be in very good shape.

As the first round begins, Ward is extremely focused using intelligent movement, nothing is wasted as he sizes Barrera up. Barrera hasn’t’ really opened up for the first minute or so as he appears to be sizing Ward up as well Ward lands a pinpoint left jab then hooks off the same arm landing both hard and flush, Barrera tries to comeback right away with a huge right hand which whistles over the head of a ducking Ward.

Barrera seems to be troubled by Ward’s movement in the first with most of his offensive output falling just a few inches short.

The first clinch of the night occurs in the early part of round 2 and is broken quickly by the ref. Ward has both his gloves high using them to parry the incoming assault as Barrera is picking up the pace. Classic 1-2 jab plus overhand right lands for Ward hard on Barrera’s head with Sullivan taking it well. Barrera tries to answer back with a sweeping left hook that lands partially on Wards glove and partially on Wards head. Another quick clinch occurs with Barrera landing a rabbit punch on Wards head before he spins out to ring center. Barrera lands a quick right hand on Ward at the end of the round, Wards retaliatory left hook falls short.

After 2 rounds of light action the crowd begins chanting “SOG, SOG” (an acronym for Andre’s nickname “Son of God”) in an attempt to spark their man, and it works! Barrera lands a pushing right to the body of Ward while he is trapped on the ropes and Ward counters upstairs with a whipping left hook that lands on Barrera’s temple instantly dumping him on the seat of his trunks. Barrera rises quickly and Ward goes all in winging hard shots looking for the finish. Barrera lands a lazy uppercut on Wards chin and Ward can be observed talking back to Barrera as he is taking the punches that the naturally bigger man I dishing out without any ill effects.

Sullivan Barrera rushes out and lands a crushing right hand on Ward at the start of the 4th round. Ward is in a fight now here as Barrera is fighting with a lot more energy and motivation now to prove that the knockdown in round 3 was a fluke. Ward trades with Barrera a little and then begins using a crouch whenever an assault is coming his way expertly avoiding much of Barrera’s offense. Ward with a deliberately late punch on Barrera after the bell to which he immediately apologizes. No penalty.

Ward spends much of round 5 playing defense, backing to the ropes and avoiding Barrera’s rushes.

In rounds 6-7 Ward spends more time alternating between inside fighting and movement to the ropes, every time Ward backs into the ropes members of the crowd begin yelling “GET OUT OF THERE”, but it seems like Ward is trying to set a trap as he scored the fights only knockdown with his back to the ropes.

Both men trading jabs in the 8th, Barrera lands a flush jab on Ward, Ward lands a hard low blow which doubles Barrera over leading to a huge shot on the unprotected head of Sullivan, down he goes! The referee had a good look and calls no knockdown right away, walks over, grabs Ward’s arm and deducts a point! At ringside some partisan fans are complaining that no warning was issued, the ref must have felt the low blow was malicious enough, plus the earlier late hit, good for the ref for not allowing the house fighter to break the rules.

In rounds 9-10 Barrera is relentlessly coming forward all the time and while he misses a lot and gets hit quite a bit on the way in, he is able to land his own share of shots. Ward’s showing signs of fatigue at this stage, possible ring rust, and his punches don’t bother Sullivan anymore. Ward’s face is reddened showing signs that he has probably been hit more in this fight than he did pre layoff.

Ward elects to coast for the final two rounds, using lots of movement and some defensive moves off the ropes. Ward seems to be fighting a less disciplined fight at the end possibly trying to show that he can hit and be hit at 175, to send a message to the Light Heavyweight champions, Adonis Stevenson and Sergey Kovalev who is ringside. In the end of the 12 round contest, all three scores are heavily in favor of Andre Ward who while he was hit more than is customary, controlled the pace of the bout and landed the cleaner, harder shots. The final scores were 117-109, 119-109 and 117-108.

Based on what I observed in this fight Andre needs to take at the bare minimum one more fight at 175 before attempting to tangle with Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev. Andre is about 70% of the fighter he was before the long layoff which is to be expected when a fighter takes that much time off. Top light heavyweight contender Andrej “The Polish Prince” Fonfara, was in attendance and would provide a solid test to Andre as would old man Bernard Hopkins in a thinking mans chess match, Juergen Braehmer if he ever fights outside of Germany or even Jean Pascal if has anything left after the two beatings from Kovalev. Some fans are calling for Andre to fight Artur Beterbiev but with Beterbiev having only 9 fights as a pro, he is probably too green at this stage.

The fight with Sergey Kovalev is one of if not THE biggest fight that can be made in boxing right now and is preferable that it happens at the end of 2016 so it can occur while both men are in their prime, Kovalev is in his, hopefully Andre can return to top form again as well.

 

Undercard

In the chief support to the main event and the televised opener of the night, the fans were treated to an entertaining 10 round featherweight scrap between Los Angeles Californias Joseph Diaz Jr.(19-0, 11 Kos) and Puerto Rico’s Jayson Velez (23-1-1, 16 Kos). After a slow initial feeling out round, the fight quickly became a bruising affair with the harder thudding shots of Diaz doing the most damage. Velez had the much longer reach but elected to fight on the inside for most of the fight giving all the advantage to Diaz. There was an extended series in the 2nd and 3rd rounds where Diaz focused solely on Velez midsection with thundering hooks to both flanks. This seemed to take most of the starch out of most of Velez shots until the later stages of the bout. Velez touches began to redden Diaz face in the later rounds causing a small cut over Diaz left eye.

During the end of the 5th and carrying over to the beginning of the 6th round, the crowds attention shifted to a spectator entering the arena, huge cheers ring out, pandemonium, Steph Curry, the reigning MVP of the NBA and star of the 2015 NBA champion Golden State Warriors had entered the building and taken his ringside seat.

Velez who was on the receiving end of a mostly one sided beating came alive in there the 7th and 8th rounds and briefly seemed to be the fresher of the 2 fighters as Diaz was well spent. This Velez revival was short lived however as Diaz closed the show strongly in the last 2 rounds repeatedly hitting Velez with sickening combos that rocked Velez head back even causing Velez eyes to roll. The reading of scores at the conclusion was academic as it was clear that Joseph Diaz had won in a major way. Joseph Diaz took a big step up in class in this fight and proved that he is ready to take on bigger challenges and make some noise in the featherweight division.

 

 Semi-Semi main

Daniel Twitch Franco (12-0-3, 7 kos) was gifted a peculiar final round stoppage vs his vastly more experienced opponent German Meraz (52-37-1, 7 Kos) both fighting at the featherweight limit of 126 lbs. German didn’t do much offensively in the bout and was merely there to spoil Daniel Franco’s rhythm by moving around and shuffling awkwardly. The highlight of the fight came in round 4 when Daniel Franco rushed out of his corner at the start and dumped German with a sizzling right cross. The remainder of the fight was a rinse repeat with each round a copy of the previous. With about a minute left in the 8th and final round the ref inexplicably jumped in and called a halt to the bout while German was blocking a hook from Franco. Daniel Franco is being pushed hard by Ro Nation sports as their future featherweight star and he really needs to step it up in the future to fulfill those lofty expectations.

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