I still believe Sullivan Barrera is a legitimate light heavyweight contender. He’s a big, athletic puncher with an outstanding amateur background. He’s one of the best in the world at 175 pounds.
But you couldn’t really tell it from watching him fight Andre Ward Saturday night in Oakland. In just his third fight in almost four years time, Ward did what he has always done: He beat a very good fighter with total ease.
Any thought that Ward would be rusty due to inactivity were dismissed from Round 1 on, as Ward knocked Barrera down in Round 3 and arguably shut the Cuban out. Ward was a model of efficiency, landing 36 percent of his total punches and 44 percent of the power shots.
Barrera landed just 19 percent of his power shots and 15 percent total. Normally a busy and extremely confident puncher, Ward’s sharp counter punching and exquisite timing had Barrera cowed from throwing punches at his usually rate. In his last five fights prior to this one, he had average 79 punches a round, but managed just 60 per for this one. After fighting Ward in 2011, Carl Froch famously confessed “I just couldn’t get my punches off.” Barrera had the same trouble on Saturday night.
Just as he has always been, Ward was a master of distance and tempo. He landed punches like a sharpshooter, from long-range, middle distance and in close, while simultaneously making himself a very difficult target to hit.
When this performance is combined with Ward’s career resume, it’s tough to that deny he’s the top pound-for-pound fighter in the sport.
In all likelihood, the next step for Andre Ward should be a showdown with WBA, IBF and WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev. The Russian destroyer has been a wrecking ball during his professional career, knocking out 26 of 30 opponents. Like Ward, he has marched over good fighters.
Ward has handled big punches like Kovalev throughout his career. But he’s never fought anybody with the same scary combination of size, power and technical patience that Kovalev has. For Kovalev, Ward will represent a major step up in competition. For both men, this will be a career-defining fight and one of historical importance.