In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the light heavyweight division reached one of its historic high points. A slew of great fighters populated the weight class, turning in legendary performances. Dwight Muhammaed Qawi, Marvin Johnson, Matthew Saad Muhammad, Eddie Mustaffa Muhammad, Victor Emilio Galindez, Mike Rossman, Yaqui Lopez, John Conteh and Richie Yates all participated in unforgettable fights. Ruling over them all was Michael Spinks, who emerged from this murderer’ row as undisputed light heavyweight champion.
It’s too early to compare the current crop that group of legends. But make no mistake, the light heavyweight division is red-hot right now, packed with good and great fighters. Sergey Kovalev and Andre Ward are both top pound-for-pound stars. Adonis Stevenson is an explosive puncher with outstanding athletic gifts. Former amateur standout Artur Beterbiev is 10-0 with 10 KOs and has already knocked out two former belt olders. Eleider Alvarez, Joe Smith Jr, Vyacheslav Shabranskyy, Andzej Fonfara, Nathan Cleverly and Isaac Chilemba are all capable of doing great things in a boxing ring.
But for this era to hope to compare to the Age of Qawi and Spinks, the top fighters need to fight each other. Ward and Kovalev will face off later this year, in 2016’s most important fight. But the sport would be better served if those waiting in the wings would fight each other, instead of patiently standing in line.
This situation came to mind for me earlier this week when I received a press release about from Knockout Media about Sullivan Barrera’s inability to secure a fight for the fall. The former Cuban amateur standout was thoroughly out-classed by Andre Ward earlier this year. He has been out of action since and still doesn’t have a fight scheduled.
It’s too bad, because Barrera is another name that fits easily on the list above. He’s shown great skill and fight-ending power. Getting handled by Ward is no disgrace. For a smart, experienced fighter like Barrera, it was unquestionably a learning experience.
Barrera would be a handful for the majority of 175-pound fighters on the planet. Let’s hope we get to see him in action in a big fight before the end of 2016.