In my estimation, Sullivan Barrera deserves to be ranked top five in the world at light heavyweight. He has lost just once in his career–to Andre Ward, one of the great pound-for-pound talents of this generation. Against regular 175-pound contenders, Barrera has been impressive. He knocked out Karo Murat in five rounds and Vyacheslav Shabranskyy in seven. He climbed off the canvas to decisively decision the hard-punching Joe Smith Jr.
Saturday night at Madison Square Garden he gets what might be his toughest fight since losing to Ward, when he faces Dmitry Bivol of Kyrgyzstan. At 27, Bivol looks like he might be on the fast track to stardom.
Bivol had a stellar amateur career, winning Russian National titles twice. His overall record before turning pro was 268-15.
So far as a professional Bivol is 12-0 with 10 KOs. Barrera will be a significant step up for him, but he has looked like a wrecking ball against second-tier stepping-stones like Junior Jackson, Felix Valera, Samuel Clarkson and Cedric Agnew.
Valera is his common opponent with Barrera–both men defeated Valera by unanimous decision.
It is highly likely that the winner of this fight will be the next opponent for Sergey Kovalev. Kovalev is also on the card Saturday night in New York, against Igor Mikhalkin, yet another Russian light heavyweight. Mikhalkin handed Thomas Ooshuizen his first professional loss, so he’s a valid contender. But it will be a shock if he can upset Kovalev.
Even with Andre Ward in retirement, light heavyweight remains one of the most talent-rich divisions in the sport. We will see that showcased this weekend on the undercard of Deontay Wilder’s high-profile heavyweight clash with Luis Ortiz.