Last Friday in this space I lamented Cuban light heavyweight contender Sullivan Barrera’s inability to make another relevant fight following his June loss to Andre Ward. This week, my wish has come true. On Wednesday, the announcement came out that Barrera will face undefeated Ukrainian Vyacheslav Shabranskyy, December 16 on HBO Latino.
This is exactly the kind of fight I was thinking of when I referenced the division’s glory days of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Barrera’s hard-fought loss to Ward might have demonstrated he is not at the very top of the weight class. But he showed more than enough to deserve another big fight at light heavyweight.
Credit Shabranskyy for going after such formidable competition. He knocked out cruiserweight journeyman Garret Wilson in January 2015–a fighter who went the distance with heavyweight contender Vyacheslav Glazkov. Shabranskyy beat Barrera’s countryman, Yunieski Gonzalez, last December. A less cautious contender might simply mark his time at this point, waiting for shot at either WBC champion Adonis Stevenson or the winner of Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev.
But if he can defeat Barrera, it will give Shabranskyy a clear-cut argument to separate himself from the rest of the pack.
It is a big “if,” of course. Barrera is a dangerous boxer-puncher. He was out of his depth against Ward, but he knocked veteran contender Karot Murat cold last December.
This will be by far Shabranskyy’s toughest fight. And with the exception of Ward, it will be the best opponent Barrera has faced. Both of these men have impressive amateur backgrounds. They were chalking up international experience long before they turned pro. Cuba and the Ukraine both have highly regarded amateur programs. It takes outstanding skill to swim at the top of those talent pools.
Beyond technical ability, both men have legitimate, professional power. They have both stopped opponents who don’t usually get stopped, even against tough competition.
And it is clear that neither man is risk averse. When you add up the ledger on this one, it should equal a very good fight.