By: Victor O. Garcia, Real Combat Media Head Boxing Rankings Panelist
Oakland, CA (March 25, 2016)- Andre Ward (28-0, 15 KOs) returns to the big stage against light heavyweight contender Sullivan Barrera (17-0, 12 Kos), in a noteworthy fight. HBO will televise the event that will take place at the Oracle Arena, in Oakland, California.
All eyes will be on the Oakland native Andre Ward, as he steps into the ring in his own backyard, for the seventh time of his professional career. After defeating the British fighter Paul Smith last summer, many asked if he can stay active in the ring, since Ward has had major gaps in his career, due to injuries and promotional disputes. Ward was lined up to fight in the undercard of Cotto-Canelo back in November, but suffered a minor injury that forced him to pull from the fight. Now that Ward is feeling 100%, he decided to get back in the ring as a full light heavyweight fighter. A division full of great competition where it seems he will fit right in with his size and skills.
Ward’s opponent, Sullivan Barrera, is a Cuban fighter that is trained by the great Abel Sanchez. Barrera is coming off a KO win over German fighter Karo Murat. Cuban fighters are known for their technical style, but Barrera is more of a boxer-puncher, who can connect well to the body and has a reach advantage over Ward. Barrera is still the underdog of the fight but, boxing is full of surprises, and a win over Ward can be a real big game changer, since Andre is lined up to fight the top light heavyweight fighter, Sergey Kovalev.
Andre is in a win or lose situation. His fight against Kovalev is lined up for November, but that fight can easily be shut down if Ward surprisingly loses his fight against Barrera.
Both fighters have admitted of having a great camp for this fight. On Saturday night when the bell rings, the two will put everything on the line and show all the hard work they’ve put in.
During their final press conference, both fighters had a few words to share.
Andre Ward stated, “I’m aware of what is being said. I k now what my opponent has been saying and I take him at his word. I’ve done everything that I’m supposed to do. Like I always do and like I’ve taken on the best…if it’s not another champion then it’s a top contender… and this is no different. You guys just know that I’m focused and locked in like I always am. I’m prepared and I’m ready for war come March 26.”
The Cuban fighter also had a few words and said, “I want to say thank you for coming here. I want to say thank you HBO, thank you everyone. Thank you Andre Ward for accepting my fight. I promise everyone who comes to the arena that I have had great preparation and this is a great dream. On the night, I’ll have a great show for everyone.”
For the co-main event of the double header, Joseph Diaz Jr (19-0, 11 KOs) -a US Olympian fighter- will face Puerto Rican fighter, Jayson Velez (23-1-1, 16 KOs), for the NABF Featherweight Title.
Diaz has been a dominant fighter since turning pro, right after fighting in the 2012 Olympics. His most recent fight was against Hugo Partida. Diaz defeated Partida via TKO and won the vacant NABF Featherweight Title. Diaz opponent is a decent fighter, Jayson Velez who recently fought in the Cotto-Canelo undercard, back in November, but suffered his first lost against Ronny Rios.
This fight brings in a traditional rivalry between Mexico and Puerto Rico. Although Diaz is a Mexican-American, he represents his roots very proudly and is making this fight extra special for that reason.
“Come March 26 I know I have a really tough fight ahead of me. I know Jayson Velez is an experienced veteran in the ring. He’s a warrior. He has a six-inch reach advantage over me so it’s going to be a really great fight. I know he’s coming off of a loss, so I know he really wants to bounce back and show everybody that he’s still a world title contender.”
Jayson Velez also had some words to share, “I lost my las fight, so I need to win. I want to win. I can’t tell you who’s going to win this fight because we both are great fighters and warriors. He’s a Mexican, I’m Puerto Rican, and when you have a Puerto Rican and a Mexican in the same ring. You will see a war. You will see speed, power, everything in the fight. He’s a great fighter and I’m so excited. Thank you to everyone and stay tuned this Saturday and thank you to HBO of course.”