Former Super Middleweight king Andre Ward is stepping up to the light heavyweight division to tangle with the undefeated Sullivan Barrera. Let's see our boxing picks inside.
Ward Takes His Talents to 175
Andre Ward (28-0, 15 KO's) has pretty much cleaned out the super-middleweight closet and is now stepping up to meet the bigger boys at light heavyweight. The former 168-pound champ has been there and done all that there is to do in the sport of boxing. He captured Olympic gold in 2004 and held the WBA, WBC and Ring Magazine Super Middleweight titles before climbing to 175. When he makes his light heavyweight debut on March 26th it will be inside the familiar confines of the Oracle Arena, a venue he has fought in on seven previous occasions, located in his native Oakland, California.
Ward was a man amongst boys in his previous division but a spate of inactivity has cast doubt upon whether he remains as hungry as he once was. Ward has fought just three times in five years and as a result was stripped of his WBC and Ring titles. Ward voluntarily vacated his WBA crown to move up to 175 pounds. A rash of injuries as well as a blood feud with his departed promoter Dan Goosen has kept Ward from entering the squared circle regularly over the last several years but after 19 months of inactivity he looked sublime in his TKO victory over British pugilist Paul Smith at a catchweight of 172. Smith was a handpicked victim to be sure but Ward was as crisp, sharp and accurate as he has always been, even at the heavier weight and with plenty of ring rust to shed.
Barrera Belongs with the Best
Cuban born Sullivan Barrera (17-0, 12 KO's) is no joke and hasn't been simply beating the competition recently - he has been a house of destruction. Unlike his opponent on March 26th Barrera has been extremely active fighting seven times over the past two years, winning all except one by knockout or TKO. Barrera has fought big names in the past so meeting Andre Ward will not render him starry-eyed after amateur victories over future professional world champions like Mariano Carrera, Beibut Shumenov and Chad Dawson.
Barrera was in fine form in his last outing when he took on the IBF's International Light Heavyweight champ Karo Murat. Scheduled for 12 rounds Murat could only hang around for five before Barrera decided it was time to punch out. It was a dominant display by the Cuban who had sent Murat crashing to the canvas with a body shot in the previous round and then overwhelming him in the 5th round with blistering combinations before the referee mercifully called a halt to the action.
Andre Ward is moving up to middleweight at the age of 32-years-old and fighting a dangerous opponent without the requisite tune-ups at the new weight in his back pocket. He has fought only once at a catchweight of 172 and against another super middleweight in Paul Smith who is more suited for 168 than 175. Let's not forget that Smith, although a gutsy veteran, is not a world class fighter and if Ward was anything less than immaculate in that fight then chances are he might have abandoned his step up in weight class. That being said it is impossible to overlook his pedigree and the fact that a big money fight with light heavyweight champ Sergey Kovalev is looming if Ward starches Barrera or even decisions him convincingly.
Yet, I cannot help but consider that Barrera is a natural 175, an inch taller and owns a two inch reach advantage over Ward. He has certainly been far more active and this fight is just as crucial for the Cuban who understands that his window of opportunity is beginning to close at age 34 and needs a victory desperately to be viewed as a top contender to get his own payday with middleweight champion Sergey Kovalev.
Though Ward has a finer pedigree and a more varied arsenal, it is Barrera who will own the advantage in punching power and strength in the clinch. The boxing odds makers have not hung a line on this just yet but Sullivan Barrera could be a very live underdog to include in your boxing picks for March 26th. Go strong with Sullivan Barrera + money at 5Dimes.