As if there was any real doubt, Andre “S.O.G.” Ward defeated Cuban-American Sullivan Barrera last Saturday live on HBO at the Oracle Arena in his hometown of Oakland, California via a unanimous decision.
The 12-round affair was a world title light heavyweight elimination bout and saw the 32-year old Ward (29-0, 15 KOs) dominate practically every round. All three judges scored the fight wide for Ward, 119-109, 117-109 and 117-108.
This was Ward’s debut at Light Heavyweight (175lbs) after demolishing the Super Middleweight division (168lbs) for his entire career. He earned $1.85 million for the fight, and Barrera earned $450,000.
His last fight was at a catch-weight of 172lbs against Britain’s Paul Smith, a matchup designed to test his abilities at a higher weight class before entering the race for Light Heavyweight champion, Sergey Kovalev’s title.
Ward now has a contract in place, according to ESPN, for a November 19th showdown against Kovalev, likely on HBO Pay Per View. With his win against the 34-year old Barrera, Ward is now the mandatory challenger for Kovalev’s IBF Light Heavyweight belt.
Normally regarded as the heir apparent to the retired Floyd Mayweatheras the pound-for-pound best fighter on the planet, Ward, who is not known for his power, fought a much bigger man in Barrera and landed a hard, short left hook to the top of Barrera's head in the third round that sent him to the mat.
Golden State Warriors star point guard Stephen Curry stood up from his seat with sheer satisfaction at the knock down.
Barrera (17-1, 12 KOs), who trains at The Summit in Big Bear, California with Gennady “GGG” Golovkin under trainer Abel Sanchez, had little offense to offer Ward, who landed beautiful left hooks and accurate jabs.
Ward landed a powerful left hook to the body in the eighth round that dropped Barrera, but the shot strayed a tad low, and referee Raul Caiz Sr. called it a low blow, deducted a point from Ward.
In the 10th round, an accidental head butt opened a cut over Ward's left eye, however, Ward adjusted, staying in control and rocking Barrera with a right hand with a minute left in the 12th round.
Ward landed 166 of 463 punches (36 percent), and Barrera landed 111 of 722 (15 percent) according to CompuBox punch statistics.
Kovalev (29-0-1, 26 KOs), 32, is planning to fight in June against an opponent to be determined, possibly in Russia, and there is also a chance that Ward might fight once more before they meet, according to ESPN.
Kovalev had predicted this eventual showdown before, when calling out the elusive Adonis Stevenson after defeating Jean Pascal during his last fight in January.
Many have called for Ward to fight rising superstar, Gennady “GGG” Golovkin at Middleweight, however that fight has not materialized.
Ward seems primed to position himself for legendary status as a Middleweight and Light heavyweight champion if he can dethrone the powerful Kovalev.