INDIO, California, December 16, 2016 – Fans had to ask themselves what might have happened if the version of Cuban light heavyweight Sullivan Barrera who showed up Friday night at the Fantasy Springs Casino had showed up last March against Andre Ward.
Barrera and Ukrainian Vyacheslav Shabranskyy (17-1, 14 KOs) delivered an all-action fight for the seven rounds it lasted, ending when referee Ray Corona stopped the fight at 2:05 of the round. Barrera (18-1, 13 KOs) scored knockdowns in the first, fifth and seventh rounds of the fight, resulting in Shabranskyy’s first loss.
Shabranskyy has come back from the brink in previous fights, and it seemed early he might recover and do it again. He returned the favor by knocking down Barrera in the second round with a right hand of his own, staggering Barerra back as he fell to the canvas.
Barrera recovered, and as the two traded punches like much smaller men, Barrera delivered punches with far more accuracy, counterpunching as Shabranskyy tried to connect with jabs. After the bout, Barrera said his preparation watching video of Shabranskyy paid off.
“I watched video (of Shabranskyy) over and over. I knew when Slava popped his jab, he lunges, so I knew I could counter with my overhand right,” said Barrera.
Counter he did, and never let Shabranskyy have a chance to catch his breath and recover. When he took the final right-hand flush to the face, it was over even though he got to his feet.
“Of course we would never expect this,” said Slava Shabranskyy, obviously disappointed after the fight. “We will decide next steps after we get over this.”
“With this win, I proved all the people who bad mouthed me wrong,” said Barrera. “This win is for all the boxing fans outs there. I want to specifically thank my trainer, Derik Santos. He sat me down, we watched the tapes, and he said to me, ‘Sullivan, this is what you have to do to get the win. This proves that my career in boxing is alive. I want a rematch with Andre Ward.”
Barrera’s promoter, Kathy Duva of Main Events, was elated at Barrera’s victory. After watching Ward beat Barrera and get a disputed win over Barrera’s stablemate Sergey Kovalev, the win tonight was especially sweet. Duva said after the win, “Oh God yes, this is what it feels like. I mean, everyone hates to lose the way we did. That is something that has been pent up for weeks, I finally got to let it out,” laughed Duva.
Barrera delivered exactly the sort of performance he needed to restore some luster to his career. Give credit perhaps to the home cooking now that Barrera trains at home in Miami with Santos.
Duva didn’t rule out the possibility of pitting Barrera and Kovalev against each other at some point, though not right away. “Sergey Kovalev will be in a lot of great fights,” said Duva.
Welterweights “Speedy” Rashidi Ellis (17-0, 12 KOs) of Lynn, Massachusetts and Eddie Gomez (19-2, 11 KOs) from Bronx, New York and became the co-main event due to the cancellation of the Orozco vs. Maldonado bout, and Ellis made the most of the showcase, running toward Gomez at the opening bell, firing off right hands, scoring a scorching knockdown barely a minute into the fight. Gomez got to his feet, but Ellis moved in and finished him off at 1:19 of the first round. “I’m so excited I can hardly talk,” said Ellis. No need to worry, Ellis wins the IBF North American title and makes a statement about his future.
Southern California featherweight Ronny Rios (27-1, 12 KOs) dominated a game but outgunned Roy Tapia (12-2-2, 6 KOs), stopping Tapia when referee Ray Corona and Tapia’s corner stopped the fight after round six for a TKO win. Rios offered an impressive display of body punching followed by strategic strikes to the head from both sides. Rios was a significant step up in competition for the less experienced Tapia, and Rios appeared much bigger in the ring than Tapia.
Tapia was game and put in his best offensive effort before Rios’s superior firepower took over. “It was a body shot in the first round that really affected me,” Tapia. “After the fight, Ronny came up to me and told me to keep my head up, and to keep fighting. I’m going to listen to him.”
“I was just in there having fun,” said Rios. “I’m more aware of my surroundings – I could hear my coach, and relax my arms so much more. I was in the same position Roy is in now at one point in my career, and all I can say is that you learn so much more with a loss than you ever could with a win.” Rios is now in good position to get the chance to fight for the vacant WBC super bantamweight title previously held by Japanese champion Hozumi Hasegawa, who recently retired.
Non-televised undercard results:
Promising lightweight prospect Ryan Martin of Chattanooga, Tennessee (18-0, 11 KOs) produced another strong performance to open the night with a stoppage of Yardley Suarez (19-6, 10 KOs) of Sacramento. Martin has a crowd pleasing, power punching style and a calm approach that will serve him well as his opposition gets tougher. “The moment I saw him go down, I knew that it was my time to go hard on him,” said Martin. “It’s always an exciting moment to remain undefeated, and I’m looking forward to more things to come.”
Alexis Rocha (6-0, 4 KOs) of Santa Ana, California had the upper hand in all four rounds over opponent Abraham Calderon (1-4) of Los Angeles, dropping him in the second and third rounds with snapping left hooks before getting the unanimous decision. Rocha, 19 and the younger brother of Ronny Rios who also won tonight. “He was a tough fighter, and even though his record wasn’t spotless, he was never stopped before,” said Rocha. “I was expecting a rough road, and I am happy with the two times I made him hit the floor. I’m a heavy welterweight, and I’m only 19 so I have a lot to learn.”
Super lightweight Vergil Ortiz Jr. (3-0) of Dallas impressed fans landing a solid right cross to the head of Nestor Garcia of Mexico (0-2), scoring a one-punch knockout at 3:00 of the first round to remain undefeated.
Hometown favorite Javier Padilla (2-0, 1 KOs) of Indio scored a second-round knockout of Jose Mora (0-2) of Tijuana in their super bantamweight fight.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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