Ward schools Barrera, Diaz dominates Velez Saturday

Ward schools Barrera, Diaz dominates Velez Saturday

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Greatness never rusts. Let the drumbeat begin for the light heavyweight showdown everyone wants to see between Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev.

Andre Ward made an impressive debut at light heavyweight Saturday against Sullivan Barrera. Photo: Courtesy Roc Nation Sports
With Steph Curry looking on at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Andre Ward made an impressive debut at light heavyweight Saturday against Sullivan Barrera. Photo: Courtesy Roc Nation Sports

SAN DIEGO, March 26, 2016 – American Andre Ward (29-0, 15 KOs) showed he’s just as skilled at light heavyweight as he was at super middleweight, having little trouble with Cuban Sullivan Barrera (17-1, 12 KOs) to the delight of his hometown Oakland fans including one Steph Curry ringside. Ward won a unanimous decision by scores of 119-109, 117-109 and 117-108.

Ring rust? Slower due to moving up in weight? Questions about his power? Asked and answered: no, no, and no. Ward didn’t look like someone coming off a nine month layout and being largely inactive for the past few years. Ward’s speed and defensive skills were completely on point. Barrera could never land anything substantial on Ward.

See video highlights of the fight here:

Ward and trainer Virgil Hunter didn’t get the statement making stoppage they wanted. But Ward did raise his voice in the ring with a nifty left hook to the top of Barrera’s head putting him on the canvas in the third round. Ward controlled the pace, landing solid left hooks to the head and body of Barrera.

Barrera’s trainer Abel Sanchez implored Barrera to get busier in the ring, and he tried. Ward doesn’t allow many opportunities. When they do come, Ward shows he’s got a great chin to go with his precision and technique, which makes his so daunting to any opponent.

Ward gave himself a B-minus after the fight for his first performance at light heavyweight, alluding to his recent layoff with HBO’s Max Kellerman. “It’s been a while since we’ve been on this side of the microphone, it feels great … I told you guys I wouldn’t use the layoff as an excuse, but the more you fight the better you get. He was tough and hungry and so was I,” said Ward of Barrera.

Ward said he’s like to work on getting his punches off a little more. He admitted he wanted the knockout, leading to him being more flat footed than usual. “Not intentionally, but in the back of my mind I wanted to prove something. Virgil wanted me to move, but I wanted to be there … I’ve been through my battles inside and outside the ring and you just get more efficient as a fighter.”

Ward landed 166 of 463 punches (36 percent) including 100 of 229 power punches (44 percent). Barrera landed 111 of 722 punches thrown (15 percent), with 65 of 348 power punches (19 percent).

The answer to the question on everyone’s mind was sitting ringside right in front of Steph Curry in the person of light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev. Ward versus Kovalev is tentatively inked for later this year, perhaps with one more tune-up bout first. “You know me Max, it’s ever a problem. Look at my track record, I always want to fight the best. He’s the man at light heavyweight, it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.”

Let the drumbeat begin for this fight, one boxing fans put right at the top of their wish list. It would be smart for Ward to have one more fight at light heavyweight first. Who should it be? Possible choices include Colombian Eleiader Alvarez now fighting out of Montreal, Quebec, who is undefeated at 19-0. 10 KOs but not tremendous punching power. Also based in Montreal, Artur Beterbiev of Russia would give Ward a look at someone similar to Kovalev though not as experience. He has won all nine professional fights by knockout. Let the matchmaking begin.

On the undercard, top featherweight contender Joseph “Jojo” Diaz Jr. (20-0, 11 KOs) of Los Angeles took the next important step in his career with an excellent performance against Jayson “La Maravilla” Velez (23-3-1, 16 KOs) of Puerto Rico to retain his NABF Featherweight belt by unanimous decision. Scores were 100-91, 99-91 and 98-93 for the 10 round bout.

See highlights of Diaz’s victory here:

Diaz mixed up shots nicely, landing his impressive left hook to the head and body of Velez. Diaz has excellent speed and accuracy. Many of his best shots are counterpunches that neutralize his opponent. He landed an impressive 52 percent of all his punches in the fight. Velez never gave up and landed several good shots on Diaz, but it wasn’t enough to make a dent in the Diaz attack.

Diaz is a rising star in Oscar De La Hoya’s stable, and you’ll be seeing plenty of his in the months and years to come. The only weapon he lacks is one punch lights out power, and with all the rest of his tools it’s not a must. One of his admirers is lightweight champion Jorge Linares, quite an endorsement of Diaz’s promise.

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. Gayle can be reached via Google +

Copyright © 2016 by Falcon Valley Group


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