Andre Ward did what he was supposed to do -- even coming off a nine-month layoff. He chopped up the terribly overmatched Sullivan Barrera (17-1, 12 KOs) Saturday night from the Oracle Arena, in Oakland, California, on HBO.
Ward (29-0, 15 KOs), making his light heavyweight debut, had one minor snafu. He hit Barrera low in the eighth round, and referee Raul Caiz Sr. felt compelled to take a point from “S.O.G.”
Otherwise, Andre Ward was still Andre Ward. He countered punched well, and each time Barrera tried loading up with a big shot, Ward had already struck the Cuban expatriate with the extensive amateur background in the face, or to the body with a left hook or a counter straight right hand. It was a nasty left hook that caught Barrera on the top of the head that resulted in the fight’s only knockdown in the third round.
The judges were all in agreement giving Ward a unanimous 12-round decision: Bill Lerch had it 117-108, Steve Morrow scored it 119-109 and Pat Russell had a 117-109 tally all for Ward.
CompuBox bore out Ward’s domination. He landed 166 of 463 total shots (36%) to Barrera’s 111-722 (15%). In the power shot department, Ward connected on 100-229 (44%), to Barrera’s 65-348 (19%) and the jabs also went to Ward, 66-234 (28%) while Barrera landed a mere 46 of 374 jabs (12%).
Initially, Ward came out flat footed.
“In the back of my mind, maybe I wanted to prove something, because Virgil (Hunter, Ward’s trainer) asked me to get on my toes a little more,” Ward said. “I think it’s age and experience. I’ve been through my battles and you evolve and become more efficient as a fighter, and that’s what you’re seeing right now.
“I probably grade myself a B-minus, I wouldn’t use the layoff as an excuse on any level. But the more you fight, the sharper you get and there are certain things that I wanted to do that I didn’t do tonight. But it just shows that maybe not even being my best, we can still get it done. I wanted to get my punches off a little bit more. I feel if I could have got the right shots in, we could have stopped him. And getting off more combinations and tightening more things up.”
During the ninth round, with Ward still very much in control, Hunter told HBO’s Max Kellerman, “(Andre) boxed a good fight. I thought Sullivan was more defensive with the pot shots. Andre is slowly evolving into who he is, and he’s evolving enough naturally like that, and his range and distance is right for (Barrera’s) type of style. But if he needs to move, he can do it. I would really see him make a statement. I’m looking forward for him to make a statement.”
Early in the 10th, Ward’s left eye was cut across his eyebrow on an accidental headbutt, not by a punch.
Entering the 12th, Hunter had implored his fighter to finish Barrera, who came off a strong 11th, his best round in the fight.
“This is where you lay a trap, I want you to walk him, understand, so he’ll commit and lay the trap, because he has to go for a knockout,” Hunter told Ward between the 11th and 12th rounds. “This is where he’ll leave himself open. Keep the hands where they’re supposed to be this round. Keep your feet. Make him pay for a mistake.”
In the 12th, Ward delivered a straight right that caught Barrera on the chin. It did take some time before he landed the shot, but he showed he is able to pull the trigger on something substantial.
With Sergey Kovalev seated ringside, Ward said he had no problem with that fight.
“You know me, it’s never a problem, you look at my track record, I want to fight the best, I’ve always fought the best,” Ward said. “Sergey Kovalev is a great champion. He’s the man at light heavyweight. It’s not a matter of if, I just think it’s when. I’ll let my team work that out (whether he needs another fight before Kovalev). I’ve been focusing on Sullivan Barrera and I couldn’t think of anything else. This is done so we’ll put on our focus on that right now.”
Joseph Santoliquito is the president of the Boxing Writer's Association of America and a frequent contributor to Sherdog.com's mixed martial arts and boxing coverage. His archive can be found here.
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