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Sullivan Barrera agrees to face Beterbiev in IBF eliminator

Artur Beterbiev boxing photo

By Allan Fox: #9 IBF Sullivan Barrera (18-1, 13 KOs) has agreed to fight unbeaten #2 Artur Beterbiev (11-0, 11 KOs) in an IBF light heavyweight title eliminator. Barrera’s promoters at Main Event announced the news on Friday, along with Beterbiev. The winner of the Beterbiev vs. Barrera fight will be the mandatory challenger to IBF 175lb champion Andre Ward. Beterbiev has had problems getting one of the contenders in the IBF’s ratings to agree to fight him in the eliminator.

Beterbiev sent a tweet earlier today saying that Barrera wasn’t going to take the fight. He was then going to see if #10 IBF Oleksandr Gvozdyk would agree the fight. Beterbiev said he didn’t think he would agree to it. Beterbiev would have needed to keep working down the list if not for the 34-year-old Barrera agreeing to fight him.

This is a good fight for the sport of boxing, because Beterbiev and Barrera are accomplished amateurs.

Here’s what Beterbiev had to say today about Barrera agreeing to fight him:

“Artur Beterbiev: The events are changing very fast. We just got the confirmation that Sullivan Barrera insisted on the fight and it will take place. I would like to thank Sullivan that he had his final say in the negotiations. He proved to be a real fighter. I hope the amateurs of the boxing will enjoy the fight! As the Russian proverb goes: “Let the strongest win”. Last, but not least I wish to thank the promoters for their agreement to organize the eliminator bout. Have an excellent evening!”

Barrera looked great in his last fight on December 16 in beating the highly rated Ukrainian Vyacheslav Sharbanskyy by a 7th round knockout in Indio, California. Barrera knocked Shabrankyy down three times in the fight before the match was finally stopped. However, Barrera was knocked down by Shabranskyy in round 2 of the fight.

That obviously wasn’t good to see Barrera getting dropped by Shabranskyy, because the Ukrainian fighter didn’t come from a boxing background. He was a kick boxer. The fact that he was able to drop Barrera doesn’t say much about the Cuban fighter. It also doesn’t say much about Barrera’s chances against a fighter as powerful and skilled as Beterbiev.

The win for Barrera over Shabranskyy was his first victory since his loss to Andre Ward in December 2015. Barrera lost that fight by a 12 round unanimous decision by the scores 117-108, 119-109 and 117-109. Barrera was out of the ring for nine months until facing Shabranskyy in December.

Barrera responded with this tweet:

“I want to fight A Beterbiev,” said Barrera. “I tell my teal also @IBFUSAboxing I want this combat.”

Main Events, the promoters for Barrera, confirmed the news with the following Tweet:
“Some news: We have informed IBF that Sullivan Barrera will participate in eliminator for ##1 spot, likely against ABeterbiev (currently #2).”

There’s no likely about who Barrera will be facing. It’s definitely going to be Beterbiev. You’ve got to wish Barrera a lot luck, because he’s going to need it. This is not a good match-up for Barrera, because Barrera struggled with Ward when he was on the inside with him in their fight in January 2016. Unless Barrera can show some hidden talent that he hasn’t displayed in any of his other fights since turning pro in 2009.

If Barrera beats Barrera, then he’ll be set to get a rematch against Andre Ward. That doesn’t mean that fight will happen again though, because Ward is talking about wanting to potentially retire from boxing. If Ward does continue his career, he’ll need to beat Sergey Kovalev in a rematch for Barrera to have a chance of fighting him again.

You can argue that a win for Barrera over Beterbiev may increase the chances of Ward holding onto his IBF title, because I get the feeling that he might not take a fight against the Russian fighter. It’s just not a good match-up for Ward to face a guy with the inside skills and the punching power of a fighter like Beterbiev. Kovalev didn’t know how to fight Ward on the inside. He didn’t have the skillset to deal with the grappling that Ward used during their fight on November 19. That’s where Beterbiev differs from Kovalev. He does know how to fight on the inside, and he’s got huge punching power.

Beterbiev beat Isido Ranoni Prieto by a 1st round knockout in his last fight. Beterbiev knocked Prieto down with a perfectly timed right hand that put him down. When Preito got back up, Beterbiev finished him off with several shots to the head. It wasn’t a fluke knockout for Beterbiev. The way that he was punching, he would have knocked Prieto out if the fight had gone to the 2nd round. Beterbiev was punching with too much power.

Barrera is going to need to find some way to deal with the raw power and talent that Beterbiev has going for him, because I think he’s over-matched in this fight. Barrera is a good fighter, but he’s still a pretty flawed guy, as we saw in his fights with Ward and Shabranskyy. Barrera is good against certain guys, but he’s not really solid enough for him to get past a fighter as good as Beterbiev in this writer’s opinion.

Beterbiev could be getting a title shot against the winner of the Ward-Kovalev fight in 2017 if their rematch comes off. It doesn’t, then Beterbiev should still get a crack at the belt.

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