Sullivan Barrera wants Bivol next after Valera
By Tim Royner: Sullivan Barrera (20-1, 14 KOs) says his next target after tonight’s fight against Felix Valera (15-1, 13 KOs) is a title shot against WBA World light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol (12-0, 10 KOs).
Barrera, 35, is ranked No.1 with the WBA, and he’s in line to be the next opponent for Bivol. Barrera prefers that fight than chasing the winner of tonight’s contest between Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev and Vyacheslav Shabranskyy, who are fighting for the vacant WBO light heavyweight title in the main event on the same card as Barrera at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Barrera is not overlooking his opponent Valera, 29, tonight. Barrera highly respects Valera, and views him as a very good opponent. This is going to be a war from start to finish. Both guys can punch, and both have excellent boxing skills and amateur experience. Valera is a little younger than the 35-year-old Barrera, but the two of them are closer to the same age in terms of how they’re fighting right now. Barrera is more like a guy in his late 20s than someone in his mid-30s. He’s aging well.
“I’m ready to fight with [Bivol], because I’m the No.1 with the WBA. I’m the mandatory for Bivol,” said Barrera to Theboxingvoice.com.
It makes sense for Barrera to be going after Bivol rather than the Kovalev-Shabranskyy winner, because he might not have much luck in getting the winner of that fight to face him. It’s generally believed that Kovalev will either attempt a unification fight against IBF champion Artur Beterbiev next or he’ll make an easy voluntary defense so he can milk his title. Barrera is too dangerous for a guy like Kovalev to fight as a voluntary challenger. Shabranskyy has already been knocked out by Barrera last year in December, so he’s not likely going to fight him if he can get his hands on the vacant WBO belt tonight.
”I respect him. He’s a great boxer too,” said Barrera about Valera. ”We will put on a great show for the boxing fans.”
Barrera has a chance to outshine Kovalev and Shabranskyy in their main event fight. With Barrera coming on directly before them in the co-feature bout against Valera, he can leave an impression on the minds of the boxing fans that tune in to see the fight on HBO Boxing. A great performance by Barrera can make a name for himself, as this card is going to be seen by a lot of fans. There will be a lot of curious fans tuning in tonight to see if Kovalev can return to his former glory after 2 losses to Andre Ward. Barrera is poised to steal the show with his fight against Valera. If nothing else, Barrera will put a lot of pressure on Kovalev to perform at a high level against Shabranskyy so that he’s not upstaged by Barrera.
Barrera’s promoter Kathy Duva feels that he’s going to have a tough time against Valera, who can punch and box. He’s a highly skilled fighter that can do a lot of things inside the ring. Barrera will have to adapt during the fight if he wants to get through this fight without suffering a disappointing loss.
Sullivan will have his hands full with Felix Valera, a knockout artist with 13 knockouts in his 15 professional wins,” said Duva. ”His only loss is to the man waiting in line for the winner of this fight, Dmitry Bivol. This is the first professional bout in the United States for Felix.”
Barrera has won his last 3 bouts following a loss last year to Andre Ward on March 26, 2016. Barrera made it tough on Ward with his combination punching once he was able to close the distance. The judges were more impressed with the single shots that Ward was hitting Barrera with when he was attacking him. Ward would land one nice shots, and then defend against Barrera’s big combination punches. Barrera made the fight closer than the scores would indicate. Ward knocked Barrera down in round 3 when the two were in close. It was a flash knockdown. Barrera wasn’t ready for the shot that Ward hit him with on the inside, which caused him to lose his balance and fall to the canvas. Since that loss, Barrera has come back nicely to beat the following fighters:
• Vyacheslav Shabranskyy – KO 7
• Paul Parker – TKO 5
• Joe Smith Jr. – UD 10
Barrera’s recent one-sided 10 round unanimous decision win over the highly ranked Joe Smith Jr. was a nice one. Going into that fight, there were a lot of boxing fans that believed that Smith Jr. was going to win. The fans that that it would be a close match, but Smith’s youth and power would ultimately prevail. In the 1st round, it looked like Smith was going to overpower Barrera, as he dropped him. However, Barrera got up and immediately took the fight to Smith Jr., and he ended up dominating the 28-year-old for the remainder of the fight. What boxing fans thought would be a close fight turned out to be a one-sided affair with Barrera having his way with Smith Jr. in the last 9 rounds of the fight.