Sullivan Barrera defeats Felix Valera – Results
By Stanley White: Light heavyweight contender Sullivan Barrera (21-1, 14 KOs) took advantage of an over-punitive referee Michael Ortega run amok to defeat Felix Valera (15-2, 13 KOs) by an unimpressive 10 round unanimous decision on Saturday night on HBO Championship Boxing at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Both fighters hit the deck in round 1. Valera landed a hard left to the jaw of Barrera that put him down. In the final seconds of the round, Barrera returned the favor in landing a glancing left hand that caused Valera to lose his balance.
The judges scored the fight 98-99, 97-90 and 97-89.
The referee seemed to go way overboard in taking points away from Valera for low blows. Of the 4 low blows Valera landed in the fight, he had 3 point deductions. Barrera appeared to milk it each time he was hit low by backing away and taking a knee to show the referee that he was hit low.
It’s unclear why the referee chose to take points away from almost every low blow Valera threw in the fight, as I don’t think I’ve ever seen a fight in which a referee took points away nearly every time a fighter was hit low.
The point deductions from Valera came in round 3, 6 and 8. With the referee taking points away at the drop of the hat, you have to wonder why he didn’t go one step further and just disqualify Valera.
Later in the fight, the referee took a point away from Barrera for landing a low blow in the 9th round. Barrera had gotten away with 2 low blows earlier in the fight without being penalized.
Valera seemed to lose confidence in himself after he started being deducted for points.
With the way Barrera fought against Valera, it’s difficult to tell how well he would do against WBA champion Dmitry Bivol. Barrera looked easy to hit against Valera. Barrera will need to fix his leaky defense for him to have a chance against Bivol. If this is going to be a fight in which both guys are trading power shots, like we saw with the Barrera-Valera fight, then there’s no way that Barrera can beat Bivol if there isn’t a knockout or knockdown. Bivol hits harder than Barrera, and those shots will win rounds with the judges. Barrera seems to have a decent chin, but he goes down when he’s hit harder. Vyacheslav Shabranskyy, Andre Ward and Valera all had him down. If they were able to knock Barrera down, then you can assume that Bivol will do the same thing to him.
It would have been a good fight to see how well Valera would have done against Barrera without all the point deductions from low blows in the fight. The percentage of point deductions for the low blows that were thrown by Valera in the fight is the highest I’ve ever seen before in a boxing match. Of the 4 low blows Valera threw in the fight, he was penalized 3 times. That’s unheard of in boxing. I saw Barrera throw 3 low blows, and he lost only 1 point. The point deductions weren’t as high for when Barrera was guilty of throwing low blows. I think one reason for this is because Valera wasn’t going into theatrics each time he was hit low the way Barrera was. I think that made the difference.
For Barrera, this isn’t new with him letting the referee know when he’s been hit low. He’s done in the past, and it seems to work. I just don’t know that Barrera will be able to win fights like this when he starts facing the more talented fighters in the light heavyweight division. 175 lb. champion Artur Beterbiev and Dmitry Bivol don’t throw a lot of body shots, and when they do, they place them well. They don’t throw a lot of blows. Barrera is going to have to figure out a way to beat those guys, because he’s not going to luck out with a referee that takes points away each time he’s hit low. Barrera has got to be able to win without help, which he got plenty of against Valera by the overinvolved referee.
“It was a tough, awkward fight,” said Barrera. “I have beaten two of the three light heavyweights shown on HBO. I’m just waiting to finally get the opportunity I deserve.”
Besides beating fringe contender Valera, Barrera has recent wins over Joe Smith Jr. and Vyacheslav Shabranskyy. Those are technically contenders in the light heavyweight division, but they’re not in the same league as Dmitry Bivol, Artur Beterbiev and Adonis Stevenson. Barrera’s main concern right now is Bivol. He’s the WBA 175 lb. champion, and that’s the guy that Barrera will be fighting next. It’s not a good sign that Valera dropped Barrera with one his hard shots in the opening round of the fight. Bivol hits harder than Valera, and he’ll be a lot busier than him. Bivol did a better job beating Valera than Barrera did.
With the win, Barrera will now be fighting for a world title against WBA light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol in 2018. Barrera will need to fight a lot better in that match than he did tonight, because he’s unlikely to have a referee takes points away each time he’s hit low. Barrera has to show a lot better boxing skills and chin if he wants to unseat Bivol.