Photos Stephanie Trapp/Ezra Shaw Getty Images
It might be time to readjust those pound for pound rankings. Andre “SOG” Ward 29-0 (15KO’s) made a statement tonight in his first foray into the light heavy weight division by dominating Cuban Sullivan Barrera 17-1 (12KO’s) en-route to a unanimous decision on scores of 119-109, 117-109, and 117-108.
A constant target for criticism (often deserved) for inactivity, Ward came into the fight with a chip on his shoulder saying “No one is more invested in my career than me”. Invested he is, and it looks like he invested intelligently during his time away because there wasn’t an iota of rust to be found in the timing, speed, and movement of Ward.
In a performance that echoed the dominance of the contender that took the super middleweight division by storm in a dominant dismantling of all comers in the Super Six tournament, Ward was quicker, and tougher than the game Barrera.
Ward landed a hard left hook in the third round as the two were breaking from a clinch that sent Barrera down to the seat of his pants. As the fight wore on Ward would use the distance to catch Barrera’s long punches and counter as he would catch and shoot all night then smother the power of the rangy Cuban. In the eighth a body shot sent Barrera down that was ruled a low blow by referee Raul Caiz. Caiz amazingly deducted a point from Ward without warning but it would matter little.
An accidental head butt opened up a cut on left eye of Ward in the tenth round but it wouldn’t stop the onslaught of beady and head combinations that Ward was dishing out. After the fight Ward graded himself “Probably a B-minus, because I told you I wouldn’t use the layoff as an excuse on any level, but the reality is, the more you fight, the sharper you get, there were things I wanted to do that I didn’t do tonight. I wanted to get my punches off a little bit more. If we could’ve got the right shots in, we could’ve stopped him.”
Landing 166 of 463 for 36% according to compubox Ward dominated the higher less effective output of Barrera who landed 111 of 722 for 15%.
Its official, Joseph Diaz Jr. has arrived to the elite level of boxing. Puerto Rican Jayson Velez 23-2-1 (16KO’s) was to be the toughest test for the young Diaz 20-0 (11KO’s) and it looked like the 2012 Olympian studied before pounding Velez on his way to a unanimous decision victory.
Diaz started hard and fast landing accurate combinations from his southpaw stance to the head and body of Velez. Velez would land shots of his own and opened up a cut on the top and bottom of the right eye of Diaz. Firing upstairs and downstairs Diaz had the a visible speed and power advantage landing 245 of 658 punches according to compubox but it was Velez who threw more punches landing 161 of 685 thrown.
Despite dominating the first half of the fight Velez would have good moments in the second half only to be quelled by return fire coming from the fists of Diaz as he rolled to victory on scores of 100-99, 99-91, and 98-92. Despite the scores being so wide Velez acquitted himself well enough to keep himself in the mix for the dearth of good featherweight prospects and will undoubtedly serve as an elite level gatekeeper slash spoiler in the future.
Following the fight Diaz said “I knew Jayson was going to be a warrior in the ring and was going to be at 110%. I prepared very well for him. I was in better shape, and I landed the most effective blows and combinations.
Velez was quoted: “He was tough, tougher than I thought he was going to be. I thought that I was going to finish him in the fifth or sixth round, but unfortunately that wasn’t the result tonight.”