Andre Ward Outpoints Sullivan Barrera, Awaits Sergey Kovalev
Andre Ward was good enough in his light heavyweight debut to beat Sullivan Barrera. He knows he’ll need to be much better if he faces Sergey Kovalev.
Kovalev vs. Ward is expected to happen later in 2016, putting one of the two best 175-pound fighters of today against the best 168-pounder of recent years.
Ward won Olympic gold as a light heavyweight (which in the amateurs has a 178-pound limit) and had fought as high as 172 pounds as a pro. Otherwise he’d made his name as a super middleweight, beating Mikkel Kessler, Arthur Abraham and Carl Froch, among others.
Yet he’d barely fought since that 2011 win over Froch. He’d stopped Chad Dawson in 2012 when Dawson, then the champion at 175, moved down to 168 to challenge Ward. He’d also won a decision over Edwin Rodriguez in 2013 and a technical knockout over Paul Smith in 2015. Injuries, as well as battles with his now-former (and since-deceased) promoter, had largely left him inactive.
That showed against Barrera. Ward was still skilled enough to control distance and pace, out-boxing and out-landing Barrera. He limited Barrera’s opportunities. He knocked Barrera down with a left hook to the side of the head in the third round. He wasn’t at his best, but he nevertheless won wide on the scorecards: 119-109, 117-109 and 117-108. Ward is now 29-0 with 15 KOs. Barrera is now 17-1 with 12 KOs.
Ward landed an average of just 12 punches per round. It’s one thing to frustrate a decent but limited contender like Barrera. It’ll take sharper punching and even better footwork if Ward is to have a chance against Kovalev, who has heavy hands and who showed against Bernard Hopkins that he has underrated boxing ability, too.
Then again, Kovalev has never faced anyone at light heavyweight like who Ward was at super middleweight.
Granted, the Ward we saw at 175 against Barrera didn’t look like the Ward of 168. But Ward still has several months — and perhaps one more tune-up fight — to ensure that the Ward who fought Barrera won’t return when he faces Kovalev.
Joseph Diaz Remains Undefeated With Decision Over Velez
Joseph “JoJo” Diaz Jr. won’t be the first member of America’s 2012 Olympic boxing team to challenge for a world title. That privilege belonged to bantamweight Rau’shee Warren. He also isn’t yet getting the kind of acclaim that is being heaped upon another teammate, rising contender Errol Spence.
None of that matters. Diaz isn’t in competition with them, but rather with the rest of the 126-pound division. And the 23-year-old continued his rise through the featherweight ranks with a unanimous decision victory over Jayson Velez on the televised undercard to Andre Ward vs. Sullivan Barrera.
Velez was meant to provide a good test. He did — and Diaz passed it.
Velez came out aggressively and was able to open a cut underneath Diaz’s right eye early on. Diaz responded well. His hand speed and timing allowed him to land crisp, accurate overhand lefts on Velez from the second round on. He built up a lead on the scorecards. He handled Velez’s attempts at regaining control. He fought through another cut, this one bleeding from above his right eye beginning in the eighth.
The scores were 100-91, 99-91 and 98-92 in his favor. Diaz improved to 20-0 with 11 KOs. He can’t yet be considered on the same level as featherweights like Vasyl Lomachenko, Gary Russell Jr. and Leo Santa Cruz. That’s fine. It’s still early. There’s still plenty of time.
Velez is now 23-2-1 with 16 KOs and has dropped two in a row, including a decision loss last November to Ronny Rios. He’s come up short every time he’s stepped up; the draw came against then-titleholder Evgeny Gradovich in 2014.
Kell Brook Defends Title With Easy Night Against Kevin Bizier
Kell Brook put forth exactly the kind of performance expected of him, battering Kevin Bizier for about five minutes, scoring two knockdowns and winning a second-round technical knockout in front of his hometown crowd in the British city of Sheffield.
It’s not just that Brook holds a world title at 147 pounds and is believed to be one of the best in the division. It’s also that Bizier never belonged in the same ring as someone like Brook.
Bizier became the mandatory challenger to Brook’s title after topping an undefeated prospect named Fredrick Lawson last year. Yet neither Bizier nor Lawson were anything approaching world-class. Just because a boxer earns a title shot doesn’t mean he actually deserves it.
That’s why it was predicted that Brook would have little difficulty beating Bizier. That prediction came true.
Bizier came forward but barely touched Brook in the first round. Brook moved and threw and barely missed. About halfway through the second round, Bizier telegraphed an attack with his left hand. Brook saw it coming, evaded it and then countered with a right hand that shook Bizier. Brook followed up and soon Bizier was down. Bizier rose, only to be felled once more by Brook’s onslaught. He tried to get up again but appeared too unsteady for the referee to even give him a chance to continue.
Bizier is now 25-3 with 17 KOs. His other two defeats came in decisions lost to Jo Jo Dan, whom Brook similarly obliterated last year. Brook is now 36-0 with 25 KOs and has now made three successful defenses of the belt he captured from Shawn Porter back in 2014.
Brook called out several top American welterweights afterward, including Timothy Bradley (whose third fight with Manny Pacquiao is in April), Danny Garcia, Porter and Keith Thurman, the latter two of which will face each other in June. It also wouldn’t be a surprise to see him in a showdown sometime soon with Errol Spence, a rising contender who faces Chris Algieri in April.
Brook is considered among the best at 147. Fights against any of those names would help turn that opinion into proven fact.