Andre Ward won the Super 6 Tournament back in 2011. After his unanimous decision win over Carl Froch to claim the trophy, he was considered one of the best. Almost a year later he defeated Chad Dawson and appeared to be the highly touted fighter everyone thought he was.
He didn't follow up that huge victory with Dawson with another big fight. Instead he was out of the ring for over a year before fighting then 24-0 Edwin Rodriguez. That would be the last time Ward was in the ring for over a year. He didn't fight in 2014 at all. Finally he made a long awaited comeback in 2015. He defeated Paul Smith by TKO on May 20, 2015.
Everyone could see after the Super 6 Tournament that Andre Ward was as skilled and polished as any fighter in the game. The inactivity had made him somewhat a forgotten fighter. Between injuries and contract disputes the boxing community wondered if he wasn't another what-might-have-been story. With the departure of Floyd Mayweather it left boxing with a huge spot to fill. Many feel that Ward was the man to fill the spot.
His 2015 bout with Paul Smith was a nice fight to come back with, but it's not the level of opposition that he'd been fighting. Ward had built a Hall of Fame career by the age of thirty. We're now approaching another year since his fight with Smith and Ward has been looking for that big fight. Time is not on his side anymore but if he never would've fought again he'd created one helluva resume. What he really needed was a big fight.
He tried to make a fight with Gannady Golovkin, another fighter that had made a huge name for himself. That fight didn't happen due to Golovkin not wanting to go up in weight, despite the fact that the best fighters didn't want to fight him at middleweight. Ward had asked to meet him at a catch weight in the middle, but Golovkin refused to move up to take the fight. Some fight fans turned against the surging Golovkin for not doing so.
So where did this leave Andre Ward?
There were those who wondered why Ward would meet Golovkin at a catch weight, but didn't want to take a fight in the other direction with light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev at a catch weight.
The fans these fighters would take it in all different directions. This guy is ducking that guy, but is willing to fight that guy. These fighters realize that they're only going to be in the top spot for so long, and it's business above all else. They want the most reward for the least risk.
Gannady Glovkin was willing to fight middleweight champion Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez, but unwilling to fight Andre Ward.
Ward was allegedly willing to fight Golovkin, but was unwilling to fight Kovalev.
Canelo is willing to fight Golovkin, but he wanted another fight beforehand, and he recently announced he'd fight welterweight Amir Khan. (Boxing fans were like...WTF?)
Kovalev said after his win over Jean Pascal that he wanted to fight Andre Ward, but said he wanted to unify the belts with a Adonis Stevenson fight. So like Ward said it's not a matter of if he fights Kovalev but when.
So with all the movement Andre Ward had to make a fight. He needed a fight that was better than the Paul Smith fight. So in comes undefeated Sullivan Barrera at 17-0.
Sullivan Barrera vs. Jeff Lacy
Sullivan Barrera vs. Karo Murat
Sullivan Barrera is 17-0 at 33 years old, but has an extensive amateur background. He's the first fighter that Ward has taken at the light heavyweight limit. This would definitely be preparing him for a bigger fight against Kovalev. Barrera is a tough fighter and is not a automatic win such as Paul Smith had been.
Sullivan Barrera is a boxer-puncher that can get his opponents out of there. He's not afraid to let the hands go, but has really good movement and longer arms that keep in position to strike. I think he has a real shot at upsetting Ward in his own backyard. Boxing fans didn't get the fight that they wanted, but they got a great fight that they weren't expecting.
Andre Ward made this fight knowing the Kovalev fight is in his future. There's a good chance that he could lose to Barrera and then it would no doubt be Barrera getting that title shot against Kovalev. This is not just a tune up fight before he takes on the champion Kovalev. Barrera has a real shot here. He's a live contender who's been calling Ward out for this opportunity.