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Could the Cuban Cause Crisis For Ward?

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The plan in motion does not call for Sullivan Barrera to beat Andre Ward on Saturday night in Oakland and on HBO.

There is obviously no conspiracy we are talking about, no secret impediments to derail the Cuban boxer, of course.

It’s just that the grander plan calls for Ward to beat Barrera, take one more “warmup” and then engage in one of the two or three most anticipated boxing matches of 2016, against Sergey Kovalev.

It should go without saying that Team Barrera would likely object to the term “warmup” when speaking of their dude tussling with the 28-0 (15 KOs) Ward.

The 17-0 (12 KOs, who has been deftly managed to get to this opportunity spot) Cuban does when speaking publicly, though we can’t know if when the sun goes down and he lays head to pillow he doesn’t secretly acknowledge that Ward is a breed above in terms of skill set…

“I’m going to prepare so that Andre Ward has the fight of his life,” Barrera said to reporter Michelle Phelps. “I can guarantee the fans it’s going to be a great war. All these predictions motivate me to do what I’ve got to do. I don’t think Andre Ward is going to be the one that keeps me from fighting Sergey Kovalev. I think my power is superior to Andre’s. I’m going to punch at him. I’m going to wear him down. I’m going to try to hit him everywhere, and I think by the later parts of the fight, I’ll wear him out enough to be able to knock him out.”

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Looking for a stoppage, probably a sage angle, being that Ward has not been out-boxed since he was 12. Might as well go for the blitzkrieg strategy, catch him cold, roll the dice with a shock and awe assault. If he does that, though, is his trainer “Honest” Abel Sanchez on board with this plan of attack?

“We are against an extremely good fighter, I am looking for Sullivan to give me what he showed in the gym, the rest will take care of itself,” Sanchez said, deftly slipping the direct query with Ward style slipperiness.

Sanchez has said that he thinks this Ward won’t be prime Ward, five years ago Ward. Did he see slippage when the Oaklander fought Paul Smith last year, in what was his third fight fight in three years? “Not so much deterioration, as just not seeing things like before, maybe inactivity, level of opposition, but he has an abundance of experience to deal with the issues around him, so it is up to Sullivan to thwart any and all of Ward’s efforts. Injuries and inactivity,” he said, dimmed the brilliance some, “but who knows, the challenge might bring that prime Ward back, I look forward to that, we are in for a great fight.”

We all hope so.

For the record, Ward on Tuesday made clear what he thinks of deterioration talk.

“I think I am evolving into an efficient fighter,” the Cali boxer said. “I’m moving when I have to move. I think that’s the beauty of any athlete who doesn’t abuse his body and really takes his craft seriously. I’ve seen some articles claiming I missed my prime. It’s crazy to me. I feel that I am as good as I have ever been. I’ve been in a boxing gym without much of a break for the past 20 years. My brain thanked me for the last two years. My body thanked me. It might give me another two years in my career.”

Barrera can, if you want to be nitpicky, and it makes sense to, because Ward is a master pugilist and to beat him you will have to be great and maybe lucky too, be reach-y.

His hand speed isn’t stellar–you don’t need slo mo to track the trajectory–and he sometimes takes a little long to get from point A to B. He will drop his hands, be a little slow to bring them back after firing and I think Ward will like that. SOG will find spots to land inside, within Barrera’s wider tosses. Now, has Ward deteriorated? Maybe. Maybe. Has the hand speed fallen off a smidge? Have the injuries made him less able and likely to flurry with fire? Maybe. Maybe enough to give Barrera a chance? Maybe. Likely not, as Ward’s ability to deliver fast and to any open and legal spot on Barrera even if lessened is still probably enough to get the W. Maybe. Probably, actually. But then again, who woulda thunk ten years ago that the American President would be jetting to Cuba to chill with Castro?

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About Michael Woods

Michael Woods

Editor/publisher Michael Woods became addicted to boxing in 1990, when Buster Douglas shocked the world with his demolition of the fearsome Mike Tyson. The Brooklyn-based journalist Woods has covered the sport since then, for ESPN The Magazine, ESPN.com, ESPN New York, RING, and he was editor of TheSweetScience.com from 2007-2015. Woods is also an accomplished blow by blow and color man, having done work for Top Rank, DiBella Entertainment, EPIX, and numerous other organizations.

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