By Michael Woods
WEDNESDAY NIGHT UPDATE: This Sullivan Barrera, give the guy points for consistency. He needled Andre Ward as he worked to secure this fight, and he's still doing so.
Ward told us on the media call that Barrera bugged him a bit with the needling. That could be a good thing. The smooth stylist Ward could sometimes stand a shot of fire from getting pissed off.
Andre Ward, maybe the best active boxer on the planet, gloves up March 26, and will be testing deeper waters, presumably, in the light heavyweight division.
The Oaklander tangles with Cuban Sullivan Barrera, at Oracle Arena in Oakland, and on HBO.
Both men and members of their crew took part in a Wednesday media call to hype the scrap, which is supposed to be a stay busy effort for Ward before he engages in a fall showdown with Sergey Kovalev.
Ward (28-0, 15 KOs), who last fought last June, against Paul Smith, meets number one rated IBF light heavyweight contender Barrera (17-0, 12 KOs).
Ward said he knows Father Time gets everyone, but he thinks he's at his prime. Ward thinks Barrera looks strong but is nothing special.
He told me, contrary to some Twitter talk, nobody forced him to go to 175. He makes his decisions, with team input, so this is purely his call.
Barrera will see levels in him he hasn't faced before, his speed, his smarts. He said he's extra amped that Barrera has talked trash in trying to get this fight and that will bite him in the butt.
“It's not going to be easy, I expect a very tough fight,” the technical ace said. He said he's not afraid of any man, let alone Barrera. He and trainer Virgil Hunter chose Barrera to get him ready for 175. And ready for Sergey Kovalev…
He said he's very excited to get to the Russian and will get specific on the timing of that shortly after the Barrera fight. That fight is about not money, but about daring to be great. He didn't say whether he'd go right to a Kovalev fight after this one.
Ward was in good spirits, and said he isn't put off by the press and Twitter critiques. People are allowed their opinions, he said. He isn't looking back, like at the November fight he cancelled. He said he's now learning to work smarter, not harder, now. He went out too hard training last time and he now feels fine and expects to be fine for March 16.
He was asked about stating he is number one pound for pound. Nah, that's not up to him to self proclaim. He just wants to prove it in the ring. “I want to make it so it's undeniable,” he said. (Do you all think a Ward vs. Kovalev call chooses P4P number one?)
Barrera told us he knows he needs a KO, fighting in Ward's neck of the woods. Ward hasn't tasted 175 power such as he possesses, he said. Ward touched on that; he said he's consulted with Mackie Shillstone about adding the weight right.
His trainer Abel Sanchez said they know Ward is a really tall hurdle and Barrera will need to be great to win.
You talk to me. Anyone see an upset?