3 More Rounds

Ward beats Barrera in move to light heavy

Photo: Will Hart / HBO

Photo: Will Hart / HBO

Former unified super middleweight champ Andre Ward (29-0, 15 KOs) successfully entered the light heavyweight division with a one-sided 12-round unanimous win over Sullivan Barrera (17-1, 12 KOs) at Oracle Arena in Oakland on Saturday night.

Ward, who was coming off another long layoff, fought for only the second time since 2013, and though seemed a tad rusty early on, bested the previously unbeaten Barrera on the scorecards, with scores of 117-108, 117-109 and 118-109.

No, this wasn’t the thoroughly dominant Ward we are used to seeing, and after the fight, Ward acknowledged he graded himself a ‘B-‘ but it was still a tactical performance that saw him take away Barrera’s power punches while landing plenty of his own.

Ward looked a little slower than usual, be it due to the heavier weight, ring rust, or perhaps by choice in order to plant his feet more to land with more power.  Indeed, he did just that in the third round, when he connected with a left hook to the temple of Barrera that sent him down to the canvas.  Barrera wasn’t too badly hurt but had issues getting to Ward, who still had an abundance of head movement and side-stepping to make Barrera miss quite a bit.

Despite a point deduction late in the fight from a low blow, Ward was still in control and slowly wore down his bigger foe.  After getting the decision victory, Ward said he was ready for anything, including a potential showdown with Sergey Kovalev, who was at ringside to watch the action.

In the co-featured bout, which aired on HBO to open the telecast, Joseph Diaz Jr. (20-0, 11 KOs) earned a unanimous decision win over Jayson Velez (23-2-1, 16 KOs) with scores of 98-92, 99-91 and 100-91.

Diaz and Velez engaged in a battle that saw Diaz consistently land booming left hands that had Velez in trouble in various instances.  Velez did his best to stay in the fight and had a few countering opportunities, but the work rate of Diaz and bigger punches was just too much to overcome.

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