By Keith Idec
BoxingScene.com has learned that light heavyweight contenders Sullivan Barrera and Joe Smith Jr. have agreed to terms for an intriguing fight July 15 in Inglewood, California.
Contracts haven’t been finalized, but Barrera and Smith are expected to open an HBO tripleheader from The Forum that night. Their 10-round, 175-pound fight will be part of a telecast that is expected to include a WBC-mandated super featherweight title bout between Mexico’s Miguel Berchelt (31-1, 28 KOs), the defending champion, and Japan’s Takashi Miura (31-3-2, 24 KOs), the WBC’s No. 1 contender.
Long Island’s Smith (23-1, 19 KOs) will return to the site of the biggest victory of his seven-year pro career. The union laborer from Mastic, New York, emphatically ended the legendary Bernard Hopkins’ career when he knocked the former middleweight and light heavyweight champion clear out of the ring December 17 in a main event HBO televised from The Forum.
His knockout of Hopkins (55-8-2, 32 KOs, 2 NC), who was 51 at the time, in the eighth round represented the second straight impressive victory for the previously unknown Smith in 2016. The 27-year-old Smith established himself as a legitimate light heavyweight contender when he stopped Poland’s Andrzej Fonfara (29-4, 17 KOs, 1 NC) in the first round of their nationally televised fight June 18 in Chicago.
Miami’s Barrera, 35, has won both of his bouts by knockout since suffering his lone professional defeat to IBF/WBA/WBO light heavyweight champion Andre Ward (31-0, 15 KOs) in March 2016 in Oakland, California.
The Cuban contender most recently stopped Paul Parker (8-2, 4 KOs), of Toledo, Ohio, in the fifth round April 15 in Uncasville, Connecticut. In his previous appearance, Barrera (19-1, 14 KOs) knocked out then-unbeaten Ukrainian prospect Vyacheslav Shabranskyy (18-1, 15 KOs) in the seventh round December 16 in Indio, California.
Barrera agreed to face Russian knockout artist Artur Beterbiev (11-0, 11 KOs) earlier this year, but their IBF championship elimination match fell apart amid a battle of “he said, he said” between Barrera and Yvon Michel, Beterbiev’s Quebec-based promoter (http://www.boxingscene.com/beterbiev-promoter-fires-back-barrera-over-failed-fight--114555).
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.