NEW YORK, NY – A slate of six non-televised undercard bouts will serve as support when Two-Time World Champion and top-rated pound-for-pound fighter Andre Ward (28-0, 15 KOs) faces undefeated and number one rated IBF light heavyweight contender Sullivan Barrera (17-0, 12 KOs) in a 12-round IBF number one position and mandatory position eliminator at Oracle Arena in Ward’s hometown of Oakland, California on March 26. Opening the HBO® telecast will be Joseph Diaz Jr. vs. Jayson Velez in a 10-round fight NABF Featherweight title fight.
In addition to the exciting televised lineup, some of boxing’s hottest rising stars will be featured on the non-televised undercard including Roc Nation Sports standouts Maurice Hooker, Daniel Franco, Rudy Puga Jr. and Junior Younan along with 2008 Olympic Super Heavyweight Silver Medalist Zhang Zhilei and local favorite Aaron Coley who will all see action on March 26.
Roc Nation Sports will bring names from the entertainment world to the event as well, including notable event emcee, SiriusXM/Shade 45 morning show host of Sway in the Morning, Executive Producer and talent for VH1 & MTV and Oakland-native Sway Calloway, who will serve as the event’s host, and hit master DJ Franzen, resident DJ at Las Vegas’ Hot 97.5 and Drais Nightclub. Sway and Franzen will entertain together throughout the night to keep fans entertained between bouts at Oracle Arena.
Tickets priced at $300, $150, $100, $50 and $25, not including applicable service charges and taxes are available at all Ticketmaster locations, online at Ticketmaster.com (bit.ly/WardBarreraTix) and charge by phone at (800) 745-3000.
On March 26, NABO Junior Welterweight Champion Maurice “Mighty Mo” Hooker (19-0-2, 14 KOs) risks his unbeaten record against Wilfrido “La Roca” Buelvas (17-5, 11 KOs) of Barranquilla, Colombia in a ten-round junior welterweight bout. Hooker, rated number seven by the WBO, is coming off of a career-best win on October 17, 2015 against his toughest opponent to date in Ghislain Maduma (17-2, 11 KOs) at Madison Square Garden. Hooker successfully defended his NABO title with the 10-round decision win over Maduma on the undercard of Gennady Golovkin vs. David Lemieux in a fight that was featured on the event’s “freeview” in the United States and streamed online around the world. Buelvas, a former WBA Fedebol champion, has won two of his last three bouts by knockout and fought Humberto Soto for the WBC Silver International Super Lightweight title in 2014, going the 12-round distance before losing a decision to the former World Champion.
Born and raised in Oak Cliff, Texas, a rough suburb of Dallas, Hooker found a boxing home at Maple Avenue Boxing Gym by way of an outreach program for at-risk youths. His natural talent was soon noticed resulting in him competing as an amateur, during which time he participated in over 100 fights, compiling a record of 97 wins and only 7 losses, with 67 victories coming by way of knockout. Hooker turned professional on April 29, 2011, taking on the vastly more experienced Tyrone Chatman (7-1, 5 KO’s) at the Orpheum Theater in St. Louis. After four rounds, the judges saw the fight 40-36, 37-39 and 38-38, making the fight a split draw. Undeterred, in his next fight on June 24, 2014, Hooker scored his first professional win, knocking out Wilbert Mitchell in the first round at the Dr. Pepper Arena in Frisco, Texas. Eleven wins (eight by knockout) later, he took on undefeated Abel Ramos (8-0, 4 KO’s) on January 17, 2014 in a bout that was featured on ShoBox from the Cook Convention Center in Memphis. After eight close, hard-fought rounds, the judges saw the fight a draw. Hooker followed the draw with a six-round unanimous decision win over Adrian Rodriguez Garza (8-2, 6 KO’s) on April 26 at Fitzgerald’s Casino and Hotel in Tunica, Mississippi. Four consecutive knockout victories would follow before he took on fellow undefeated prospect Eduardo Galindo (10-0-1, 7 KO’s) on June 26, 2015 at the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center in Dallas for the vacant NABO Junior Welterweight Championship. “Mighty Mo” did not disappoint his legion of hometown fans who saw him capture the title with a sixth round technical knockout victory.
Hailing from Rancho Cucamonga, California and fighting out of the boxing hotbed of Oxnard, undefeated Daniel “Twitch” Franco (12-0-3, 7 KO’s) meets Mexican veteran German “Panteonero” Meraz (52-37-1, 30 KOs) in an eight-round featherweight bout on March 26. Featured for the second time on a Ward undercard, the sharp-boxing Franco will look to improve on his undefeated record against an opponent with literally six times his pro boxing experience. Meraz is only 29 years old but has already logged an amazing 90 professional bouts and has won four of his last six fights by knockout. He has fought current World Champion Juan Carlos Payano, Three-Time U.S. Olympian Rau’shee Warren and highly-touted prospect Gervonta Davis, going the distance with all three.
Franco began boxing at the age of eight, amassing an amateur record of 67-15, winning the Oxnard PAL Championship in 2006 and the California State Silver Gloves Championship in 2007 along the way. During Franco’s professional debut on December 18, 2010, he defeated Emanuel Machorro at Club 401 in Ontario, California via a third round technical knockout. Despite being enrolled as a full-time student at Chaffey College in Rancho Cucamonga, Franco impressed early in his career, compiling an undefeated record with two draws in venues throughout California by the end of 2013. One of those draws came against Alejandro Ochoa at Quiet Cannon in Montebello, California on September 20, 2013, but in a rematch three months later, Franco outmatched Ochoa scoring a six-round unanimous decision victory at Westin Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles. On June 20, 2015, during Ward’s return to the ring at Oracle Arena, Franco saw action in an eight-round junior lightweight bout against Jonathan Alcantara and won by unanimous decision. A hand injury suffered in that bout kept Franco out of action until December 21 when he scored a decision victory over Hector Garcia in Tijuana, Mexico.
A promising unbeaten prospect from Salinas, California, Rudy “The Revelation” Puja. Jr. (7-0, 6 KOs) looks to extend his undefeated streak against Carlos “Kalimba” Lozano (7-5, 4 KOs) of Ensenada, Mexico in a six-round middleweight bout. Puga turned in a career-best performance in his last match-up on February 12 in knocking out Alejandro Osuna (4-2, 2 KO’s) in two rounds at the Double Tree Hotel in Ontario, California. Now, just a little over a month later, “The Revelation” will step into the ring against a tough opponent in Lozanao, a southpaw who has never been stopped and already has a ten-round decision victory under his belt.
Having compiled an exceptional amateur record of 99-8, Puga made his professional debut on September 2, 2011, scoring a fourth round technical knockout victory over Raul Talamontes at the Sports Complex in his hometown. Back in the ring less than two months later, Puga Jr. raised his record to 2-0 with a first round technical knockout of Jose Jesus Hurtado at the Sherwood Inn in Salinas. In June 2012, he sent Thomas Turner to the mat four times in scoring a second round technical knockout win at the Joint at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. After a little more than a year away from the ring, he rededicated himself to the “sweet science” with a vengeance and on February 17, 2014, Puga Jr. made his comeback stopping Charon Spain in the third round with an overpowering body shot at the Salinas Storm House in his native Salinas. Promotional issues kept Puga Jr. out of the ring for the next year and injuries led to a slow 2015, but Puga Jr. scored a a fourth round technical knockout win over of Katrell Straus on April 24 and a six-round unanimous decision over Juan Carlos Rojas on November 21, both fights taking place at the Double Tree Hotel in Ontario, California.
Brooklyn’s 20-year-old, undefeated Junior “The Young God” Younan (7-0, 6 KO’s) returns to the ring on March 26 after a nine-month layoff to take on Cristian Solorzano (4-7, 3 KOs) of Sonora, Mexico in a four-round super middleweight fight. Younan has battled multiple nagging injuries since scoring a second round technical knockout victory over Mike Sawyer on the Miguel Cotto vs. Daniel Geale undercard on June 6, 2015 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. Now 100 percent healthy, Younan looks to make Solozano his third straight knockout victim. Solorzano, a naturally bigger fighter, has campaigned in the light heavyweight division and is coming off of a knockout win.
Younan, trained by his father Sherif, a former professional boxer himself, began fighting competitively at age eight and only two years later was called a “boxing prodigy” by the New York Times. He compiled an amateur record of 90-5, racking up an impressive series of titles along the way including nine Junior Olympic championships, nine Junior Metro championships, eight New York State Silver Gloves championships and five Regional Silver Gloves championships. In 2011, he was crowned National Junior Golden Gloves champion and was U.S.A. Boxing’s number one rated junior boxer in his weight class. Less than a month after his 18th birthday, Younan made his professional debut on November 9, 2013, at the Aviator Sports and Events Center in Brooklyn, New York, stopping Kenneth Schmitz in the first round. Younan would go on to knockout his next three opponents before going the distance for the first time against Azamat Umarzoda on July 2, 2014 at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut. He followed that fight with a first round knockout of Marlon Farr on August 13 the BB King Blues Club and Grill in New York on August 13.
Chinese heavyweight Zhang “Big Bang” Zhilei (7-0, 4 KOs) joins the undercard on March 26 in a four-round bout against an opponent yet to be determined. The Silver Medalist from the 2008 Beijing Olympics continues to infuse excitement into the heavyweight division and is coming off of a first round technical knockout win over David Koswara on February 20 at the Lanzhou Sports Arena in Lanzhou, China.
Born on May 2, 1983 in Henan, Zhang began his amateur career in 2003, participating in the World Championships. A breakthrough came in 2007 at the World Championships where Zhang defeated the trio of Nurpais Torobekov, Rustam Rygebayev and Daniel Beahan en route to the semifinals where he lost to Ukrainian Vyacheslav Glazkov. By capturing a bronze medal and finishing the competition in third place, he qualified for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. The Chinese powerhouse nearly reached the zenith of amateur success in the summer of 2008, entering the super heavyweight finals at the Summer Olympics in Beijing against Italy’s Roberto Cammarelle. It was not to be as Zhang suffered his first defeat of that Olympiad, losing to Cammarelle, but proudly adding to the host country’s medal total with a Silver. In 2009, Zhang captured a gold medal at the China National Games, an event of equal prestige to the Olympics in China. 2013 saw yet another gold medal winning performance in the China National Games, setting the stage for “Big Bang” to embark on a professional career while basing himself in the United States. On August 8, 2014, Zhang made his professional debut by scoring a first-round knockout win over Curtis Lee Tate in Fallon, Nevada in a fight that was televised live on ESPN2. On March 14, 2015, Zhang beat Eric George via a four-round unanimous decision at the Armory in Jersey City, New Jersey. He followed that with another four-round unanimous decision win, this time over Glenn Thomas on the highly anticipated Cotto-Geale undercard at Barclays Center in Brooklyn on June 6. Next came a sixth round technical knockout win over Dennis Benson at The Playground in Atlantic City on August 15. To end the year, Zhang was featured on the undercard of the November 21 Cotto vs. Canelo mega-fight at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, where scored a four-round unanimous decision victory over Juan Goode.
Local Hayward, California favorite Aaron Coley (12-1-1, 6 KO’s) faces a very stern test in a six-round junior middleweight bout against Urmat Ryskeldiev (11-3-2, 7 KOs) of West Hollywood, California, a Kyrgyzstan native who is undefeated in his last seven fights.
On March 26, Coley will look follow his most recent victory, a unanimous decision over Jeremy Ramos on January 23 at the Marriott on Broadway in Oakland, with another win in front of his hometown fans. Prior to his January win he scored two unanimous decision triumphs, including his June 20, 2015 performance against Yusmani Abreu (who Ryskeldiev defeated by technical knockout in September) on the undercard of Ward’s last fight. Considered a promising prospect in boxing circles, Coley’s lone loss came via decision to one of boxing’s hottest prospects in Ievgen Khytrov in a bout that was televised live on Showtime’s ShoBox on April 10, 2015 from The Aviator Sports Complex in Brooklyn, New York.
Ward vs. Barrera, a 12-round fight which is presented by Roc Nation Sports in association with Main Events, takes place Saturday, March 26, 2016 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California and is sponsored by Corona Extra, Ticketmaster, Corporate Travel Management Solutions (ctms), Glad, Lyft, Zappos, BodyArmor, SAN Nutrition, Shoe Palace and The Waterfront Hotel. The event will be televised live on HBO World Championship Boxing beginning at 9:45 p.m. ET/PT. Opening the HBO telecast will be Joseph Diaz Jr. vs. Jayson Velez in a 10-round fight for the NABF Featherweight title presented by Golden Boy Promotions in association with Miguel Cotto Promotions.