By Keith Idec
It’ll be difficult for Sullivan Barrera to watch a fighter he knocked out get a title shot before him Saturday night.
Barrera knocked out Vyacheslav Shabranskyy in the seventh round 11 months ago, but he’ll box before Shabranskyy battles Sergey Kovalev for the vacant WBO light heavyweight title in The Theater at Madison Square Garden. Cuba’s Barrera told BoxingScene.com that Ukraine’s Shabranskyy doesn’t even deserve a title shot.
“I’m bitter about the whole situation,” Barrera said. “I felt that after I fought [Andre] Ward, which was a fight I had to take, I’ve fought tough opposition. But I came to this country for one reason, and that was to become world champion. I’ve always had to prove myself to put myself in better situations. I feel that I should be fighting for a title now.”
The 35-year-old Barrera (20-1, 14 KOs) has knocked out Shabranskyy and soundly defeated Joe Smith Jr. (23-2, 19 KOs) by unanimous decision in two of his past three fights. He got off the canvas in both bouts to win.
Shabranskyy has knocked out Larry Pryor (then 10-15) and Todd Unthank May (then 10-0-1) in his two fights since Barrera beat him.
More than anything, Barrera appears to be a victim of bad timing.
Barrera is on a long list of potential opponents that turned down a fight against Kovalev on Saturday night. When Barrera turned it down, though, Kovalev’s return from his controversial technical knockout loss to Ward wasn’t a title fight.
It wasn’t until more than a month after Shabranskyy (19-1, 16 KOs) agreed to fight Russia’s Kovalev (30-2-1, 26 KOs) in this HBO “World Championship Boxing” main event that the WBO sanctioned Kovalev-Shabranskyy as a fight for one of the 175-pound championships Ward vacated when he retired nearly two months ago. Barrera said he would’ve accepted the Kovalev fight if it had been approved as a title bout by then.
“After I turned the Kovalev fight down,” Barrera said, “if they would’ve offered it to me and said, ‘Look, hey, we have it for the title,’ I would have taken it, 100 percent.”
Barrera, who has lost only to Ward (32-0, 16 KOs), has since agreed to challenge WBA champion Dmitry Bivol (12-0, 10 KOs) in his next fight if he can defeat the Dominican Republic’s Felix Valera (15-1, 10 KOs) on Saturday night. Promoter Kathy Duva told BoxingScene.com that Barrera has agreed to an undisclosed purse to battle Bivol sometime before April 30 if he overcomes Valera, but added that the agreement affords Barrera the option of fighting someone else next, namely Kovalev, if they both win Saturday night.
Barrera is the mandatory challenger for Bivol’s WBA 175-pound title.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.