The plan for Sullivan Barrera from here on out is to remain at this level, with ring activity a targeted but secondary goal.
A two-year ring absence precedes the return of Miami’s Barrera (22-3, 14KOs), who faces former super middleweight titlist Gilberto ‘Zurdo’ Ramirez. The bout headlines a loaded show this Friday live on DAZN from Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles, with Ramirez (41-0, 27KOs) making his Golden Boy Promotions debut.
The expectation is for Ramirez to prevail and then pursue a shot at any of the current light heavyweight titlists. Fittingly enough, it’s a similar goal in mind for Barrera and precisely his motivation for taking this fight.
“I am not here to lay down and be his opponent,” Barrera told BoxingScene.com. “I plan to go straight to a world title fight after I win (on Friday).”
It’s a tall task for the Cuban export, who hasn’t won since a ten-round decision over Sean Monaghan in November 2018. His only bout to follow was a June 2019 points loss to Jesse Hart, a two-time challenger for Ramirez’s then-held WBO super middleweight title who moved up in weight following their December 2018 rematch.
Barrera previously suffered losses to Andre Ward in a non-title fight and to Dmitry Bivol in a failed WBA light heavyweight title bid. The veteran contender was in discussion for a showdown with former three-time light heavyweight titlist Sergey Kovalev, only for their planned April 2020 fight to get canceled due to the pandemic. Talks came back around, only to never get rescheduled.
It left Barrera on the outside looking in, until his shoulder was tapped to face Ramirez who enters just his third bout at light heavyweight. Ramirez made his division debut with a fourth-round knockout of Tommy Karpency last April in Los Angeles. A 20-month layoff ensued as he fought to get out of contract with Top Rank, before resurfacing in a tenth-round stoppage of Alfonso Lopez last December in Galveston, Texas.
Ramirez has since signed an exclusive promotional deal with Golden Boy Promotions, one that carries the promise of getting him to 50-0 and no less than a two-division world champion. Barrera isn’t armed with such a deal but certainly sees the pathway to reach that destination.
“Once I beat Zurdo Ramirez, that should make me next in line for these guys,” insists Barrera. “It could be They are the best in the division right now and who I plan to target after [Friday].”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox