Tracking the career of Sullivan Barrera, it’s of little surprise that he was willing to take on a top fighter such as Gilberto ‘Zurdo’ Ramirez for his first ring appearance in more than two years.

The extended break is only due to plans repeatedly falling through for a fight with another elite talent.

“Everyone knows me, they know I only want to take the biggest fights possible,” Barrera said of his upcoming fight with Ramirez, which takes place July 9 live on DAZN from Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles. “I was supposed to fight Sergey Kovalev, we tried twice but (the pandemic) didn’t allow it. Getting this fight with Zurdo Ramirez made me happy. It allowed me to push myself even harder in the gym.”

Barrera (22-3, 14KOs) will fight for the first time since a ten-round points loss to Jesse Hart in their June 2019 battle of light heavyweight contenders.

The Miami-based Cuban export was then slated to face former three-time light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev last April 25, only for the pandemic to cancel those plans. Efforts to get the two back in the ring earlier this year didn’t quite pan out, leaving Barrera to look elsewhere for his next opportunity.

It led to Ramirez (41-0, 27KOs), who signed with Golden Boy Promotions earlier this year and was in need of an opponent for his debut with the Los Angeles-based promotional outlet. Barrera and his team jumped at the chance, knowing that a win would put the 39-year-old former title challenger directly on a path for another shot at the division’s top prize.

“It’s a tough fight, a difficult fight,” acknowledges Derik Santos, Barrera’s trainer. “Ramirez is very solid everywhere, but he’s not a one-punch knockout artist. Barrera has worked well with southpaws in the past. Ramirez works well at a distance but can also be pushed back.”

Barrera plans to do just that in the ring, while pushing forward with his career in the process.

“It’s great to be back after two years with everything that happened,” notes Barrera, who owns a win over current WBO light heavyweight titlist Joe Smith Jr., as well as a loss to unbeaten WBA titlist Dmitry Bivol in his lone career title bid. “I feel good. This is a great opportunity to show everyone what I still have.”

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for Twitter: @JakeNDaBox