By Keith Idec
LAS VEGAS – Jesse Hart didn’t deliver on his promise to destroy Sullivan Barrera.
Philadelphia’s Hart did beat Barrera in his light heavyweight debut Saturday night at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Hart hurt Barrera multiple times, scored a questionable knockdown during the eighth round and won a unanimous decision in their 10-rounder on the Tyson Fury-Tom Schwarz undercard.
The 29-year-old Hart (26-2, 21 KOs), who made his debut as a full-fledged light heavyweight, won on the scorecards of judges Tim Cheatham (97-92), Eric Cheek (99-90) and Steve Weisfeld (96-93). Hart told ESPN’s Bernardo Osuna after the fight that he hurt his right hand in the seventh round and couldn’t use it effectively thereafter.
“I don’t take nothing away from Sullivan Barrera, but I hurt my hand in the seventh round,” Hart said. “I had one hand. My right hand was completely shot. After I hurt him and dropped him, I couldn’t really finish him. That’s why you saw the left hook come. As you can see, I can punch with both hands. I take my hat off to him. He came to fight.”
The 37-year-old Barrera suffered the third defeat of his nine-year pro career (22-3, 14 KOs). The Cuban-born contender’s previous losses were a 12th-round technical knockout defeat to WBA light heavyweight champ Dmitry Bivol and a 12-round, unanimous-decision defeat to Andre Ward.
A reluctant Hart spent most of the last two rounds moving away from Barrera and holding him. By then, he had built a sizeable lead he could protect.
Hart scored a knockdown when Barrera went to his gloves and right knee with 1:07 to go in the eighth round. Hart appeared to graze Barrera’s right shoulder with a left hook, but Barrera protested to referee Jay Nady that Hart shoved him to the canvas.
Neither fighter landed a consequential shot in the seventh round.
Hart connected with a right hand just after the halfway point of the sixth round. Two more hard rights by Hart almost knocked down Barrera about 25 seconds later.
Hart blasted Barrera with one more right hand when there were about 20 seconds to go in the sixth.
Hart hit Barrera with a right hand just before the fifth round ended, but Barrera out-landed him during those three minutes.
Hart buckled Barrera’s legs with an overhand right about 30 seconds into the fourth round. Barrera withstood that trouble and came back to hurt Hart with a straight right hand of his own just before the fourth round ended.
Hart appeared worse off then than Barrera was early in the fourth round.
Nady warned Barrera for hitting Hart off a break just after the midway mark of the third round.
Hart hit Barrera with a hard, overhand right and sent him to the canvas 30 seconds into he second round. Barrera went down, but Nady rightly ruled his trip to the canvas was the result of Hart shoving Barrera down with his left forearm.
Once Nady wiped off Barrera’s gloves, Hart went for broke. Barrera fired back with hard shots of his own to fend off Hart and survived the trouble.
Barrera went down to one knee with just over 40 seconds to go in the first round, after Hart caught him with a left hand while holding Barrera from behind. The action resumed just a few seconds later.
Nady warned Hart for holding about 1:15 into the fight.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.