By Francisco Salazar
A lot has been said about the 'Cuban School of Boxing' in recent months.
It is an art of sorts, one where fighters do their best to avoid getting hit, but counter their opponents.
Fighters like Guillermo Rigondeaux and Erislandy Lara seem to have this down pat, even though their style leaves something to be desired. That something is excitement, where both of their styles seem to bring a lot of criticism from boxing fans .
One fighter is hoping to break that mold. Sullivan Barrera is well-aware of the 'Cuban School of Boxing.' Growing up in Cuba, Barrera was exposed to the incredible talent that has made the island nation synonymous with success in the amateur, and also in the professional ranks.
With his strength and athleticism, Barrera takes a more aggressive approach and it has worked thus far.
He will face his stiffest test to date when he takes on Kuro Murat tonight at the Civic Auditorium in Glendale, Calif. The 12 round bout will top a three-bout HBO Latino telecast, beginning at 10 p.m. ET/ PT.
Barrera and Murat will be fighting in an IBF light heavyweight title eliminator.
Barrera (16-0, 11 KOs) was victorious in his last bout on Jul. 25, stopping Hakim Zoulikha in the eighth round in Las Vegas, Nev. He has stopped his last five opponents in a row.
His accomplishments against modest opposition have given him a top 10 ranking in three of boxing's major governing bodies. He steps in the ring tonight against Murat, who has won his last two fights since his one-sided loss to Bernard Hopkins in October of 2013.
"He covers and tries to counter," Barrera told Boxingscene.com in a recent interview over the phone. "I think that would favor me if he attempts to do that. I have the strength to punish him."
Barrera is trained by Abel Sanchez, who is very well-known for being the trainer for middleweight king Gennady Golovkin.
The 33-year-old Barrera has gained a great deal of experience sparring with other fighters who train at Sanchez's gym in Big Bear Lake, Calif. Not to mention Barrera also has received a solid education about the fight game from Sanchez as well.
But Barrera has also learned a lot from Golovkin. Whether it is the advice Golovkin gives or just watching the Kazakh fighter during a rigorous training session, the popular middleweight has left an impression on Barrera.
"Abel is a very good trainer," said Barrera, who is promoted by Main Events. "I've learned a lot from him and I'm still learning. This training camp has been the best one so far. Abel and I have a great relationship and I know that I will come out on top."
"A lot of boxers pass through here (Big Bear Lake) and we all learn from everyone. When it comes to Golovkin, he's a great friend. He dedicates everything to the sport and he is a great example to many in the gym. I see the way he trains and I try to follow that example. I push myself to do more and I've learned a lot from him."
Barrera has a lot of upside and despite his amateur pedigree and education in Cuba, he keeps getting better with each fight under Abel Sanchez.
"Even when I was in Cuba, I've known how to fight like the Cuban fighters, but fighting aggressively has suited me best."
Barrera can both brawl and box effectively. Barrera has gained more confidence utilizing this boxer-puncher style, although many in boxing feel he's more explosive than applying his boxing skill-set.
Whatever the case may be, Barrera is eager to win a world title belt. A win tonight over Murat will make him the IBF mandatory challenger to Sergey Kovalev.
While a fight between two fighters that are promoted by Main Events remains to be seen, especially when Kovalev is facing Jean Pascal on January 30 and Andre Ward later in 2016, Barrera wants to send a message to all fighters at 175 pounds.
"I'm ready to demonstrate that Sullivan Barrera is ready for all fighters at 175 pounds. Whether it is by decision or knockout (tonight), I'm ready to fight anyone in the division."
Francisco A. Salazar has written for Boxingscene.com since September of 2012 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (CA) Star newspaper, Boxingscene.com, and Knockout Nation. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing