By Jeandra LeBeauf
The road to an IBF eliminator bout hasn’t been an easy one for Sullivan Barrera, but dreams of fighting for a world title appear to finally be within reach.
The unbeaten light heavyweight contender from Cuba – who now lives in Miami – is set for his December 12 showdown with Karo Murat. The winner will be named mandatory challenger to unbeaten, unified light heavyweight titlist Sergey Kovalev, but Barrera scored a victory in getting an opponent to agree to terms for this fight.
Barrera and Kovalev are both promoted by Main Events.
After an impressive 2015 campaign that saw knockout wins over Jeff Lacy and Hakim Zoulikha, finding that next-level foe for Barrera (16-0, 10KOs) has proven to be an arduous task for Barrera’s promoter Main Events. With calls to Bernard Hopkins, Erik Skogland, and Jean Pascal over the past year met with little to no interest over the last year, the 33-year old contender found himself at a common crossroads, lack of better dance partners.
Things took a turn for the better when Barrera was offered to face fellow unbeaten contender Artur Beterbiev. The two sides attempted to work out terms but failed to come to an agreement, which meant the IBF was left to order a purse bid.
As Beterbiev is backed by Al Haymon and the deep financial war chest that currently funds his Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) movement, the likely outcome was that Yvon Michel – who promotes Beterbiev and is a regular promoter in Haymon’s rotation – would win the purse bid and bring the fight to Canada.
That was an issue for Barrera, who wouldn’t have been able to obtain a travel visa in time. His fate was unknown as a result, only to resurface to the top of the contender fray when Beterbiev suffered an injury and was forced to withdraw from his scheduled Nov. 28th eliminator with Igor Mikhilkan.
As Barrera was placed back at the top of the list, he was able to land a fight with Murat (27-2-1, 17KOs), a 32-year old contender from Germany whose lone career blemishes have all come against former light heavyweight champs. His first loss in Sept. ’10 came at the hands of then-unbeaten Nathan Cleverly, who went on to win the WBO light heavyweight title following their title eliminator.
The following year, Murat fought to a 12-round draw with Gabriel Campillo in yet another elimination bout. Campillo went on to fight for and win – and subsequently lose – a title, while Murat’s opportunity came in 2013, dropping a unanimous decision to Hopkins in Oct. ’13. He’s fought just twice since then, winning both.
Politically, Murat hovered around the IBF Top 15 rankings long enough to being in the right place at the right time when it came time to sanction a fight to name a mandatory challenger. He now hopes December 12 is the right place and time to aim for a second title shot.
Should Barrera win, he earns the right to challenge Kovalev at some point in 2016. The road there may have come with speed bumps and potholes, but the destination will be well worth the journey.
Barrera vs. Murat is the co-main event of the HBO Latino telecast headlined by Pedro Campa vs. Aaron Herrera at The Civic Auditorium in Glendale, CA.
Tickets are $60 reserved, $40 general admission and are available at GlendaleFightNight.com, or by calling the ticket hotline (626) 388-8888.
Jeandra LeBeauf (@jethang) is based in Los Angeles and the creator of BadCulture.net. You may email her at [email protected] and listen to her Tuesday nights on The Ruckus Podcast at, part of the BadCulture Radio Network . Subscribe to BadCulture.net's YouTube channel by clicking HERE .