By Steve Kim
Sullivan Barrera turned down a more lucrative offer to face WBO light heavyweight titlist Sergey Kovalev in order to face WBA belt-holder Dmitry Bivol, later tonight at the Theater at Madison Square Garden in what will be the opening bout on HBO as part of their televised doubleheader.
Barrera's reasoning for making this decision, is that should he win a major title belt, he will then be able to command an even higher amount than what was offered before to face 'The Krusher' - who is facing Igor Mikhalkin in the night's main event at the Garden.
In essence, he is gambling on himself.
Kathy Duva, the head of Main Events (which promotes Barrera and Kovalev, and has a piece of Bivol), doesn't disagree with his premise, telling BoxingScene.com - "I can't debate that, I think it's true. If he gets a win over Bivol and wins a title he's certainly a better opponent and hopefully worth a bigger rights fee than what was offered to him. If he beats Bivol than we can go back to HBO and ask for more."
The 36-year old Barrera (21-1, 14 KO's) has just one loss on his ledger, to Andre Ward. But despite being the much more seasoned professional, he is listed as a sizable underdog versus the highly touted Bivol (12-0 ,10 KO's).
"I kind of admire him for betting for betting on himself like that - most guys don't," stated Duva.
Bivol, 27, originally from Kyrgyzstan and now hailing from St. Petersburg, Russia, has quickly ascended to the top of the division since turning pro in 2014. Knocking out all but two of his opponents. The champ fought four times in 2017.
Barrera, 35, of Miami, Fla. by way of Cuba, scored an exciting victory over Felix Valera on the undercard of HBO’s Thanksgiving weekend event. With the only blemish on his pro record coming against future Hall of Famer Andre Ward.