Following a nine months layoff and making his first appearance as light heavyweight, Ward hasn’t missed a step. From the outset, he took control of the fight establishing his distance and imposing his strength on the slightly larger Barrera.
A pawing jab helped Ward gauge the distance and set up power shots. Occasionally he would convert it into a stiff jab to stop Barrera as he stepped in. At close quarters, Ward used every trick in the books to outhustle Barrera and land short hard combinations.
In the third round, a counter left hook form Ward dropped Barrera for the lone knockdown of the fight. Barrera tried to mount an offense but missed with his shots as Ward displayed defensive savviness.
It was 12 rounds of tactical brilliance and scheming from Ward who is a master at neutralizing his opponent’s best attributes and dictate the pace of the match. Slight evidence of rust was apparent as Barrera did manage to land a few jabs and right hands, shots that might have spelled bad news had it been Kovalev landing.
A fight with Kovalev now looms for later this year. Question lies on how Ward can absorb the power and what tactical approach will he adopt to get pass the Russian fighter. Barrera was a good warm up fight for Ward but a second fight at light heavyweight against a ranking contender might be in order before the WardKovalev showdown takes place.
From Prospect to Contender
On the undercard, Joseph Diaz Jr made the jump from prospect to contender when he outpointed a tough Jayson Velez over the course of 10 rounds.
The featherweight matchup was considered a tossup by many with Diaz the rising prospect and Velez the more accomplished boxer. A rugged fighter, Velez brought the action to Diaz all 10 rounds, only to be met by Diaz’s sharp counters and precise shots. With both fighters motivated to win, the exchanges resulted in some fun action. Despite Velez’s toughness, it was an easy fight to score for Diaz who boxed well and connected with crisp, hard punches as he went on to claim a unanimous decision after 10 rounds.
Diaz now can be considered a contender as he continues his ascension as a featherweight and hopes to mix it up with the top fighters to claim a belt very soon.