Former super middleweight king Andre Ward heads into a make or break fight on Saturday night against unknown quantity Sullivan Barrera in his hometown of Oakland.
The 32 year-old pound for pound star faces the undefeated Cuban in one of two dress rehearsals before a super-fight with Sergey Kovalev, which is stipulated to take place in November for all the light-heavyweight marbles.
Ward completely dominated the 168 pound division over a seven year period and finally admitted that the time was right to move up when the carrot of a Kovalev encounter was dangled in front of him.
The self-styled ‘S.O.G’ brings considerable skills to the table this weekend, but says he’s under no undue pressure to make a statement on his 175 pound debut as Kovalev watches on from a ringside position.
“I have to just be me. Who I am is enough. I don’t have to show up for Kovalev in the crowd on Saturday night. We just have to implement the game plan. I think that’s going to send the message it’s supposed to send and if it doesn’t, then he’ll get the message when we fight,” said Ward.
“If I don’t win this fight, there’s nothing down the road. If I don’t win this fight, I don’t deserve to fight for the title. That’s the reality of my situation.
“It was the right time to move to light heavyweight. It was a combination of not having the right guys to fight or guys that didn’t want to fight me. I want to be great. These are the types of moves you have to make.
“I’m a student of the sport and when I study the sport, this is what greats have always done. They move up. The great ones find a way to get it done and I want to be in that conversation,” he added.
Barrera, 34, is 17-0 as a pro with 12 stoppages but hasn’t been passed eight rounds and will need to solve a puzzle 28 before him have been unable to in order to put himself firmly in the spotlight at the Oracle Arena.