Ward’s Oracle: The return and the triumph

by Malaika H Kambon

2531 - Swift, powerful left hooks, jabs and straight right hand punches by Andre Ward characterized his defense and offense. Sullivan Barrera missed a lot. Andre Ward didn’t. – Photo: Malaika H Kambon
Swift, powerful left hooks, jabs and straight right hand punches by Andre Ward characterized his defense and offense. Sullivan Barrera missed a lot. Andre Ward didn’t. – Photo: Malaika H Kambon

The final boxing scores were not even close.

On March 26, 2016, Andre “Son Of God” Ward unanimously defeated Sullivan Barrera 119-109, 117-109, 117-108 – his debut into the light heavyweight realm of boxing an unqualified success.

A host of friends gathered to watch Andre “SOG” Ward v. Sullivan Barrera at Oakland’s legendary Oracle Arena: “Squint,” professional photographer for Andre Ward; Stephen Curry, point guard for the world champion Golden State Warriors; Diante Thompson, childhood friend of Andre Ward; famed actor Michael B. Jordan (“Creed” and “Fruitvale Station”); Marshawn Lynch, running back for the Seattle Seahawks; and Frank Gore, running back for the Indianapolis Colts. – Photo: Malaika H Kambon
A host of friends gathered to watch Andre “SOG” Ward v. Sullivan Barrera at Oakland’s legendary Oracle Arena: “Squint,” professional photographer for Andre Ward; Stephen Curry, point guard for the world champion Golden State Warriors; Diante Thompson, childhood friend of Andre Ward; famed actor Michael B. Jordan (“Creed” and “Fruitvale Station”); Marshawn Lynch, running back for the Seattle Seahawks; and Frank Gore, running back for the Indianapolis Colts. – Photo: Malaika H Kambon

Oakland’s legendary Oracle Arena didn’t need a seer to predict that in point of fact, Sullivan Barrera should thank the universe that Andre Ward didn’t knock him out in the first round, instead of just knocking him down in the third round, folding him in half in a corner in the eighth, and smacking him down hard with a solid right hand in the 12th and final round.

Though Mr. Ward gave a B- assessment of his own performance, it became obvious early in the first three rounds that Sullivan Barrera had neither the skills, speed nor timing of Andre Ward.

By the eighth round, this long awaited professional fight-turned-boxing-clinic had been in session so long that even the powerful left hook to the body that folded Barrera in half was almost expected, though the punch garnered a questionable low blow call by referee Raul Caiz Sr., resulting in a point deduction for Andre Ward.

Victory! – Photo: Malaika H Kambon
Victory! – Photo: Malaika H Kambon

But in boxing, as in life, timing is everything. The slightest head movement could cause a punch to miss; the slightest misstep could give an opponent an offensive opening to attack; the most minuscule of shifts in footing could mean the difference between landing a solid punch or kissing the canvas; the smallest loss of focus could change an offense stance into a defensive posture.

Barrera missed a lot. Ward didn’t.

Revealing once again that boxing is an athletic endeavor that requires active thought processes, Andre Ward picked apart his opponent’s virtually nonexistent offense and stopped Barrera’s defensive posturing by the simple expedient of hitting him more often.

CompuBox* totals for Andre Ward were that he threw 463 punches, landing 166, or 36 percent of punches thrown, while Sullivan Barrera flailed away with 722 punches, landing only 111 or 15 percent of his attempts.

Andre Ward and Coach Virgil Hunter savor one more win. Hunter is the man who taught a young Andre Ward to “hit and not get hit.” – Photo: Malaika H Kambon
Andre Ward and Coach Virgil Hunter savor one more win. Hunter is the man who taught a young Andre Ward to “hit and not get hit.” – Photo: Malaika H Kambon

Many times as the match flowed to its conclusion, Barrera missed so often that one would think him cast into the illusionary realm of a Don Quixote, on an imaginary battlefield, tilting at windmills, as he attempted to engage Mr. Ward in battle and triumph, so as to “make his fortune.”

Well, the fortunes made this night were not for Sullivan Barrera. Andre Ward (now 29-0, 15 KOs) looks forward to facing unbeaten light heavyweight Sergey Kovalev, possibly in November of 2016, with maybe one interim fight. Sullivan Barrera (now 17-1, 12 KOs) can look forward to lots of gym time to see if he can increase his boxing expertise.

Ward earned $1.85 million; Barrera earned $450,000, and Mr. Ward analyzed his performance reiterating that he “wouldn’t use the layoff as an excuse on any level. The reality is, the more you fight, the sharper you get. There were certain things I wanted to do I didn’t do tonight. [I wanted to] get my punches off a little bit more. If we could’ve got the right shots in, we could’ve stopped him. Just things like that. Getting off more combinations and even defensively tightening things up.”

Andre Ward celebrates his victory with family and friends – back row: James Prince, Ward’s manager; Michael B. Jordan, star of “Creed” and “Fruitvale Station”; Don Da Da, one of Andre’s cut men, who’s been with him since Andrew was 10; and Virgil Hunter, Andre’s coach and godfather; front row: Diante Thompson, childhood friend of Andre Ward; young amateur boxer David Lopez; and Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch. – Photo: Malaika H Kambon
Andre Ward celebrates his victory with family and friends – back row: James Prince, Ward’s manager; Michael B. Jordan, star of “Creed” and “Fruitvale Station”; Don Da Da, one of Andre’s cut men, who’s been with him since Andre was 10; and Virgil Hunter, Andre’s coach and godfather; front row: Diante Thompson, childhood friend of Andre Ward; young amateur boxer David Lopez; and Sway Calloway, better known mononomously as Sway, an American rapper, reporter and executive producer for MTV News. – Photo: Malaika H Kambon

In this reporter’s professional opinion, if this was Andre Ward’s B- game, his A+ game would have sent us all home early, in 90-seconds-fight-over-Iron-Mike-Tyson fashion, with Muhammad Ali grace.

He came, he triumphed and, to quote Ward’s manager, James Prince, “I’m excited to be on Team Ward as we enter the light heavyweight division. No weapons formed against us shall prosper.”

Extremely enthusiastic fans numbering 8,532, a host of Bay Area personalities including Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry, famed actor Michael B. Jordan, and future contender Sergey Kovalev himself were in attendance at the Oracle Arena.

But the whole world is watching.

*CompuBox is a computerized punch scoring system run by two operators, utilized in boxing matches globally.

Malaika H Kambon is a freelance, multi-award winning photojournalist and owner of People’s Eye Photography. She is also an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) state and national champion in Tae Kwon Do from 2007-2012. She can be reached at kambonrb@pacbell.net.