Two of boxing’s best are set to fight on Saturday as they try to protect their undefeated records. Andre Ward is back in the ring for the first time since June when he takes on Sullivan Barrera, and Kell Brook will face Kevin Bizier, defending his IBF welterweight title for the first time in 10 months.
There’s no belt on the line in Ward’s bout, but the fight should prepare him for a championship opportunity. Saturday marks the 32-year-old’s debut at light heavyweight, and he has a deal to fight Sergey Kovalev for his light heavyweight titles towards the end of 2016. That opportunity won’t come, however, if Ward doesn’t get the job done against Barrera.
"If I don't win this fight, there's nothing down the road,” Ward said via ESPN.com. “If I don't win this fight, I don't deserve to fight for the title. That's the reality of my situation."
Ward is widely considered to be one of the five best pound-for-pound fighters in the sport. With a career mark of 28-0, he’s a -700 favorite at BetOnline, and Barrera is getting +525 betting odds. But the former super middleweight champion is out to prove that he’s still at the top of his game.
Saturday’s fight is just Ward’s third since November 2013. He knocked out Paul Smith on June 20 in a 172-pound fight, but he was forced to withdraw from his November fight against Alexander Brand because of a knee injury.
Brook’s last fight came even before Ward’s, though he’s been more active in the last few years with four fights since the start of 2014. After two successful title defenses, Brook was unsuccessful in his attempt to secure a fight with Amir Khan. Instead, he’ll face Bizier, who doesn’t pose much of a threat.
Bovada.lv gives Brook -10000 odds, and a loss for him would probably end up being the biggest upset of the year. Bizier is a +1600 underdog.
Brook isn’t as widely regarded as Ward, though he has even more wins without a career loss. But the Brit believes he’s the top welterweight in the world, even ahead of the likes of Khan, Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley.
“I believe I'm the best on the planet. I always find a way. This is me now. I'm 30 this year and I want to show the world I'm the best,” Brook said, via Sky Sports.
With Brook set to face Bizier at Sheffield Arena in England, his fight begins before Ward’s at 6 p.m. ET on Sky Sports in the UK. Ward vs. Barrera begins on HBO at 9:45 p.m. ET.
Brook has won early stoppages against six of his last seven opponents, and he shouldn’t need more than a few rounds to defeat Bizier. Ward won’t have it as easy, as he looks to shake off some potential ring rust against a formidable opponent. Barrera is perfect, as well, at 17-0, most recently knocking out Karo Murat. Once Ward finds his groove, however, the fight might not last much longer.
Brook wins by early-round TKO, Ward wins by late-round TKO