Sullivan Barrera and HBO have formed a recent bond that will continue Saturday night.
The premium cable network will televise Barrera’s light-heavyweight bout against Joe Smith in Inglewood, California. Barrera, a Miami resident and native of Cuba, has fought his past four matches on HBO or its Spanish-language option, HBO Latino.
With the exception of a unanimous decision loss against Andre Ward, Barrera has capitalized from his HBO appearances and remained a top-tier light-heavyweight contender. In fact, Barrera quickly recovered from the setback against Ward with knockout victories over Vyacheslav Shabranskyy and Paul Parker.
Barrera (19-1, 14 KOs) looks to continue his winning HBO trend against Smith.
“Like always I am going to give it my all,” Barrera said. “This fight will define a lot for the remainder of my career.”
Smith, however, also seeks to benefit from his previous HBO appearance.
Last December, Smith (23-1, 19 KOs) made a career breakthrough against Bernard Hopkins. In a fight that was billed as Hopkins’ ring farewell, Smith sent the former middleweight and light-heavyweight champion into permanent retirement with an eighth-round TKO victory.
Before defeating Hopkins, Smith knocked out light-heavyweight contender Andrzej Fonfara in one round in June 2016.
Thanks to his victory over Hopkins and Fanfara, Smith now strives for light-heavyweight supremacy. In fact, the winner of Saturday’s bout earns additional claim to a bout with reigning 175-pound champions Ward or Adonis Stevenson.
“Joe Smith is a great fighter, and he has shown it in his last two fights,” Barrera said. “It’s a difficult fight for both of us, and this is what the fans of boxing asked for, and I will come out to give them a show.”
Saturday’s Barrera-Smith bout is part of a telecast that also will feature two 130-pound title fights. Mexico’s Miguel Berchelt defends his World Boxing Council title against Japan’s Takashi Miura, and Panama’s Jezreel Corrales risks his World Boxing Association belt against Mexico’s Robinson Castellanos.
AROUND THE RING
▪ The Manny Pacquiao-Jeff Horn fight proved that with the right protagonist and pre-event hype, boxing still carries TV clout among different viewing groups. The ESPN-televised fight on July 1 received a household television rating of 1.6 — the highest cable broadcast for a boxing match since 2006. When streaming devices are included, the ratings jumped to 3.1.
The fight also attracted strong viewership in the 18-to-34 age group, a demographic lately considered apathetic toward boxing and more loyal to mixed martial arts.
But the presence of a crossover fighter like Pacquiao attracted not only the hardcore but also the casual fight fans.
Will the impressive ratings signal a boxing renaissance on ESPN and continued shift from the premium cable networks? The carryover effect will be tested next month when two fighters considered among the sport’s pound-for-pound best but without Pacqiuao’s appeal will headline separate ESPN telecasts.
▪ For the first time in his young professional career, Davie resident Teofimo Lopez needed the judges’ decision to determine the outcome of his bout. However, Lopez, 19, left no doubts as to the verdict, winning a lopsided unanimous decision over Christian Santinabez on Friday in Tampa.
All three judges scored the lightweight bout for Lopez, 60-54. Lopez, who represented his parents’ native Honduras in the 2016 Summer Olympics, is now 6-0 with five knockouts.
Friday (10 p.m., Showtime): Antoine Douglas vs. Bruno Sandoval, 10, middleweights.
Friday (11:30 p.m., Telemundo-Ch. 51): Romulo Koasicha vs. Josue Veraza, 10, featherweights.
Saturday (9:50 p.m., HBO): Sullivan Barrera vs. Joe Smith, 12, light-heavyweights; Miguel Berchelt vs. Takashi Miura, 12, for Berchelt’s WBC super-featherweight title; Jezreel Corrales vs. Robinson Castellanos, 12, for Corrales’ WBA super-featherweight title.