Friday, 12 May 2017 22:36

Joe Smith, Jr: Why Sullivan Barrera is the right opponent, now

Written by

Per, light heavyweight’ contenders Sullivan Barrera (19-1, 14 KOs) and Joe Smith Jr. (23-1, 19 KOs) will battle on HBO, July 15 in Inglewood, California.

The bout will serve as Smith's first since his impressive knockout win over aging fight legend Bernard Hopkins December 17 on HBO.

Will Joe Smith Jr rise to stardom? He certainly made a name for himself by not only defeating a great legend, but by being the first and only man to stop Hopkins inside the distance.

Now what?

If you're Team Smith, you're going to try to build off the momentum generated from the Hopkins fight and parlayJoe's boost in stock Joe into something even bigger.

Smith is a good fighter but it would have been unwise to put him in the ring with an opponent like Adonis Stevenson, Artur Beterbiev or Jean Pascal right away; especially given there's not a lot of public demand for those bouts.

Joe is riding high... Why risk short-circuiting his momentum by putting him in a low reward/high-risk position?

Smith has sparked the public's interest. Now, he must turn that spark into a flame. Once he's done that, the public will clamor a lucrative, high-stakes superfight with one of the other big guns in the division.

A couple of solid wins against tough, quality opponents like Sullivan Barrera should get Joe well-positioned (from a promotional perspective) for the Wards, Kovalevs and Stevenson's of the division.

Barrera isn't Andre Ward but he's certainly no joke. In fact, he's BoxRec No. 12 light heavyweight, just two below Artur Beterbiev. And keep in mind, last December he knocked out surging Vyacheslav Shabranskyy who was 17-0, 14 KOs. And let's not forget, he has a solid amateur pedigree and holds amateur victories over future professional world champions Mariano Natalio Carrera, Chad Dawson and Beibut Shumenov.

Joe Smith vs Sullivan Barrera is a great fight. The latter is a threat but not an overwhelming threat. And should Smith pass this test, it would prove his wins over Andrzej Fonfara and Bernard Hopkins were not flukes.

Barrera is the right opponent for Joe Smith Jr and will beat him if the latter doesn't bring his 'A' game.

Lee Cleveland

Lee is Managing Editor of, a student of the Sweet Science and longtime boxing fan.