When light heavyweight contender Sullivan Barrera, who has defeated notable opponents such as Joe Smith Jr., Karo Murat and Felix Valera, finally got a shot at a world title things did not go well.
Barrera fought his heart out but was outclassed in a 12th-round knockout loss to Dmitry Bivol in March.
But Barrera, a former amateur standout on the Cuban national team before defecting to the Untied States, hopes to get back on the path to another title opportunity with a win against “Irish” Seanie Monaghan in a scheduled 10-round bout on Saturday in the main event of the Golden Boy Fight Night card (Facebook Watch, 9 p.m. ET) at the Aviator Sports & Events Center in Brooklyn, New York.
“Of course, this fight is very significant for my career,” said Barrera, whose only other loss was by decision to Andre Ward in a nontitle bout in 2016. “I had a misstep (against Bivol), but I want to get right back in the mix for another title shot. Every fight is important to me. I know he’s tough. When we are brought together, I will bring my best fight Saturday. I’m trying to get another title shot and title fight. I think this is my opportunity.”
The fight was originally scheduled for Aug. 18 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, but was postponed on July 31 because Barrera suffered a right eye injury during a sparring session in preparation for the fight.
“Better late than never, right,” Main Events promoter Kathy Duva said of rescheduling the bout. “We have had a long road to making this fight happen. I’m confident it will be worth the wait. As our fight poster says, this bout is ‘High Stakes’ for both Sullivan and Seanie. This fight is a career make or break.
“The winner will be right back in the mix for a world championship in the competitive light heavyweight division. The loser will have a hard road ahead. With high stakes for the fighters comes high excitement for boxing fans.”
Barrera (21-2, 14 KOs), 36, who fights out of Miami, Florida, will essentially be fighting on Monaghan’s home turf as he has fought at the Aviator before and is from New York’s Long Island.
“I feel very comfortable there,” Monaghan said. “I’ve seen it already. I know what the locker room looks like. I know what the drive there feels like. There’s a level of comfort there.”
Barrera, with his amateur pedigree and solid professional resume, is the clear favorite in the fight.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for him and his team,” Monaghan said. “If you look at his resume, it speaks for itself. He’s one of the most dangerous guys in the world. There’s undefeated guys with better looking records than him, who would be a much easier fight than he is. He’s the kind of guy he takes everybody to deep water. He’ll get dropped, get up and fight even harder. That’s been on my mind this entire training camp.”
Monaghan (29-1, 17 KOs), 37, is looking for his second victory in a row since suffering a disastrous first-round knockout loss when he stepped up in opposition for the first time against unbeaten contender Marcus Browne in July 2017 in front of a hometown crowd.
Monaghan said he is still trying to erase the bad taste in his mouth from that fight.
“I’ve definitely got a chip on my shoulder. I was embarrassed by that loss,” Monaghan said. “Maybe my head got a little bit too big for myself. I didn’t really even think it was possible. I’ve never been down in my life in the ring or even in sparring. I got put down with a shot and was kind of dazed. I learned a big lesson. I’ll never put myself in that position again.
“I’ll gather myself up and keep on fighting. I’ve seen Barrera do it many times. It was just a bad experience, but it’s probably better to have that experience going into a fight with Barrera than never having that experience before. I’m more seasoned and I took what I can from that, and I moved on.”
Said PJ Kavanaugh, Monaghan’s manager: “We understand it is a big fight and, as everybody knows, the winner will be right back in the mix for world championship opportunities.”
If Barrera wins he would like his next title opportunity to be a rematch with Bivol, who is scheduled to defend against former champion Jean Pascal on Nov. 24.
“Right now, I’m looking at Seanie. I have my mind focused on him but, yeah, my goal is a rematch,” Barrera said. “I think that night was not my night. Right now, I’m focusing on Seanie. I’m training hard for him. I hope in the future I have my rematch with Dmitry.”