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Smith vs. Barrera - Cup of Joe or Cuban Higher Education

Smith vs. Barrera
Smith vs. Barrera

By Allan Cerf

It’s Joe Smith, The Irish Bomber vs. Sullivan Barrera on July 15 at the Forum, Inglewood, California and HBO, Boxing After Dark.


Background: To me, Smith’s early career, jaw-destroying loss to Eddie Caminero is much less significant than Barrera’s lost to Ward. Smith was extremely young - I accept he didn’t know you need a great mouthpiece which you must bite at all times. Barrera conversely, was well schooled in the Cuban Higher Education Department, Pugilism, a tremendously thorough school that in addition to all fundamentals, taught: “when all else fails, get dirty.”  With nothing to lose against one of the dirtiest champions in history (Ward), Barrera did little with strategy or tactics and blamed his loss (really) on not having enough fun.  WHAT!  The blemish against the undefeated Ward aside, Sullivan is another skilled Cuban, rewarded well enough by that system to resist the call to the Pro Game until late – he’s 35. 


Smith, a spot-welder by day, appears to have much greater fundamentals than your average white hope of Irish lineage.  Yes, his right-hand packs serious dynamite.  This fight should be exciting and best of all, end in a KO. 


I regard myself as an expert, yet I’m unsure how to grade either challenger.  Are they a notch below the Ward’s and Kovalevs at Light-Heavy, or in fact, far south of that level?  In boxing –minus corrupt judging, PEDs, horrible refereeing- besides those minor details, the TRUTH should emerge in the ring.


Scorecards: (Speed, Power, Defense, Reach, Age, Stamina, Experience)


Smith:  B- B+, B-  B B B B (Average of all) B      


Barrera: B B B- C+ C- C+ B+ (Average of all) B-

Reality Check: NOTE! Smith’s reach is unknown, even to HBO. Never encountered this; but it appears slightly above average. Andrezj Fonfara has some solid skills and besides buzzing Smith seriously was no match for the New Yorker who executed a huge, inside right to remove the Pole from his senses.  This was impressive but less so that Smith’s demolition of Bernard Hopkins. Regardless how far from ‘prime’ was Hopkins; Smith looked good in almost every round before shockingly knocking Bhop out of the ring. 


I’m undersold on Barrera.  He wasn’t the class of the elite Cuban system and fights infrequently.  My biggest takeaway is that Sullivan likes to keep opponents at the very end of his reach where his punches are at their most devastating.  If Smith gets inside?  What then?  I actually believe that Barrera’s experience as GGG’s sparring partner means more than his Cuban and pro experience. 


Personal: I’m hoping John Raspanti allows an ‘overlooked’ article as I have nothing on Barrera.  Genial Smith is highly intelligent.  While I’m crazy about his backstory, I must point out - I know a welder and spot-welders in NYC make a fortune!  While I understand his construction colleagues follow Joe’s every move, poor they ain’t.


Fight and Prediction: Joe gets inside eventually.  Smith KO Barrera, 11.




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