On Friday night, 34-year old Cuban defector Sullivan Barrera (17-1, 12 KOs) will look for redemption against undefeated light heavyweight prospect Vyacheslav "Lion Heart" Shabranskyy (17-0, 14 KOs) for the WBC United States (USNBC) Light Heavyweight Title at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California and live on HBO Latino.
Barrera is coming off a hard-fought 12-round unanimous decision loss against current WBO, WBA and IBF Light Heavyweight World Champion Andre "S.O.G." Ward earlier this year in Ward’s hometown of Oakland, California. The loss to Ward was the first of Barrera’s professional career and in the aftermath Sullivan decided to make some important changes. First, he severed ties with his long-time trainer, Abel Sanchez. Sanchez trains out of Big Bear, California and Sullivan had a desire to train closer to his home in Miami, Florida.
This desire to train in his adopted home state of Florida aided Barrera in joining forces with his new trainer, Derik Santos. Derik is the long-time protégé of world-renowned trainer John David Jackson. According to Sullivan, "I had known about Derik for a long time, since I came to this country. My team and I thought this was the best decision to work closer to home. Camp is going great, we had a long camp. It worked out perfect because I got time to really learn a lot of things from Derik."
Traditionally, Barrera had a reputation in camp for being quiet and passive during his training sessions. However, his new partnership with Santos has brought Barrera out of his shell. Santos said, "One thing that was funny, I was told he didn’t speak much. That had been the experience where he had been before. I quickly learned that wasn’t to be the case with us. I don’t know why he opened up more with me. Maybe it’s just we clicked, but we spoke a lot. He opened up to me about his life, his boxing and his experiences along the way. I remember telling Luis [Molina, Sullivan’s manager], ’I thought you said he doesn’t say much.’ Luis said that he was surprised I had gained his trust and his confidence to have such a rapport with him."
The rapport between Barrera and Santos quickly developed a new strategy and game plan for his upcoming battle with the hard-hitting Shabranskyy. According to Santos, "I really have seen a change from what he was when he got here. It’s not that he wasn’t a good fighter, but technique-wise. He credits the detail, talks and time I spent with him. He says, ’Coach it wasn’t that I couldn’t do these skill things, it’s that no one really asked me to do it. Everyone just said go forward and use my brute strength.’"
Even though the plan is for Sullivan to rely on his technical skills more than his power, Barrera still would prefer to end the night early. He said, "I must take advantage of my opportunity and do what I do best. It would be great to get a knockout because I know I am going into his home turf and his promoter’s home turf, going to be very tough to get a decision. My goal is to knock him out."
Main Events CEO Kathy Duva said, "Sullivan put up a great fight in March against Ward. This is his chance to go for the win against another undefeated boxer and I think Sullivan is going to give Slava Shabranskyy more than he can handle."