The way the negotiations have gone you’d think the proposed fight between Andre Ward and Sullivan Barrera was some massive pay-per-view world title fight with a deal as complicated as Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao.
Nothing could be further from the truth, although the talks have been ridiculously complicated for no real reason.
It’s a notable fight, of course, as Ward (28-0, 15 KOs), the former super middleweight champion, is moving up to light heavyweight to take on an undefeated contender in Barrera (17-0, 12 KOs) in a fight being planned for March 26 on HBO at the Oracle Arena in Ward’s hometown of Oakland, California.
Ward is looking to get comfortable in his new weight class against a quality opponent and move a step closer to a fall showdown with unified titleholder Sergey Kovalev, a fight already agreed to as part of their HBO contracts.
Kovalev won one of his interim bouts last Saturday when he beat down former champion Jean Pascal for seven one-sided rounds in their rematch and moves on to a probable summer bout in his native Russia. Ward was ringside in Montreal on Saturday, theoretically to scout the fight and talk to the media to pump up the fall showdown.
But Ward, other than very brief interview in HBO, bailed on the press and even left before Kovalev’s fight ended. Go figure.
Meanwhile, his promoter, Roc Nation Sports, and Barrera promoter Kathy Duva of Main Events, continue to go around and around trying to nail down what should be, relatively speaking, a very easy and very basic deal to make.
But this is Ward we’re talking about, with whom nothing is ever easy. Everything is made more difficult than it needs to be, which is why he has fought only three times since defeating Carl Froch to unify super middleweight belts in December 2011. Ward preferred instead to fight a losing battle with his late promoter, Dan Goossen, whose contract was deemed rock solid at every legal turn.
After Goossen died, his family settled with Ward, who signed with Roc Nation, which is now finding out how tough he can be to deal with. He has fought once on the deal -- a meaningless fight against no-hoper Paul Smith in June. Then Ward pulled out of a Nov. 21 fight on the Canelo Alvarez-Miguel Cotto card because of knee soreness.
Then talks intensified with Barrera, after Barrera looked very good in a fifth-round knockout of former title challenger Karo Murat on Dec. 12.
But despite some reports swirling that Ward-Barrera is a done deal, it is not yet. They’ve been at it for about six weeks to make a fight that is now seven weeks away. It should have been done weeks ago, although both fighters are in training camp in anticipation of it being finalized some day.
Duva is as frustrated as anyone.
“Believe it or not, we are still talking. Leonard-Hearns, Holyfield-Foreman and Whitaker-Chavez all put together didn’t take this long to make,” Duva told ESPN.com, invoking three megafights her company was involved in promoting.
Those were complicated fights that legitimately took time to make. They were not Ward-Barrera.
Duva, who has about 35 years of experience in the fight game, is not too happy with the way Roc Nation/Ward are conducting their business.
“It is literally a different issue every day,” Duva said. “It’s a wonder that these people can put a four-rounder together.”
Roc Nation declined to comment on the he negotiations but, ideally, they’ll get around to finalizing the 12-rounder for March 26.