Luis Molina ya perdió la cuenta de las veces que por su mente pasó la idea de dejar el boxeo, pero cada vez que enfrentaba ese mundo traicionero un nombre le mostraba el camino de la resistencia: Sullivan Barrera.
Siempre que aparecía un obstáculo de magnitud, el manager recordaba aquel día frío de diciembre del 2013, cuando conoció al boxeador cubano y le prometió que, si él cumplía su parte, lo llevaría a la cima del deporte.
"Sullivan estaba muy decepcionado y a punto de colgar los guantes'', rememoró Molina, quien nació en Hialeah, pero a vive entre Colombia y Estados Unidos. "Hablamos mucho y me di cuenta que era una persona especial, diferente a otros boxeadores, pero al que la vida le había dado algunos golpes bajos''.
No se pierda ninguna historia local.
Hoy todo parece sonreírle a Barrera (21-1, 14 KO), quien ste sábado 3 de marzo va a la pelea más importante de su carrera en el Madison Square Garden con la intención de arrebatarle la faja del Consejo Mundial del Boxeo al ruso Dmitry Bivol (12-0, 10 KO).
Sin encontrar peleas en un año, sin las mejores esquinas, arrastrando lesiones en un hombro y una rodilla, y a veces enfrentando a rivales de más peso, Barrera iba de parte alguna a ninguna parte.
De día entrenaba solo, a puro pulmón, y de noche se iba a trabajar en una discoteca cerca del Aeropuerto de Miami para poder cubrir sus necesidades básicas. Así que cuando Molina le prometió cuatro peleas en 12 meses y una promotora potente como Main Events, el guerrero aceptó la propuesta como una tabla de salvación.
"En Main Events lo conocían de otras carteleras, donde Sullivan iba, como se dice en el argot del boxeo, como hembra, para que lo mataran y otro ascendiera'', expresó Molina. "Pero Sullivan ganaba contra viento y marea''.
Y contra viento y marea ha sido la trayectoria de Molina junto a Barrera, primero para ganar la confianza de Main Events, peleando no siempre contra los mejores oponentes, pero al menos peleando, dejándole saber al mundo que ellos existían.
Y luego maniobrando contra la propia promotora, que no siempre tuvo en mente los mejores intereses de Barrera en términos de contratos y rivales. En todo caso, Molina se mantuvo como un guardián fiel de la trayectoria de su representado.
Algo sumamente importante resultó la llegada del entrenador Abel Sánchez a la esquina de Barrera, un hombre que desde su centro de alto rendimiento en Big Bear, California, es codiciado por muchos boxeadores.
Luego, Sullivan buscó los servicios de Derik Santos, un profundo conocedor de las estrategias del boxeo que, como el cubano, buscaba su oportunidad para demostrar que nada tenía que envidiarle a ningún entrenador del mundo.
"Sullivan tiene en Luis Molina a un hombre que lo aprecia sinceramente'', apreció Santos. "Luis no tiene porque buscar fortuna en el boxeo, a veces se ha buscado dolores de cabeza y nunca ha dejado de apoyar a Sullivan. Esto no siempre se ve en este deporte''.
Ahora, Barrera, Molina y Santos se encuentran a punto de dar un salto monumental si este sábado el cubano derrota a Bivol y se convierte en campeón del mundo, una hazaña que tuvo su punto de nacimiento años atrás en medio de la desesperanza.
DATOS DE INTERES
12-0-0 (10 KOs)
21-1-0 (14 KOs)
Bivol is a strong, hard-hitting light heavyweight. He has knockout power in both hands and has been successful overwhelming his opposition with his in-your-face attack.
Barrera has a strong jab he uses well, and has shown numerous times he can overcome the adversity that takes place in the squared circle, thanks to solid endurance and a granite chin.
Although he had an extensive amateur career, Bivol is still only 12 fights deep into his professional career. His inexperience as a pro may come into play if his opponent takes him into deep waters.
Sullivan has great technical boxing skills, but also has a tendency to get into wild slugfests with his opponents. He needs to keep his composure and stay sharp in order to avoid one of Bivol's thundering blows.
There is no question Bivol has been through the gauntlet for his first 12 professional bouts. However, he does not have the experience nor has he faced the level of opposition Barrera has faced thus far.
Although this is his first world title fight, Barrera has been in the ring with some of the best the division has to offer: Andre Ward, Vyacheslav Shabranskyy, and Joe Smith Jr. He has overcome adversity in prior bouts, making him a stronger fighter to this point.
Bivol's power is one of his greatest assets. He throws vicious combinations and possesses significant power in both hands.
Barrera has a powerful jab and a devastating right hand, both of which have played roles in the majority of his stoppage wins.
The champion has solid speed, quick hands and is fast on his feet as well.
The challenger has average speed, and maintains a steady pace throughout the fight.
Due to the way he has steamrolled through his opposition thus far, Bivol has only gone a full 12 rounds once, when he defeated Felix Valera in 2016.
Barrera proved he could go 12 rounds in a decision loss to former titleholder Andre Ward. He earned 10-round decision wins over ranked contenders Joe Smith Jr and Felix Valera.
Bivol's style allows him to be an accurate puncher. He likes to close in on his opponents, leaving them with little room to run.
Barrera's is very accurate when he gets his jab going and puts his punches together behind it.
Bivol's best defense has been his offensive aggressiveness thus far in his short career.
If Barrera commits to the jab, it can be very effective in taking any fighter out of his element, making it that much more difficult to get anything going offensively.
We have yet to see a big puncher have any offensive success with Bivol, so his chin is still a question mark.
Barrera has a granite chin. He has been knocked down, but has never been stopped, and he hass risen to the occasion to finish strong.
Bivol is an aggressive, in-your-face fighter who immediately enters attack mode from the start of the bout. He is heavy-handed and is making a name for himself in the division as a knockout artist.
Barrera is an extremely tough and technical fighter who likes to stick his jab and set up his shots. He also has a brawling style that inevitably comes out when his opponents show they are willing to engage.
Bivol makes his first WBA title defense against one of the hottest light heavyweights in the world in Sullivan Barrera. This is no surprise, however, as Dmitry has faced off against a who's who of opposition in his short career. Although his Cuban opponent believes Bivol is in over his head taking on the WBA's #1 ranked Barrera, Bivol thinks otherwise. He has full confidence in his abilities, and is well aware that if he has his way with Barrera, the sky is the limit for what he can do in the sport.
Barrera has been petitioning for a title shot for years. He has stepped up and faced off against the division's best light heavyweights. After years of hard work and victories over the likes of Joe Smith Jr, Karo Murat, and Vyacheslav Shabranskyy, he has been offered his long-awaited opportunity. Barrera opted to face the less experienced Dmitry Bivol. Barrera feels his route to a title shot was much more grueling than that of the champion, and believes Bivol will not be prepared for such a seasoned and gritty challenger as Sullivan Barrera.
Dmitry Bivol is one of the sport's top prospects, but he lacks the television exposure of Barrera. Despite a loyal Russian following, he may be at a disadvantage here. If he can comfortably handle the challenger in this match, expect his crowd support to increase significantly.
Over the years, Sullivan Barrera has established himself as a crowd-pleasing fighter. He competed at Madison Square Garden in his last bout in which he earned a win over ranked contender Felix Valera. He can expect significant crowd support coming into this bout.