Ward gets easy win over Barrera in light heavyweight debut

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Andre Ward unanimously outpointed Sullivan Barrera in his light heavyweight debut Saturday night, setting the stage for a potential title fight against unified champion Sergey Kovalev.

Ending a nine-month layoff while fighting for just the fourth time in four years, Ward (29-0) knocked down Barrera in the second round with a sharp left. The 34-year-old Cuban bounced up quickly before Ward landed another pair of stinging lefts to the head.

About the only thing to go wrong for the Oakland fighter came late in the eighth when referee Raul Caiz deducted a point from Ward for a low blow that sent Barrera (17-1) down to one knee. Ward also drew a warning in the 10th for an accidental head butt.

All three judges had Ward winning easily. The scores were 117-109, 119-109 and 117-108.

The win paves the way for Ward to fight Kovalev, the Russian slugger who has defended his title three times since beating Bernard Hopkins in a unification match in 2014.