ANDRE WARD is aware of what’s at stake when he fights Sullivan Barrera in his light-heavyweight debut on March 26.

The plan is for Ward to face division leader Sergey Kovalev at the end of the year, provided they both stay unbeaten.

Ward, who cleared out the super-middleweight division before moving up, plans to have one more fight after facing Barrera, before he meets Kovalev.

“I’ve been entrenched in this fight and haven’t even talked anything past this fight. The reality is, without this fight and without a victory in this fight, there is no Kovalev,” he said.

“So, you know with situations like this, I’ve really got to kind of put my blinders on and [ignore] any other distractions and really just focus on this. Because that is the reality of the situation.

“I’m the type of person that I literally put my blinders on and I don’t deal with it.

“And after the fight it’s something that I can sit down with the team about. And I believe they’ll get something worked out that everybody is happy with.”

Ward’s last fight was at a catchweight of 172lbs, though his opponent, Paul Smith, came in four pounds over. Ward stopped the Liverpudlian in nine rounds.

That fight took place last June but prior to that, Ward had not fought since November 2013.

While he insists he has retained the attributes which helped him dominate at super-middleweight, Ward feels the move to 175lbs has added new elements to his game.

“You definitely feel stronger when you don’t have to strip extra pounds off, you definitely feel stronger,” he said.

“But I still feel like I have my speed. I still feel like I have all the things that made me who I was at super middleweight but I also feel a lot stronger at 175.

“To be honest I’m a lot happier because I didn’t have to kill myself, per se, to make weight. I feel very strong and I feel like I still maintained all the things that made me who I was at 168.”

Barrera, though unbeaten in 17 (with 12 stoppages), has not fought anyone near Ward’s level and the Oakland native is expected to win next weekend.

Though he won’t go so far as to give a prediction of the fight, Ward is confident he can wear Barrera down when they meet.

“I always train for 12 rounds, a strong 12 rounds. And I think that’s something else he’s going to realize when the pace is not the normal pace he’s used to,” he said.

“I believe he’s going to get tired. And I don’t mean he’s going to stop fighting but I mean, he’s going to feel it, there’s no question about it.

“I think predictions are overrated. That’s never been my style, that’s never been how I approach a fight. The one thing I do is I always guarantee that I’m ready. I’ve never come in a fight overweight. I’ve never come in a fight not prepared. And you can’t predict what happens in a boxing ring. I know that I’m prepared for war. You have to be ready for anything and that’s what I’m prepared for. I’m prepared for a tough-tough fight. But I expect to get my hand raised at the end of the night.”