By: Justin Felisko
February 09, 2017
PUEBLO, Colo. – Adriano Moraes understands that two-time World Champion Justin McBride and current Rookie of the Year Contender Dener Barbosa have two completely different riding styles, but the three-time World Champion was quick to point out last fall that Barbosa rides with the same kind of balance of the 2009 Ring of Honor inductee.
“Dener uses balance better than anyone I know,” Moraes said last year at the 2016 Built Ford Tough World Finals. “He balances like Justin. Justin rides with strength, but a lot of balance and timing. Even though they are two totally different styles of riding, but Justin had perfect timing and Dener has perfect timing.”
Barbosa’s balance and timing was a big reason why Moraes was confident that Barbosa would be riding on the 2017 Built Ford Tough Series.
With five BFTS events officially in the books, Barbosa has overcome an ongoing right shoulder injury, as well as an injury to his left riding elbow, to earn a full-time spot on the BFTS.
The 2016 PBR Brazil Champion heads into this weekend’s Kansas City Invitational, presented by Express Employment Professionals, 10th in the world standings.
Barbosa is the highest-ranked rider in the world standings that did not finish in last year’s Top 35 and is one of the biggest winners following the first BFTS cut.
He has gone 6-for-11 (54.55 percent) and has racked up a second-place and eighth-place finish.
“I am feeling better and more confident right now,” Barbosa said with the help of Guilherme Marchi translating. “The more bulls I get on, the better my technique is getting, (especially) when they come away from my hand. I am feeling happy and more confident.”
McBride, who will be joining Craig Hummer in the CBS Sports broadcast booth this weekend, has watched Barbosa’s rise this year.
The color commentator agreed with Moraes’ take about Barbosa’s balance, but he is concerned with Barbosa’s free arm injury.
It was something he really noticed during Barbosa’s 86.25-point ride on Swashbuckler in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round in Sacramento, California.
“Our riding styles are a lot different, but he does have a lot of great balance,” McBride said. “The bull he rode in the championship round. He did absolutely nothing with his free arm. His shoulder stayed so even to me. I didn’t think he was going to get by that bull. He has such great balance. He doesn’t fight it. If a bull is very strong, he doesn’t fight against that and try to clamp down. He lets them throw him around on their back. I think he is really good.”
Barbosa has developed a habit this season of not moving his free arm at times, which can result in him bucking off some of the ranker bulls in the PBR.
“As far as making a run at a World Championship, though, he is going to have to get to where he is moving his shoulder more so than he can now,” McBride added. “He is really good and is competitive at this level, but to take that next step and get up there with Jess, J.B. and Pacheco he has to.”
Barbosa will have arguably the greatest test of his young career on Saturday night against Seven Dust (20-1, BFTS) in the 15/15 Bucking Battle.
Seven Dust is 2-0 this season. He last bucked off Nathan Schaper in 2.91 seconds in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round in Oklahoma City.
Fans can watch the event exclusively on CBS national television Sunday at noon ET.
“Right now, we haven’t seen Dener yet,” Moraes said. “Dener is hurt. When he is healthy, that kid is awesome.”
Barbosa re-injured in surgically repaired right shoulder last June when he was slammed hard into the ground by WhatsApp following a 90.5-point ride.
Barbosa, who was 19 years old at the time of his first shoulder surgery, said that X-rays in Brazil showed no serious structural damage.
“Doctors say it did not hurt the surgery, but it feel loose,” Barbosa said in January. “I don’t feel confident to reach all the way and open up with my arm. That is why I ride with (tightness).”
He has drawn Pill Pusher (1-0, BFTS) for Round 1, which can be seen exclusively on PBR LIVE beginning at 7:45 p.m. ET.
Barbosa added that he is enjoying living and competing in the United States. It has been a learning experience, but he has thrived with the help of riders such as Marchi and Marco Eguchi.
The 22-year-old just wishes he had his wife, Flavia, and their 3-year-old son, John Victor, with him in the U.S.
“I love to be here,” Barbosa said. “This is my dream for my career to be riding in the PBR. I am very comfortable here. With all of the cowboys here, it is another life. You work more and you dedicate more. You think more about the bull riding. You prepare yourself more in the gym.
“I miss just one thing, my family. I have a 3-year-old little boy. And my wife. After the (summer) break, I am going to try and bring them here.”
Barbosa is currently No. 1 in the Rookie of the Year race. He is ahead of Koal Livingston by 277.5 points.
The 22-year-old trails world leader Jess Lockwood by 1,230 points.
Lockwood, as well as 2015 Rookie of the Year Kaique Pacheco, nearly became the first rookies to win the World Championship.
“That is my dream. To be a World Champion,” Barbosa concluded. “I just want to have a great year. I do not want to be hurt. I am going to work for it and see what happens.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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