Mario Barrios Expecting “The Best Version of Keith Thurman”
Former WBA Regular junior welterweight champion Mario “El Azteca” Barrios (26-1, 17 KO’s) steps into the ring against former unified welterweight champion Keith “One Time” Thurman (29-1, 22 KO’s) in his debut as a welterweight on February 5. However, he is not looking at Thurman as a diminished fighter after a two and half year layoff.
In 2013, El Azteca entered the professional ranks with aspirations of being a world champion one day. In September 2019, he fulfilled that dream after defeating then undefeated 2016 Olympian Batyr Akhamedov for the vacant title in a close fight that was not without controversy.
Barrios saw limited action in 2020 due to the global COVID pandemic. However, he managed to get in a title defense against Ryan Karl in October 2020. In the biggest fight of his career at that time, Barrios suffered his first defeat by knockout. The loss cost him the title against three-divisional champion Gervonta “Tank” Davis on June 2021.
Now, eight months later, in a new division, he is hoping to re-energize his career by taking on Thurman. One Time has not been in the ring since losing the WBA Super championship to the future Hall of Famer Manny Pacquiao in 2019.
Many boxing enthusiasts are viewing this contest as a must-win for the former unified champion. Thurman coming off a long layoff, along with his vulnerability to the body shots, has some believing that Barrios could pull off an upset. Equally important, fans inside the boxing community believe One Time is no longer a top-level fighter.
TAKING NOTHING FOR GRANTED
During an interview on The Last Stand Podcast, the San Antonio native expressed a different view with Thurman being away from the ring for so long.
“We’re going into February 5 with the mentality that Thurman is rested, in perfect health and condition, and he’s coming back hungrier than ever. So we are expecting to see the best version of Thurman.
That’s been a real big motivator throughout camp. We are not looking at him as he’s coming off all this time off, he’s going to be slow, he’s going to be sluggish […] I know come February 5 he is going to be ready, but so am I.”
Barrios pointed out that Thurman still managed to win those fights despite being hurt to the body. Furthermore, he is ready to go the distance, if necessary.
“I am prepared, and we are preparing to go a full, hard twelve rounds.”
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By: Garrisson Bland