Keith Thurman will be returning from a 931-day layoff when he takes on Mario Barrios on Feb. 5 while headlining a FOX Sports pay-per-view at the Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas.
The former welterweight champion Thurman (29-1, 22 KOs) is looking to solidify his seat back into the 147-pound picture after suffering his first career loss to Manny Pacquiao in July 2019 via split decision.
For Barrios (26-1, 17 KOs), the 26-year-old will be looking to make his mark at welterweight during his division debut after dropping his first career defeat himself – and a secondary 140-pound title – to Gervonta Davis in June.
“We’re trying to picture what Keith Thurman is going to be in the ring come Feb. 5, and he wants to prove a point,” Barrios told the PBC Podcast. “He wants to get back on track to where he was in the division. But this is my first fight at welterweight, and I’m trying to make my own impact and my own stamp in the division.
“He might be [overlooking me] and if he is, that’s a mistake that he’s making. I can’t speak on what he’s thinking about or what he’s worried about right now. I just know that I’m thinking about Keith Thurman, and if he’s worried about anyone else other than Mario Barrios, he’s making a big mistake.
“Again, coming off of a loss, a lot of fighters don’t get the opportunity. This is another form of motivation. I know a lot of fighters coming off a loss don’t get this type of opportunity again [to fight on pay per view]. I’m in the gym working and hungry. That’s why I’m so excited.”
Barrios looked admirable in defeat against Davis in a Showtime pay-per-view fight. He was outlanded by a slight margin – 96 to 93 – and the San Antonio-based slugger won several of the early rounds before eventually succumbing to the power of Davis. Barrios was knocked down a total of three times in the fight before being stopped in the eleventh.
The 5-foot, 10-inch Barrios had been fighting at 140 pounds for his last ten fights dating back to 2017.
“Hopefully, I walk away with the win, whether it comes by stoppage or whether it goes the distance. A victory on Feb. 5 takes my career to the next level,” he said.
“I want to make my stamp in the division, which is why I’m taking such a brutal fight. A victory over Keith Thurman, someone who has been in with some of the best in the division, it puts me up in the top 10 at least at 147 right now. I’ve had a good camp, and I feel stronger than ever. I’m taking things to another level. I’m excited to be back, and I want to showcase the fighter I am. To be across from a fighter like Thurman, it’s going to be fireworks. It’s going to be a very exciting fight.”
Manouk Akopyan is a sports journalist, writer and broadcast reporter. He’s also a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and MMA Journalists Association. He can be reached on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan, via email at manouk[dot]akopyan[at]gmail.com or on www.ManoukAkopyan.com