Mario Barrios can’t think of a better way to celebrate his one-year anniversary as a secondary titleholder, than in the ring defending that very belt.
Last September, Barrios secured a 12-round win over Batyr Akhmedov (7-1, 6KOs) for the title. And now the reigning WBA 140-pound title claimant from San Antonio will return to the ring in less than a month. It will actually mark his first defense, as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic pushed back his plans for a springtime ring return. Instead, he has to wait for October 24 to roll around, when he faces childhood friend Ryan ‘Cowboy’ Karl (18-2, 12KOs) as part of a Pay-Per-View event headlined by Gervonta Davis vs. Leo Santa Cruz.
“It’s a shame the card can’t take place in our home state with so many fighters on the card from there (including Houston’s Karl), but I’m just grateful to be back in the ring," Barrios told BoxingScene.com.
Barrios (25-0, 16KOs) was due to return in May, only for the ongoing global health crisis to decimate the springtime boxing schedule. The previously targeted date came after a full healing process following his 12-round war with Akhmedov, whom Barrios dropped in rounds four and 12 to claim a hard-fought unanimous decision win. The damage suffered in the brutal affair left him sidelined for months but ready to return earlier this year, only for the universe to not cooperate.
“I think we were about four weeks out from when I was supposed to fight, when we got the news that everything was canceled,” Barrios recalls. “I kept in shape, my team knew when to dial it up and to hold me back to make sure I didn’t spend months overtraining. I made the most of the wait.
“It’s not an ideal situation to have to wait a year from my last fight, but we’re all kind of in the same position.”
Karl comes in having won three straight, including a 5th round stoppage of Kevin Watts last January to avenge a knockout loss from the prior April. The 28-year old is a considerable underdog heading into the bout, his first since a knockout win last November in Oxon Hill, Maryland.
“I’ve known Ryan a long time, we grew up together in the amateurs,” notes Barrios. “I know for sure come fight night, I will see the very best version of Ryan Karl.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox