Mario Barrios can see the exodus of welterweights who have ruled the sport’s glamor division for the better part of the past decade, and he can’t miss embracing the opportunity before him now.

“I knew this year that the welterweight division would have a lot of things moving around and opening up and all of us fighting for these titles and in these eliminators want to fight, to be the best and do these unifications,” Barrios said. “I plan on being in those fights.”

San Antonio’s Barrios will launch his mission May 4 in the co-main event of the card headlined by the Saul “Canelo” Alvarez-Jaime Munguia undisputed super middleweight title bout at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Barrios (28-2, 18 KOs) will meet Argentina’s Fabian Maidana (22-2, 16 KOs) for an interim world title that Barrios won in September by twice knocking down former welterweight champion Yordenis Ugas and cruising to a unanimous-decision triumph by three 118-107 scores.

Maidana, the younger brother of former world champion Marcos Maidana, previously suffered an eye injury that scrapped his own planned bout with Ugas, and has since won four consecutive bouts.

“Of course, that small cut pissed me off,” Maidana said. “Everything happens the way it’s supposed to, and look at me now.”


Since Terence Crawford elevated to undisputed welterweight champion in late July by dominating former three-belt champion Errol Spence Jr. by TKO, so many elites in the division have expressed interest in fleeing upward.

Crawford and Spence both seem bound for junior middleweight, along with former titleholders Keith Thurman (who defeated Barrios by unanimous decision in 2022) and Danny Garcia.

Jaron “Boots” Ennis is a new welterweight titleholder, and the May 4 pay-per-view portion of the card will start with Lithuania’s Eimantas Stanionis (14-0, 9 KOs) defending a secondary belt against Venezuela’s Gabriel Maestre (6-0-1, 5 KOs).

Barrios – at age 28 and with the lesson-learning dates against Thurman, Ugas and a 2021 TKO loss to Gervonta Davis behind him – says his coach Bob Santos jokingly has called him a “veteran.” But he feels young and energized to restore and revive a division now deprived of household names.

Barrios, a former lightweight titleholder, said it’s a “huge” opportunity and that he’s “very grateful, focused and humbled” to be on the co-main to a Cinco de Mayo card headlined by Alvarez.

On a Thursday conference call staged by Premier Boxing Champions, Maidana said he’s determined to make his own name despite the obvious connection to his brother, who handed Adrien Broner his first defeat and gave Floyd Mayweather Jr. a battle in the first of their two bouts.

“I’ve always made my own way,” Maidana said. “I’ve never saw myself in the shadow of anyone, and this will be my showcase on May 4. … My brother is a great fighter. I will forge my own way.”

Because of the family name, Maidana has Barrios’ full attention.

“I understand what kind of fighter he is,” Barrios said. “I’m expecting a hard fight, a brutal 12 rounds.”

With a victory, Barrios will be positioned to replace Crawford as WBC titleholder with the Nebraskan’s expected move up in weight, and Barrios said he will seek a unification against Stanionis should he win, as expected, versus the game Maestre.

Ennis, who is expected to announce his title-defense foe in coming weeks, is also on Barrios’ radar.

“The welterweight division is stacked,” he said. “The first thing I have to do is take care of my business. I’ve always taken the hardest fights.”