LAS VEGAS – Mario Barrios probably wouldn’t have drawn much criticism if he had fought an opponent a lot less dangerous than Keith Thurman in his first fight after suffering an 11th-round, technical-knockout loss to Gervonta Davis. (photo by Ryan Hafey)
Barrios commendably wasn’t interested in anything resembling a tune-up. He’ll make his welterweight debut Saturday night against a former WBA/WBC 147-pound champion who has lost only to Manny Pacquiao.
Oddsmakers obviously consider Barrios (26-1, 17 KOs) a very live underdog, as Thurman (29-1, 22 KOs, 1 NC) isn’t even a 2-1 favorite versus the former WBA world super lightweight champion. The odds aside, San Antonio’s Barrios realizes that he’ll encounter a shorter fighter, yet a tall order in their FOX Sports Pay-Per-View main event at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino’s Michelob ULTRA Arena (9 p.m. ET; $74.95).
“I’m gonna have to, you know, do it all,” Barrios said during a press conference Thursday inside Michelob ULTRA Arena. “You know, Thurman is, you know, it was the most difficult fight that was presented to me and that’s why, you know, I took it. He can box, he can bang, he has good movement, and, you know, so during camp, we had to get ready, you know, for every style possible. You know, cuz we know he could do it all. But, you know, as he was saying, I believe, you know, we have the potential to bring out the best out of each other. And man, it’s just gonna be a hell of a night of boxing. You know, this is definitely a fight that y’all don’t wanna miss out on.”
Thurman, 33, hasn’t boxed in 2½ years, not since he got off the canvas from a first-round knockdown and pushed Pacquiao in a 12-round welterweight title fight the Filipino legend won by split decision in July 2019 at nearby MGM Grand Garden Arena. Despite Thurman’s abnormally long layoff, the 26-year-old Barrios believes beating the Clearwater, Florida, native in his first fight at the welterweight limit will immediately establish him as a true threat within his new division.
“Like I’ve said in, you know, these other interviews and everything, I’m looking to make a statement,” said Barrios, who bravely battled Davis before he was dropped for the third time overall in the 11th round June 26 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. “You know, I’m trying to put the welterweight division on notice that, you know, Mario Barrios is here. And, you know, like I said, I mean, Keith Thurman, he’s a great fighter. He does a lot of great things. But it’s my job, you know, to go in there on Saturday night and do everything better. And that’s exactly what I intend on doing.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.