Keith Thurman will fight Mario Barrios on Saturday night headlining a FOX Sports pay-per-view at the Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas.
Thurman (29-1, 22 KOs) will be returning to the ring from a 931-day layoff. The last time “One Time” was in the squared circle was July 20, 2019 when he lost a spirited split decision to the since-retired Manny Pacquiao. Thurman dropped his WBA welterweight title in the fight, and has since dropped in the welterweight power rankings due to inactivity.
After a winning four fight stretch from 2015 to 2017 that featured wins against (in order) Robert Guerrero, Luis Collazo, Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia, Thurman has fought just twice in the last five years as he's battled a litany of injuries. His other fight was a sloppy majority decision win against Josesito Lopez in January 2019.
In a recent question and answer session on reddit, Thurman acknowledged that he’s not viewed as the prolific fighter he once was due to his uneven stretch in recent years.
“We would've fought Errol Spence yesterday if Keith Thurman didn't take a loss to Manny Pacquiao. Everything that's happened in the welterweight division only manifested because Pacquiao was able to edge me out on the scorecards with his flurries, his composure, his defense in that 12-round fight,” said Thurman.
“Without Pacquiao holding onto the WBA super titles [until the summer of 2021], Errol Spence would've never had a contract to fight Manny Pacquiao. It would've been Keith Thurman. Errol had the retina tear, ended up being Ugas who fought Pacquiao, defeated Pacquiao. Rumors that Errol's gonna fight Ugas. None of that would've manifested without Thurman falling short and losing the WBA title. So Errol Spence was always on my hit list. I thought we would see each other in 2020 after the 2019 fight [against Lopez], but with the hand surgery, with COVID-19, with everything that happened, things just didn't manifest.
“With the belt not being in my possession [Spence] acts like I'm not the man to fight. That I'm not someone that needs to be beaten because I've been beaten now. Which I understand. The whole goal was to unify against Errol Spence and to have two undefeated welterweight champions in a super major unification bout. So my plans didn't go as planned but I'm still young enough, he's young enough, it's still an entertaining fight.
“I want to take on Mario Barrios Feb. 5 and then I want to take on any champion later this year so that means Errol Spence is definitely on the menu along with any other current belt holder.”
During his comeback tour, the 33-year-old Thurman has been pounding the table for an opportunity to slug it out with Spence.
The WBC and IBF champion Spence, meanwhile, is gearing up for a unification fight against WBA Yordenis Ugas sometime this spring.
If Thurman's aspirations for a title shot come to reality, that leaves WBO champion Terrence Crawford, a promotional free agent who has severed ties with Top Rank, as the only other champion from the four major sanctioning bodies as a potential opponent.
The 26-year-old Barrios (26-1, 17 KOs) will be looking to disrupt Thurman's master plans.
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.