Keith Thurman and Mario Barrios will have more work ahead regardless of who prevails in their upcoming clash.
BoxingScene.com has confirmed that the upcoming February 5 showdown between former titlists will not serve as a final title eliminator. The bout will come with WBC sanctioning, though not the guarantee that the winner will have a clear shot at unified WBC/IBF welterweight titlist Errol Spence (27-0, 21KOs).
“It’s an official WBC [eliminator], not final,” Mauricio Sulaiman, longtime WBC president informed Boxingscene.com in clarifying the matter.
Rumors of Thurman-Barrios serving as a final eliminator originated from Thurman (29-1, 22KOs) himself, who suggested as much during the most recent segment of the Instagram Live-based ‘Time Out With Ray Flores’ series.
“It may have not been announced – You seem like you’re a little unaware,” Thurman told Flores. “But the WBC approached me for a weigh-in check. And I said, why is the WBC approaching me for a weigh-in check? I don’t hold the WBC title. Mario Barrios doesn’t hold the WBC title. They have no right to check my weight. Unless this fight is a title eliminator, which I knew there was a small possibility of being on the books.
“If it hasn’t been fully announced. This is my way of announcing it. They’ve been coming at me. If they wanna stop checking my weight, you know, if they’re gonna do something else, they’re gonna do something else. But everything in boxing is done for a reason. And I know that the only reason the WBC can request such a thing weeks prior to a fight…is because this fight will be a 12-round title eliminator for the WBC.”
Thurman wasn’t completely off base, though misinformed over what is at stake for the winner.
Sanctioning bodies habitually approve requests for fights to serve as elimination bouts, often as means to position fighters one step closer to challenging for the title. Only when the WBC or similar organizations declare a fight as a final eliminator is when the winner can expect to next face the reigning titleholder.
That is not the case here, which can bring some relief to fans and even several media members triggered over two fighters coming off defeats now being one win away from a title shot.
Thurman has not fought since a twelve-round, split decision defeat to Manny Pacquiao in their WBA welterweight title consolidation clash in July 2019. The bout headlined a Fox Sports Pay-Per-View event from MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, with Thurman-Barrios taking place on the same platform from nearby Michelob ULTRA Arena.
Barrios (26-1, 17KOs) makes his welterweight debut, coming on the heels of his own first defeat.
The former secondary WBA junior welterweight titlist suffered three knockdowns in an eventual eleventh-round stoppage to unbeaten rising star Gervonta Davis last June 26 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. San Antonio’s Barrios—who weighed 122 ¼ pounds in his November 2013 pro debut—had spent more than four years in the 140-pound division after a brief stay at lightweight. The strain of making 140 was too much for his growing 5’10” frame, prompting a move to welterweight.
The decision worked out well for Thurman, a former unified WBA/WBC welterweight titlist who was sifting through several names for his first fight in more than 30 months. The decision to go with Barrios was motivated by his boasting the best in-ring record and reputation of suggested opponents.
Whoever prevails on February 5 will have to win at least one more fight to earn the mandatory position in the WBC rankings. Streaking contender David Avanesyan remains first in line to participate in a final title eliminator.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox