Mario Barrios is making the move to welterweight on Feb. 5, when he faces former titleholder Keith Thurman in a FOX pay-per-view main event from Las Vegas.
Barrios (26-1, 17 KO) is coming off of the first loss of his career, stopped by Gervonta “Tank” Davis in a 140 lb bout last June, but it was a fight that was very competitive, even if the ringside judges weren’t really seeing it that way.
Now 26, San Antonio’s “El Azteca” will look to derail the comeback plans of Thurman (29-1, 22 KO), who is now 33 and hasn’t fought in two-and-a-half years, following his 2019 loss to Manny Pacquiao.
Barrios spoke with the PBC Podcast about coming back from defeat and looking to make an immediate statement in a new division, where more big fights could be coming with a win.
On the loss to Gervonta Davis
“I feel like I was boxing beautifully. It was a very competitive fight. We both brought the best out of each other, and then yeah, he caught me with some good shots. But even when the fight was called off, I felt like I could have still continued, but that’s me being the fighter that I am. I understand the ref is in there to make decisions for the fighter’s well-being. He made a call he felt was necessary. There’s nothing I can do or say about that, but I was very happy about the outcome of that fight, even though we came away with the loss.”
On making the move to welterweight
“[Making 140] was getting pretty difficult. [Moving up to 147] was already a decision we knew was going to be made pretty soon, even before we agreed to the Tank fight. But even in that fight, I made weight. I did everything the best way possible. I was still strong in that fight and everything, there were no excuses. But move to welterweight was a long time coming. Now that we are making this move, everything has been going so smoothly weigh the weight and everything. It’s just a lot more natural for me and a lot more comfortable.”
“I feel great right now. I’ve been sparring natural 154s and feeling great in there. I’m really looking forward to showcasing my talent and abilities in the welterweight division.”
On choosing to fight Keith Thurman instead of a tune-up
“It was a decision that, when I was talking to my manager about the whole move up to welterweight, he was picking my brain, who would I want to be in there with, and I told him, ‘Man, I don’t want an easy fight. If possible, man, I wanna fight one of the best welterweights. I want those big fights while I’m at an age where I’m not past my prime.’ I’m 26 right now. I want to take these big fights and the risky fights that a lot of people aren’t willing to step up to. I want to test my abilities in the sport. It’s a fight that boxing fans and sports fans in general are going to be able to enjoy.”
On welterweight being a big-name division
“It motivates me. It’s a stacked division, there’s talent from all over. If I’m moving up to welterweight, I want to make my mark right away. I want to solidify my place as quickly as possible. What better way than fighting Keith Thurman? I know it’s a dangerous fight, I know it’s a fight not a lot of people are willing to take. But that’s the type of fighter I am. I want these type of challenges.”
On Keith Thurman and what he expects
“He’s a great boxer. There’s a reason why he only has a defeat against Pacquiao. He has good movement, he was a knockout artist for a while, so he has the power. I believe his style and my style match up well to be a very exciting fight. I believe Keith is a great fighter and coming off his layoff, he’s probably more hungry than ever.”
“I’m still expecting the best Keith Thurman. Every day, we’re in the gym, we’re picturing — we’re trying to imagine what Keith Thurman is going to be in the ring. ... I expect him to work his ass off. I know he’s not going to go in there not ready, especially because he wants to prove a point and get back on track. It’s my first fight at welterweight and I’m trying to make my own stamp on the division.”
On Thurman maybe overlooking him
“He might be. If he is, that’s a mistake he’s making. I can’t speak on what he’s thinking about or what he’s worried about right now. I just know I’m worried about Keith Thurman, and if he’s worried about anyone other than Mario Barrios, he’s making a big mistake.”
On where a victory can take him
“It takes my career to that next level, that next chapter in Mario Barrios’ legacy in the sport. I want to make my stamp on the division and that’s why we’re taking such a difficult fight. I believe a victory over Keith Thurman, someone who has been in there with some of the best in the division, that puts me up there at least in the top 10 at welterweight right now.”