Keith Thurman will return to the ring after nearly three years on the sidelines this Saturday, facing Mario Barrios in a pivotal welterweight matchup for both men.
With both men having a lot to prove if they want to get into or back into the welterweight mix, will it be former titleholder and top 147 lb standout Thurman returning triumphantly, or will the younger Barrios make his mark in a new division? Both men are coming off of losses, and really don’t want to make it two in a row.
So who wins Saturday?
Scott Christ (0-2)
Again, I like this matchup. I’m saying that a lot this weekend, and boy does that feel good; first of all, to have matchups in the first place, and second, to have a series of them I think are actually interesting, and not sure bets. There’s another I like a lot (Nery vs Castro on this undercard) that we didn’t do staff picks for, but I think that one’s kind of a toss-up, too.
I already went into how I think this is a fight where two guys have plenty of questions to answer. Thurman’s age and run of injuries and inactivity leave him suspect coming back after such a long break. But that time off may have also done him a world of good, helped him refresh, and we could see the “One Time” of old. If we do, I think he’s too good for Barrios.
Barrios is a fighter I like a lot just as a person, he’s a unique personality for the sport, one PBC could really sell as a star if he can get a win here. And I think he’s a good fighter, too, and should be able to carry 147 well enough on his frame. Should be able, let me stress that, because like with Thurman’s layoff, I don’t know exactly what we’re going to get from Mario here. But I’m going with the younger man to eke one out in a competitive fight that could reasonably go either way, one that won’t be anything near “the end” for either. Barrios SD-12
Wil Esco (1-1)
A lot of fans like to give Keith Thurman grief but I think he’s largely been one of the top welterweights for some time now. Yes, he wasn’t good enough to beat Manny Pacquiao in 2019 — there’s no shame in that — but he does have a good track record against solid competition and wins over Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia aren’t the easiest things to come by. My biggest question about Thurman is about where he’s at physically. Thurman is known to have been dealing with elbow issues and while he might be feeling better about its current condition, I can’t help but wonder if he can really throw his right like he used to.
As for Barrios, he is at least expressing a lot of confidence in his chances against Thurman. It’s a bit hard for me to read much into that as Barrios is literally coming off a stoppage loss to Gervonta Davis at 140lb when Davis was coming up in weight. And while they’re not the same kind of fighters, I suspect if Barrios struggled to cope with Davis’ power, he might have issues with a full fledged welterweight in Thurman. I think Thurman at least shows a little signs of ring rust but expect him to pull out the decision when it’s all said and done. Thurman UD-12
John Hansen (1-1)
Happy thoughts first: I’m glad to see Keith Thurman healthy enough to get back in action. Obviously, when I say “see,” I mean that metaphorically. Because even if I weren’t on coverage for a different fight, this one being a pay-per-view is more disgusting than a teenager’s internet history.
Thurman’s run of injuries and lack of action over the past five or six years make Gary Russell Jr look like boxing’s James Brown. When Thurman was in top form, he was quality entertainment. But, his arms caught the unlucky side of a finger snap from Thanos, and half a decade of his career was lost to surgeons and rehab specialists trying to glue his hand and elbow back together.
Mario Barrios is a fine 140 pound fighter who most recently lost to a guy that would have been fighting at 130-135 pounds if he had better fork discipline. The advantages of length and height that he used to some success against Tank Davis don’t exist against Keith Thurman.
If Thurman can defy his own medical history and sustain bilateral gesticulation through the end of the fight, he should handle Barrios fine. If he wasn’t capable of it, I suspect we’d be seeing him in a cashout fight against a bigger name. Thurman UD-12
Patrick L. Stumberg (1-1)
The Keith Thurman saga remains one of the low-key strangest in recent memory. There was a time when you could say without a shred of irony that Marcos Maidana wanted no part of him, when “One Time” was a threat and not a punchline. We’re now past six years since he scored a finish, and that was a bizarre injury stoppage of Luis Collazo. He’s fought just two times in nearly half a decade.
What the hell am I supposed to expect here? The guy who beat Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia or the guy who could barely keep Josesito Lopez off of him?
He should win on paper; he’s a solid counter-puncher with the timing to overcome Barrios’ edge in hand speed. At the same time, I can’t help but see Barrios as exactly the wrong sort of man to fight after a huge layoff. Yeah, he got plastered by a lightweight, but he’s a genuinely vicious body puncher with the gas tank and aggression to make Thurman work a lot more than he’d like to. Even if it’s more a gut pick than anything else, I do think Barrios’ output is sufficient to overcome a rusty, aging Thurman. One San Antonio boy’s gotta bring it home for us this weekend. Barrios SD-12