Keith Thurman is back in the welterweight title race, returning after nearly three years out of the ring with a solid win over Mario Barrios in tonight’s FOX PBC pay-per-view main event from Las Vegas.
Thurman (30-1, 22 KO) took the win via unanimous decision, with the judges scoring it 117-111, 118-110, and 118-110. Bad Left Hook had it a bit wider, even, scoring the bout 119-109 on two separate score cards.
Thurman, 33, was last seen in 2019, losing a title fight to Manny Pacquiao, and there was plenty of reason — including a hand surgery — to wonder if he would come back rusty or maybe just not as hungry as he once was, or if the time off would have him looking refreshed.
Mostly, Thurman looked like the time off did him some favors, as he was largely able to boss the fight against Barrios (26-2, 17 KO), who has now lost two straight and didn’t make the welterweight debut he was hoping for this evening.
Barrios did have moments of success and is a good fighter, but he’s looked sort of one-dimensional against both Gervonta Davis and Thurman, and like he may have hit a ceiling at age 26 that’s a bit below that very top tier. Still, he is young and will have time to improve, and he’s a tough kid — he fought through what was pretty clearly a broken nose for the bulk of this fight, and was able to hurt Thurman on a body shot in round eight.
But Barrios never developed a useful rhythm, and Thurman, who thrives on rhythm, was able to build plenty of his own, with only some little stutters where Barrios seemed to have any control over the fight.
“It was the fight I was expect. He was saying he was going to knock me out and I couldn’t hurt him, but I think we all saw,” Barrios said, not arguing with the loss. “Overall, we’re happy with the outcome. I’m going to go back in the gym and work.
“I felt stronger, there was nothing in there that really hurt me tow here I couldn’t continue. I was happy with the outcome, I didn’t get the win, but I still came out here and gave all the fans a good fight.”
“I felt a little ring rust in there, but it was amazing. He was a great opponent, he learned from his last outing. 2022, ‘One Time’ is back!” Thurman said.
“I’d grade this one, like, a C+, B- for myself. But I was sharp from the sparring. I saw some fundamental mistakes, and I said, ‘OK, I can treat this boy like some of my sparring partners and school him a little bit.’”
Thurman also believed he hurt his hand in “about the third round.”
“It was a left uppercut that bruised one of the knuckles and made me not want to throw it, but I was getting him with the right. I just gotta get back in the gym, get grinding, and push. I need that high intensity, high endurance.”
Asked what was next, Thurman replied, “I want the belts, baby! I want the champions. I want to be back on top. Whoever’s willing to send Keith Thurman a contract, let’s go, baby! Let’s go!”