Once Mario Barrios became sure he could take Keith Thurman’s power, the former 140-pound titleholder went away from his game plan during his 147-pound debut.
Barrios’ lack of focus led to what he deemed a subpar performance against the ex-WBA/WBC welterweight champion a year ago in Las Vegas. After a long rest, the 27-year-old Barrios intends to start proving Saturday night that he is capable of accomplishing more in the 147-pound division than his outing against Thurman indicated.
Barrios (26-2, 17 KOs) will fight for the first time since Thurman unanimously out-pointed him when he opposes Puerto Rico’s Jovanie Santiago (14-2-1, 10 KOs) in 10-round welterweight bout Showtime will broadcast from Alamodome in Barrios’ hometown of San Antonio.
“I wasn’t too happy with my performance in that fight,” Barrios told BoxingScene.com in reference to his loss against Thurman. “I would probably give myself a C-level rating at most. I know I’m capable of a lot more. I got so caught up in proving myself, showing my strength. And I think in that fight, once I found out that I could take his punch and that I could hurt him as well, that’s all I was focused on. I was just worried about trying to get him out of there with one punch, rather than winning round by round. That’s what he was doing.”
Thurman (30-1, 22 KOs, 2 NC) ended a 2½-year layoff when he battled Barrios. The Clearwater, Florida native still beat Barrios by large margins on the scorecards of judges Tim Cheatham (118-110), Dave Moretti (118-110) and Steve Weisfeld (117-111) last February 5 at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino’s Michelob ULTRA Arena.
“He’s a very intelligent fighter,” Barrios said. “He has, you know, great movement. He still has great power. He doesn’t hit soft. It’s hard to take away a lot from that fight. It was, unfortunately, a learning experience. But me and my team, we look at those two losses [to Thurman and Gervonta Davis] and we’re just taking away as much as we can from being in there, you know, with Tank and Thurman.”
Baltimore’s Davis (28-0, 26 KOs) dropped Barrios three times, twice in the eighth round and once in the 11th round, on his way to an 11th-round, technical-knockout victory in June 2021 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. Barrios has lost back-to-back bouts to Davis and Thurman, but most sportsbooks list him as at least a 5-1 favorite against Santiago.
The 33-year-old Santiago hasn’t fought since 140-pound contender Gary Antuanne Russell (16-0, 16 KOs) stopped him after the sixth round in May 2021 at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California. Santiago gave four-division champion Adrien Broner (33-4-1, 24 KOs, 1 NC) a lot of difficulty during his previous appearance – a 12-round, unanimous-decision defeat in February 2021 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
Showtime will broadcast Barrios-Santiago as its co-feature before a 12-round main event in which Mexico’s Rey Vargas (36-0, 22 KOs) and O’Shaquie Foster (19-2, 11 KOs) will fight for the vacant WBC super featherweight title. The network’s three-fight telecast will begin at 9 p.m. ET, when Cuban southpaw Lenier Pero (8-0, 5 KOs) and Ukraine’s Viktor Vykhryst (11-0, 7 KOs) will meet in a 10-round heavyweight match.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.