Mario Barrios’ chance to win title, get closer to junior welterweight champs, is here
The moment Mario Barrios has been working for is at his fingertips. It just hasn’t hit him yet.
“I think with camp and everything, it has just been so busy,” Barrios told Sporting News. “It’s definitely a good feeling, knowing that I’m finally here.”
On Saturday night, Barrios faces Batyr Ahkmedov for the vacant WBA “regular” junior welterweight title. The title fight will be part of the Errol Spence-Shawn Porter welterweight unification bout at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
The timing of the fight is perfect for the 24-year-old Barrios, considering Jose Ramirez just became a unified world champion in late July and WBA “super” titleholder Regis Prograis and IBF champ Josh Taylor are set to unify on Oct. 26. A win over Ahkmedov this weekend, and Barrios will inject himself into the championship picture in a division that’s peaking. And “El Azteca” knows it.
“I’m fighting for the WBA ‘regular’ world title and it’s going to get me that close to current champions, which to me is ultimately what I want,” Barrios told SN. “After the Taylor-Prograis fight, there’s only going to be two champions. If everything goes well the way we’re planning on it for my fight —not looking past Akhmedov — but I would love an opportunity with either the winner of Regis and Taylor or even a fight with Ramirez.”
And if the winner of Prograis-Taylor gets to Ramirez for a shot at undisputed glory first, with Barrios waiting to meet that one name in the ring — all the better.
“I’m in the sport to fight the best,” he aid, “and give the most exciting fights.”
Everything’s coming together for Barrios. The San Antonio, Texas, native is young and seemingly entering his prime, undefeated at 24-0 with 16 KOs and closing in on his first world title.
Plus, he’s coming off a nationally televised, riveting knockout via a crunching left-hook liver shot to Juan Jose Velasco in May. Velasco had a delayed reaction before hitting the deck on his knees, his forehead pressed on the canvas, as he writhed in pain unable to rise.
It was the highlight Barrios felt his career needed before he attempts to become world champ — not to mention, put the other titleholders at 140 pounds on high alert.
“This last fight against Velasco, I thought that one really put a lot of people on notice,” Barrios offered. “Velasco, he’s a guy that went eight, nine rounds with Regis and he gave Regis a difficult fight before Regis was able to stop him. I was able to take him out in two rounds.”
While a performance against a common opponent could be telling — or prove nothing at all — Barrios did get a confidence boost after flattening Velasco.
“I never compare myself to anybody, especially with similar opponents, but just the way I was able to dominate Velasco, it really showed a lot of people my presence in this division, he said.”
As if Barrios doesn’t already have all the motivation he needs against Ahkmedov (7-0, 6 KOs), “El Azteca” gets that extra push from a trusted source. His older sister, Selina Barrios, boxes as well, and is coincidentally coming off a vicious body-shot KO. Her presence alone has Barrios energized to take the next step.
Couldn’t be prouder. A lot of people aren’t able to bounce back after a tough loss but my sister looked better than ever proving she’s back on track with that liver shot. #TeamBarrios keeps moving forward.
A post shared by Mario “El Azteca” Barrios (@boxer_barrios) on Aug 5, 2019 at 3:48pm PDT
“We started this sport together,” he said of his sister. “She was out there early for my camp — for the first week and a half. Just having her presence there, she’s the one I got into the sport with. We’re still rocking and we’re still making a lot of noise together.”
Perhaps the loudest noise to date will come Saturday night in L.A.
“This fight is going to help elevate me,” Barrios said. “It’s going to put the champions on notice, it’s going to put the boxing fans on notice of my presence in the division.”
That’s just in case they’re not familiar yet.
Story by Mark Lelinwalla