Thurman vs. Barrios: Extreme Urgency and High-Stakes Chess

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A complete analysis and break down of an explosive crossroads match between former champions Saturday night on FOX Sports PBC pay-per-view.

This Saturday, February 5 live from Michelob ULTRA Arena at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, former unified welterweight champion Keith “One Time’’ Thurman (29-1, 22 KOs) returns to the ring to take on former super lightweight champion Mario “El Azteca” Barrios (26-1, 17 KOs) in a 12-round welterweight war atop an all-action FOX Sports PBC Pay-Per-View (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT) event.

The Story

Thurman, following the first loss of his career and 30 months of subsequent inactivity, looks to immediately re-establish himself as an elite in the talent-laden welterweight division. 

Prior to his close split decision loss to Manny Pacquiao in July 2019, the former WBA and WBC welterweight champ from Clearwater, Florida had earned his spot atop the 147-pound class with a deep, diverse ring resume. Boasting victories over the likes of Shawn Porter, Danny Garcia, and Robert Guerrero, he had fought his way to the top of the sport, only to have his race to greatness stalled by injury and then the setback against Pacquiao. 

Now 33 and hungry for another run at the top, Thurman can’t afford to take a single step backwards.

When the boxing world last saw Mario Barrios in action, he was giving the explosive three-division world champ Gervonta “Tank” Davis all he could handle before getting stopped in the eleventh round. 

Prior to the Davis bout, Barrios was undefeated and earning a reputation as one of the best young fighters in the game under the guidance of renowned trainer Virgil Hunter. The San Antonio, Texas native became a world champ in 2019 when he beat Batyr Akhmedov for the vacant WBA super lightweight title and managed to make one defense of his belt until running into Davis’ heavy artillery. 

Now making his welterweight debut, the one-time gangly super bantamweight is entering his physical prime and has grown into his 5-foot-10 frame. His goal is to make an immediate impact in the 147-pound glamour division.

The Stakes

With both fighters coming off high-profile first losses and desiring an immediate top spot in the highly competitive welterweight division, this fight is a crossroads battle in the truest sense of the term. 

Thurman, at 33 years of age and languishing through a stretch of inactivity that has seen him fight just twice since March 2017, needs to look impressive in this main stage contest.

Meanwhile, Barrios would instantly achieve next-level stardom by beating a fighter with Thurman’s name value and track record.

The Matchup

Thurman’s elite-level ability is based on a mix of athleticism, skill, and high-end ring instincts. A boxer in temperament, he uses angles well and is adept at controlling the distance of a fight with superior footwork and reflexes. 

The former two-belt welterweight champ fortifies his boxing chops with legit power in both hands. Although not necessarily a one-punch KO artist, he can stop an opponent with a single blow and dissuade any sort of sustained offensive surge.

Putting the power together with his ability to box and move, Thurman is, physically, the complete package. However, he has shown some weaknesses and inconsistencies in his performances. Mostly, those chinks in the armor can be traced back to issues related to his inactivity.

I am back. The welterweight division is back. Without me, the division has been wack. Former Unified Welterweight World Champion - Keith 'One Time' Thurman

Barrios is a technically sound fighter with good hand speed, solid pop, and fluidity in his combinations. 

Fighting at the lower weights, where he always had an edge in height and reach, he did his best work fighting tall, using his solid jab to keep the contest at arm’s length. It remains to be seen how his game will translate against fighters his own height and length. A good inside game and strong body work, however, suggest that he’ll make the adjustment well. 

On defense, Barrios is well-schooled and disciplined, although his offensive instincts can sometimes leave him open for counters.

The Words

Keith Thurman

“This is my presidential campaign, I am back. The welterweight division is back. Without me, the division has been wack. I bring the most exciting fights at welterweight. With or without a belt, I’m a champion and that’s the statement I’m making Saturday night.”

Mario Barrios

“I’m grateful to my whole team for giving me this opportunity to fight on pay-per-view once again. I think I’ve proven myself to the fans that I’m a warrior in the ring who will always give a great performance. I’m going into the ring to lay punishment on my opponent. Everyone should order this fight now because I don’t think this one is going the distance.”

The Breakdown

Thurman is a boxer who can bang. Barrios is a banger who can box.

If Thurman moves and boxes the way he can, he’ll have a firm upper hand in this contest. He can also flat-out fight though as evidenced in his war with Shawn Porter. So, even if ring rust and the forward march of age slow him down, he won’t have significantly less than an even money chance of emerging victorious. 

From the Barrios side, a toe-to-toe battle would be to his benefit but controlling the perimeter and negating an opponent’s movement is also well within his skill set. 

Both fighters will try to play to their strengths and work the strategies that come most natural for them. Thurman will move and box while Barrios will look to force a firefight. The winner of the bout very well could be the one who does best what doesn’t exactly come naturally. Thurman will have to stand and fight. Barrios will have to show some nuance to nullify Thurman’s edge in athleticism. 

In Thurman vs. Barrios, we’re getting a lot of intrigue. Not only is there the contrast of styles and temperaments, there is also the must-win nature of this bout. Neither fighter can afford a second high-profile loss in a row and both need a win to stay relevant at the highest level of the game. 

Expect extreme urgency to color this Saturday’s high-stakes chess match. 

For a closer look at Thurman vs Barrios, check out our fight night page. 

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