On this episode of PBC Jabs, Jordan Hardy checks in 154-pound contender Erickson Lubin ahead of his first world title fight against Jermell Charlo on October 14. Plus, we recap our September 19th FS1 show and preview our upcoming September 26th FS1 show.
Get ready for another round of PBC Trivia! Last week's winner of a Premier Boxing Champions t-shirt was Quinn Ortega, but this week, it could be you!
The year 2013 was bittersweet for Austin Trout, who experienced a pair of losses around the death of his grandmother during his wedding.
Trout was floored that December during the 11th round of a unanimous decision loss to Erislandy Lara at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. It came after his grandmother, Ann Johnson, died of a heart attack during his marriage to Taylor Trout on May 26.
Those incidents exacerbated a 154-pound title unification loss by disputed unanimous decision to Canelo Alvarez in April 2013.
Trout (30-3, 17 KOs), of Las Cruces, New Mexico, returns to Barclay Center for the first time since the Lara fight when he takes on unbeaten champion Jarrett Hurd (20-0, 14 KOs) of Accokeek, Maryland on Oct. 14.
“No Doubt” looks to regain past glory on a card featuring title defenses by Lara (24-2-2, 14 KOs) against 2012 Olympian Terrell Gausha (20-0, 9 KOs) and champion Jermell Charlo (29-0, 14 KOs) against Erickson Lubin (18-0, 13 KOs).
Trout, 32, discussed the meaning of his clash with Hurd, among other things, during a break from training recently.
Who and where are you sparring?
Right now, we’re here in Las Cruces with [trainer] Louie Burke, sparring with Joey Alday and Keith Hunter. It’s going well. Fortunately, during the layoff (15 months), I’ve been in the gym and staying sharp.
I get to come back for a title shot against an undefeated dude. They may think that ring rust is going to affect me. I hope that they’re sleeping on me, but either way, I feel like they messed up.
Luckily, for me, I take care of myself outside of the ring, I’m in great condition, physically, and we still have a month of training left to go.
Can you re-live the crowning achievement of your career – the victory over Miguel Cotto, doing it in his partisan New York with relatives a ringside?
That’s definitely the highlight of my career and my life, but at the same time, it’s sort of bittersweet because that was five years ago. I’m focused on creating a new moment.
I need to give the boxing world something more recent to talk about in the form of another career defining win, and that’s what they’re gonna get on October 14.
I’m looking back at that time, not necessarily to hold on to, but to motivate me because I feel like if I hang on to it too much, that can become a distraction and the only moment that you have.
Your thoughts on losing to Canelo Alvarez, and the disadvantages you feel you faced before his partisan fans in San Antonio?
As far as the conditions, from the ring to the judges to the location, they were stacked up against me. They wanted it in Texas.
The open scoring was another thing. I figured I was winning after four rounds, but they announced that he was winning.
At the same time, it was a damn good fight. There are still some things we could have done, but you never train for that type of an atmosphere.
Returning to New York to face Erilandy Lara at Barclays, was the passing of your grandmother a factor, emotionally?
That was the low point of my career. My grandmother passed away on my wedding day. To return to Brooklyn, where she was born and raised, that was hard.
I wasn’t over the Canelo loss, yet. But for me, I wanted to jump right back in and show that I was one of the baddest guys in the game against Lara.
He was a slick, dangerous boxer and the guy nobody wanted to fight. I wanted to come back strong, but maybe I was a bit too ambitious.
“ I need to give the boxing world something more recent to talk about in the form of another career defining win, and that’s what they’re gonna get on October 14. ” Austin Trout, on his upcoming fight against 154-pound champion Jarrett Hurd
Can you discuss your loss to Jermall Charlo, his abilities, and what separated you from victory in the end?
I feel like in the minds of the judges, it was the Charlo show from the jump. It was all about his making history, so it seems like the stage was set.
But as far as my performance goes, I guess I should have come on earlier, because I know I dominated the second half of the fight.
It was a good, close fight, and I thought I did enough to win, but at least Charlo didn’t have a bunch of things stacked in his favor, so it’s a bit easier to take than losing to Canelo.
It wasn’t like Charlo had open scoring. It was a fight that happened in Las Vegas, so the conditions were more neutral.
What are your thoughts on the skills of Jarrett Hurd, and how does he compare to those you have faced?
You can’t underestimate a guy like Hurd, who is an undefeated champion and wants to stay that way. I’m looking at this as if I’m fighting Charlo again.
But I’ve been here before, fighting tough junior middleweights in the past. But this time, I’m going to be more decisive. Jarrett Hurd is going to fail the Austin Trout test.
What does a victory do for your career, and, conversely, a loss?
A win puts me right there with any of the other champions, and Jermell Charlo would be an immediate target. But there’s also big-fight potential with Miguel Cotto since he’s got a title, also.
Either way, beating one of them makes me a unified world champion, and I’d be back to running (things) in the division. As far as losing, I don’t know what that means.
Do you have a boxing hero or fighter whom you admire?
I have so many heroes, from Muhammad Ali, to Pernell “Sweat Pea” Whittaker, to Marvin Hagler. Hagler’s mind-set intrigues me. He put it down like, “You’re my enemy and we’re going to war.”
Tactically, physically, he was just phenomenal. Similar to me, he was a southpaw and nobody gave him anything. He had to make it mostly on his own.
Sweet Pea is another southpaw and one of my favorite fighters. Defensively, he was amazing, and if only he had just a little more pop. But Marvin Hagler, right now, he’s my spirit animal.
Of all the boxers in history, who do you wish you could’ve fought, and how would the fight have played out?
I think if I could have fought Jake LaMotta, the Raging Bull, his style compliments mine and I think that would make for a great fight.
Of course, he lost to the Greatest of All Time, Sugar Ray Robinson. I’d like that fight just to see how that would pan out.
Finish this sentence: If not for boxing, I would be …
I would be a drug dealer, in jail or broke. Boxing has given me structure, and if I didn’t have that, then I would just do whatever I wanted. If it hadn’t been for boxing, I’d be undisciplined.
What’s the hardest you’ve ever been hit, and how did you deal with it?
That would be against Canelo. That’s the hardest I’ve ever been hit. I got up, shook it off and tried to beat his ass for the rest of the round. I think I actually won the round, if not, the fight.
What about a favorite punch to throw?
I would say the jab, which I landed basically at will against Cotto and Alvarez. I can set up whatever I want with the jab, and I think I did that well against Cotto.
It’s after the fourth round against Canelo when I got aggressive that I was in trouble. I don’t think the judges, with their scoring, really appreciated my jab.
Do you have a favorite boxing movie?
Rocky was the movie that got me hyped.
If Hollywood were to make a movie about the life of Austin Trout, what actor would you choose to portray you?
I would choose Mahershala Ali, the guy who plays the bad guy, Cotton Mouth, in the Luke Cage series. He also won Best Supporting Actor in that movie, Moonlight.
If you could have dinner with any four people in history, living or dead, who would they be?
I would say Bob Marley, Malcolm X, [Black Panther chairman] Fred Hampton and Marcus Garvey. They could teach me more about my ancestors.
Heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder plans to show fans at least two things during his upcoming defense against Cuban southpaw Luis Ortiz: The soles of Ortiz’s shoes.
“Somebody better endorse the bottom of Luis Ortiz’s shoes,” said Wilder. “Because he’ll be on his back, staring at the ceiling and they’ll be seeing both of them at the end of this fight.”
Wilder (38-0, 37 KOs) takes aim at his sixth straight knockout in as many heavyweight title defenses when he takes on the 6-foot- 4 Ortiz at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, on November 4 on SHOWTIME. Wilder had one of his most explosive performances at Barclays Center when he scored a ninth round knockout of Artur Szpilka on Jan. 16, 2016.
“I’m looking forward to the Barclays Center. They showed me a helluva lot of love the first time, and this is an even bigger fight,” said Wilder, a 2008 Olympic bronze medalist who turns 32 on October 22. “I can’t wait for the environment, to feel the energy of the people who are gonna come out and watch me and Ortiz fight. I personally called out Ortiz. I want to prove that I am the division’s best, and that starts on November 4.”
With division counterpart Joseph Parker (23-0, 18 KOs) of New Zealand set face England’s Hugie Fury (20-0, 10 KOs) in his second defense on Saturday, and the 6-foot-6 Anthony Joshua (19- 0, 19 KOs) of England fighting Kubrat Pulev (25-1, 13 KOs) on October 28, “The Bronze Bomber” envisions a path toward becoming the division’s first unified champion since Lennox Lewis in 2000.
“I want Joshua, and I want him, now. He’s saying he’s the best, but I know I’m the best,” said Wilder. “I’m very confident that I will unify this division, no if’s ands or buts about it. I will retire on top, undefeated as well.”
“ I personally called out Ortiz. I want to prove that I am the division’s best, and that starts on November 4. ” Deontay Wilder
In his last fight the 38-year- old Ortiz (27-0, 23 KOs) scored a seventh-round stoppage of David Allen in Manchester, England last December. Ortiz, whose nickname is “The Real King Kong” poses the stiffest test since Wilder dethroned Bermane Stiverne by unanimous decision in January 2015 to become America’s first division champion since Shannon Briggs in 2007.
The 240-pound Ortiz is the largest southpaw that Wilder will have faced since he stopped Audley Harrison, a British Olympic gold medal winner, in 70 seconds in England in 2013.
“Ortiz has a little power and an aggressive style,” said Wilder, a native of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. “With my power and our mutual aggression this will transform into being a helluva fight.”
Wilder scored an eighth-round knockout of three-time title challenger Chris Arreola in July 2016, but required surgery to repair broken bones in his right hand and a tear in his right biceps that sidelined him for several months. His triumph over Washington proved that he's back and healthy.
Ortiz’s biggest victory is a seventh-round stoppage of Philadelphia’s Bryant Jennings in December 2015 following Jennings’ 12-round unanimous decision loss to Wladimir Klitschko in his previous fight eight months earlier.
Ortiz also stopped left-hander Tony Thompson in the sixth round in March 2016. Thompson has a pair of stoppage losses to Klitschko the sixth and 11th rounds.
Wilder and Ortiz share an opponent in Philadelphia’s 6-foot- 4 Malik Scott. Wilder knocked out Scott in 96 seconds in March 2014. Ortiz dropped Scott three times on the way to a 10-round unanimous decision in November 2016.
“When I beat this guy, I don’t want any excuses from the commentators, the public, other fighters or the so-called expert boxing analysts,” said Wilder. “Some people already are making excuses about his age, but that wasn’t the case before I started calling him out. When I beat this guy, I want all of my due credit.”
The little voice in Mario Barrios’ head kept whispering to be patient, stay back, don’t lean. His eyes intently focused, working out of a slight crouch, Barrios whittled down a very tough Naim Nelson. Barrios remained unbeaten in the main event of a Premier Boxing Champions show on Fox Sports 1, Tuesday night in Bethlehem, Pa.
Barrios (20-0, 12 KO) notched his fourth straight stoppage with a seventh-round TKO over a very game Nelson (13-4, 1 KO).
“Nelson was tough and we knew that coming in here,” said Barrios, who was working with trainer Virgil Hunter for the fourth time. “I was going to execute my game plan, I wanted to put on a more entertaining show, but I still came out with the victory. That’s all that matters. He moved a lot. I think I learned I can deal with different looks, which is what I’ll need in order to go on to those big fights.”
With 53 seconds left the third round, referee Gary Rosato stopped the fight momentarily after Nelson landed a left, dislocating his left shoulder. The ringside doctor checked out the shoulder and deemed it okay to continue. Until then, Nelson had caused Barrios some trouble with his counter punching and movement.
Each time Nelson threw a left from that point on, he winced and visibly bit hard on his mouthpiece. Still, Barrios remained calculating and careful.
In the fifth, Barrios opened up more, stalking Nelson. A Barrios straight right to the face midway through the round had Nelson reeling slightly backward.
The end arrived in the seventh, when a Barrios left hook caught Nelson in his left shoulder. It forced Nelson down again and was enough Rosato to wisely call it over midway through the round.
“I think I did surprise myself with how patient I was,” Barrios said. “A fight like this can grow frustrating with only a few punches thrown per round. But I concentrated on sticking and pulling. I couldn’t start getting wild. Staying composed was very important in this fight.”
“ I think I learned I can deal with different looks, which is what I’ll need in order to go on to those big fights. ” Mario Barrios
In the co-main event, Thomas Velasquez and southpaw Tyrome Jones fought to a six-round draw in a 130-lb. match. Velasquez (9-0-1, 5 KO) chose to attack the body, though there were times Jones (4-2, 1 KO) caught Velasquez lunging and made him pay with counter right hooks.
“I had to use the jab in this fight and my double-jab and body shots were working well,” Velasquez said. “This was a great learning fight and I felt that I won.”
The 21-year-old Velasquez, with his mentor, former world champ Danny Garcia, seated ringside, won the early portion of the fight, while Jones came on in the last three rounds. His counters kept cleaving Velasquez’s defense, enough for judge John McKaie’s scorecard to have Jones a 59-55 winner, which was opposed by judge John Porturaj’s 59-55 score for Velasquez and judge James Kinney’s 57-57 tie.
“This was a tough fight against an undefeated guy who came in confident, I countered very well and I got to him,” Jones said. “I know I won the fight, but he is in his hometown. That’s what happens sometimes in boxing.”
In the TV opener, cruiserweight Earl Newman, coming off over a year’s sabbatical from the ring due to injury and fights falling out, fought to a draw with 32-year-old Paul Parker in an eight-round bout. Newman (10-0-1, 7 KOs) received a battle from Parker, who had some good moments in the first few rounds when he stung Newman with wide rights.
“After a year off, I felt rusty,” Newman said. “I saw the punches, but I did not react as well as I wanted to. That being said, I kept pressuring and landed more to the body. I felt I won the fight. Now it is back to the drawing board. I can’t be inactive for a long time.”
With roughly 15 seconds left in the fifth, Newman (10-0-1, 7 KO) caught Parker (8-2-1, 4 KO) with a right on the jaw that seemed to jolt the older fighter. Parker suddenly lost his legs and hung on to Newman to finish the round. But in the sixth, Parker found his balance, and scratched his way back into contention.
In the end, judge James Kinney had it 79-73 for Newman, judge Kevin Morgan scored it 77-75 for Parker, and McKaie had it an even 76-76.
“He is a great fighter,” Parker said. “I listened to my corner and followed the game plan. He caught me with some good punches, but I landed the cleaner shots. I wobbled him and I was busier. I won the fight, but I know the business. He has the promoter, and I am sure I had to knock him down at least because of that I want a rematch.”
Here’s a list of some of PBC's top rising stars. Boxers on this list are on a hot streak, like a slugger in baseball on a hitting streak or a running back in football who keeps posting 100-yard rushing games. They’re not ranked in any particular order. We’ll leave that to you—the reader.
Mario Barrios, 140 pounds (19-0, 11 KOs)
Mario Barrios was already a tall order for 130 pounders, but the 6-foot tall, 22-year-old has been even more impressive since rising to 140. He will pursue his fourth consecutive stoppage in the new division when he meets Naim Nelson on FS1 Toe-to-Toe Tuesdays on September 19.
The match against Nelson represents Barrios’ fourth straight fight with trainer Virgil Hunter. In his last fight, Barrios stopped Jose Luis Rodriguez in the seventh round in June. The San Antonio native has strategically risen in weight since making his professional debut at 122¼ pounds in November 2013.
Barrios fought three times in 2016, including unanimous decision victories over Edgar Gabejan and Devis Boschiero at 135 and 130 pounds, respectively. Before facing Rodriguez, Barrios stopped Claudio Rosendo Tapia and Yardley Armenta Cruz.
David Benavidez, 168 pounds (19-0, 17 KOs)
David Benavidez overcame an injured middle left knuckle and rose from a final round knockdown for a split decision victory over Romanian slugger Ronald Gavril on September 8. In doing so, he became the youngest world champion in division history at 20 years old, and boxing’s youngest current titleholder.
Trained by his father, Jose Benavidez Sr., “El Bandera Roja” (The Red Flag) surpassed 22-year-old Darrin Van Horn’s accomplishment in May 1991, and ended the 31-year-old Gavril’s 7-fight winning streak (five by KO).
Benavidez was 7-0 - all knockouts - before his 18th birthday. He has also registered 13 of his 17 career stoppages within two rounds. Benavidez displayed two-fisted power on the way to securing his 10th straight knockout, scoring three knockdowns during an eighth-round stoppage of former title challenger Rogelio Medina in May. The finish to that fight is widely considered a candidate for boxing's 2017 Knockout of the Year.
Jermell Charlo, 154 pounds (29-0, 14 KOs)
Jermell Charlo will be after his fourth straight stoppage and the second successful defense of his title against southpaw Erickson Lubin on SHOWTIME ON Oct. 14 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. In his last fight, Charlo scored a sixth-round KO of Charles Hatley.
Charlo made history with an eighth-round KO of John Jackson in May to win his world title, joining his twin, Jermall, as the first siblings to simultaneously hold 154-pound titles. Jermall has since vacated his 154-pound title to move into the 160-pound division.
Charlo sparred 50 rounds with welterweight champion Errol Spence, Jr., before the Hatley match. Charlo will again prepare for Lubin by sparring with Spence, with whom he shares trainer Derrick James.
Jermall Charlo, 160 pounds (26-0, 20 KOs)
Jermall Charlo wasted no time making his mark at 160 pounds after vacating his 154-pound title, scoring a fourth-round TKO victory in his division debut against Jorge Sebastian Heiland in July at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
With the victory Charlo became the mandatory challenger for one of the world titles held by unbeaten Gennady Golovkin, who will defend his unified championship against Canelo Alvarez on Sept. 16.
The stoppage represented the 18th in his past 20 fights and the second straight for Charlo, who was in his first fight since a gaining an impressive three-knockdown, fifth-round KO of previously unbeaten Julian Williams in December.
Gervonta Davis, 130 pounds (19-0, 18 KOs)
Baltimore-native Gervonta Davis went to London, England in May, where the 22-year-old defended his 130-pound title with a third-round stoppage that included a final round knockdown of previously unbeaten contender Liam Walsh.
The 5-foot-6 southpaw won the title with a seventh-round TKO over previously undefeated Jose Pedraza at Barclays Center in Brooklyn in January.
Davis lost that title on the scales before his fight against Francisco Fonseca, whom he stopped on an eighth round KO on Aug 26.
Mikey Garcia, 135 pounds (37-0, 30 KOs)
After nearly two years of inactivity, Mikey Garcia returned with a vengeance, competing in a fourth weight class with his unanimous decision over former four-division champion Adrien Broner in July.
The 29-year-old Garcia became a three-division world champion in January with a third-round KO of 135-pound champion Dejan Zlaticanin. With the victory, Garcia improved to 7-0 with six KOs against current or former world champions.
By defeating Broner in the highest-profile win of his career, Garcia set himself up to be a threat and a championship contender from 135 through 147 pounds.
Jarrett Hurd, 154 pounds (20-0, 14 KOs)
Jarrett Hurd has stormed to top of the 154-pound division by stopping his last six opponents and eight of his past nine. He won his current world title with a ninth-round TKO of Tony Harrison in February. The 6-foot-1, Accokeek, Maryland, native has a 76½-inch reach and possesses a splendid combination of speed, power and athleticism.
The 27-year-old Hurd will face his most difficult test in the first defense of his title against former champion Austin Trout at Barclays Center on SHOWTIME on Oct. 14.
“Trout has never been stopped - I’m looking for the stoppage and a statement that the other fighters couldn’t make,” said Hurd. “I didn’t have to take this fight since it’s a voluntary defense. But I wanted to stop Austin Trout, proving to the fans and people in general I’m the real deal and a true champion.”
Adam Kownacki, Heavyweight (16-0, 13 KOs)
Adam Kownacki continued to climb the heavyweight ladder with a devastating KO victory over fellow Polish heavyweight contender Artur Szpilka at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Long Island, N.Y., in July.
Kownacki’s third straight knockout win was quicker than the 28-year-old Szpilka was dispatched by both heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder and Bryant Jennings.
“It was a life-changing moment,” said Kownacki, 28. “My goal was to make a statement by stopping him faster than anybody. I did that.”
A Long Island resident who was raised in Brooklyn, the 6-foot-3, 242-pound Kownacki is attempting to become his native country’s first heavyweight titleholder.
Erickson Lubin, 154 pounds (18-0, 13 KOs)
Orlando, Florida, native Erickson Lubin will challenge unbeaten champion Jermell Charlo at Barclays Center on SHOWTIME on Oct. 14 for a 154-pound title. He defeated Jorge Cota by fourth-round TKO in a title eliminator in March.
Lubin, a southpaw who turns 22 on October 1, went 4-0 with two KOs in 2016 against fighters whose combined record was 99-9-2.
“The Hammer” was considered America’s best medal hopeful for the 2016 Olympics, but signed a professional contract as a high school senior on his 18th birthday and debuted the next month with a 35-second knockout.
“My right hook has knocked out 11 people - Every time I throw that right hook, I throw it with bad, bad intentions,” said Lubin, who has dubbed his right hand “Jack” and his left “Sledge.”
Errol Spence Jr., 147 (22-0, 19 KOs)
Errol Spence Jr. demonstrated he is “The Truth” when the highly skilled southpaw displayed two-fisted power, speed, accuracy, resiliency and athleticism on the way to an 11th round knockout victory over Kell Brook in Sheffield, England in May.
Spence, 27, became the first American to earn a title from an English champion on foreign soil since Timothy Bradley upset Junior Witter in Nottingham for a 140-pound title in 2008.
Spence has a fifth-round TKO victory over Chris Algieri and a sixth-round stoppage of Leonard Bundu - fighters who went the distance with Manny Pacquiao and current unified welterweight champion Keith Thurman, respectively.
“It’s a factor when guys go the distance with other fighters and I knock them out after they couldn’t,’’ Spence said. “Fans realize I’m doing better than a lot of fighters in the division after we’ve fought the same opponents."
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Deontay Wilder delivers crushing first-round KO to Bermane Stiverne in title rematch.
Unbeaten heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder put on a Tyson-esque performance at Barclays Center.
"The Bronze Bomber" knocked Stiverne down three times in the first round, the first time a devastating one-two combination that caught the Haitian challenger on the nose. Seconds after Stiverne got back to his feet, Wilder landed another clean combination with a big left and an overhand right that sent a stunned Stiverne back to the canvas. The final blow came in the waning moments of the opening round as Wilder landed four clean punches to the face of a wobbly Stiverne.
Referee Arthur Mercante Jr. almost literally had to wrestle Wilder (39-0, 38 KOs) away from doing even more damage, waving the bout over at 2:59 of the first.
Stiverne, who was fighting for the first time since November 2015, came in at 254¾ pounds, 15¾ pounds heavier than when they first fought on January 17, 2015, which Wilder (39-0, 38 KOs) won by a lopsided unanimous score.
The second time around Stiverne (25-3-1, 21 KOs) really had no chance.
The sideways skeptical looks with the arched eyebrows were usually followed by a shaking of the head in disbelief.
Mario Barrios was skin and bones as a senior in high school. He stood around 5-foot- 7, and with his spaghetti-thin arms and legs may have weighed about 117 pounds. Barrios didn’t even tell people he boxed—and those that knew still found it hard to believe.
Even today, people who knew him back then can’t comprehend what the scrawny kid has transformed into: one of the best, young 140-pounders in the world.
He continues to be on the stringy side, at 5-11, though he’s able to fit the weight inside a lithe frame. It’s as if Barrios is all arms and legs. Add his unusual reach and height advantage over almost everyone he faces with a slayer instinct he adopted through time from his older sister, Selina, and mother, Isabel Soto, and Barrios is an incredibly formidable opponent.
The world will get another glimpse of the fast-climbing 22-year- old when he takes on Naim Nelson (13-3, 1 KO) at the Sands Bethlehem Events Center, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, as the main event in a scheduled 10-round junior welterweight clash on the Premier Boxing Champions show on “Toe-to- Tuesdays’’ on FS1, on September 19.
Barrios (19-0, 11 KOs) will be making his fourth foray as a junior welterweight and he couldn’t feel any stronger than he does now. It’s no coincidence that he’s stopped his last three opponents. And despite the fact Nelson has lost three of his last four, he’s never been knocked out (Tre’Sean Wiggins defeated him by a fifth-round technical decision back in April).
“He has one knockout, but we aren’t taking anything away from him,” Barrios said of Nelson. “I believe anyone who steps in the ring is dangerous. It only takes one punch to change a fight. I’m confident that I go in and take care of business. He’ll try to box and use speed. He may try to catch me with one shot here and there. It all depends on what fighter shows up that night. I’ll tell you this, no matter what fighter does show up on September 19, we’re going to be well prepared for it. Throughout this past year, I really learned how to use my jab.’’
Barrios has been working with noted trainer Virgil Hunter for the last four fights. For Barrios it’s like a graduate level course in boxing.
“Working with Virgil Hunter, he’s taught me a lot. He’s educated me on jabs, not using it to hit the other guy but to use it as a distance finder. I also feel way stronger at 140,’’ Barrios said. “When I first started at 130, I was making the weight naturally, but fight after fight, as I got older and bigger, it was becoming harder.
“My last fight [at 130 against Devis Boschiero] was very difficult and in the later rounds I didn’t have the power in my legs. That convinced me that I couldn’t fight at 130 anymore. I still could have made 130, but it wouldn’t have been good for my health and overall career. I feel good at 140; super strong and ready to do something in this weight class. I’m growing more and more as a fighter and ready to show everyone some things I haven’t shown before.”
“ I feel good at 140; super strong and ready to do something in this weight class. I’m growing more and more as a fighter and ready to show everyone some things I haven’t shown before. ” Mario Barrios
Barrios arrived here through an odd introduction from someone unexpected. His mother Isabel grew up a fight fan watching the legends on TV with her father. Isabel aspired to box, but in the 1980s and ’90s there were barriers women were faced with. She never got the chance, though she made sure her children, Selina and Mario, would.
When Mario was six and Selina eight, Isabel took them to the Eastside Boys and Girls Club in San Antonio, Texas. The two stood there, eyes bugged out, absorbed by the synchronized rhythm of speed bags being hit and cacophony of clanging chains as fighters whomped on the heavy bags.
“I was a kid, I had no idea what I was getting into,” Mario said, laughing. “I can’t say I was interested in [boxing] at the time, but it was something that I was open to learn. I remember when we first walked in the gym and these grown men were hitting speed balls, and doing mitts. I was in shock. I was 55, 60 pounds and they thought my sister would be 6-foot. There was no way that I would step into the ring with her when I was little. She’d beat my ass.
“She’s the one who naturally had that killer instinct. My sister and I would go to tournaments and she would literally win every one. Me, I just wanted to box. I never won anything.”
What changed everything for Barrios—moving into the national spotlight, becoming the best in his own family—was winning the 95- pound PAL national title when he was a freshman in high school. Until then, Barrios was the kid who always finished second or third, not quite good enough to breach the threshold and win.
“It’s then that I started to realize I was pretty good at this,” Barrios recalled. “By the time I was a senior, I was 5-7, fighting at 123, even though I was always lighter than that, more like 116, 117. It’s funny, because no one believed I was a boxer because of my build. But each year I grew an inch. I might still be growing. A lot of people I went to grade school and high school with freak out when they see how tall I’ve become and where my career is.”
There is a good chance they’ll believe that he’s a fighter now.