Former champion and San Antonio-native Mario “El Azteca” Barrios snapped his two-fight losing streak with a razor sharp, career-rejuvenating performance against Jovanie Santiago in Saturday’s co-feature.
Barrios dropped Santiago in the eighth round with a left to the body and followed up, causing referee Mark Calo-Oy, upon the request of Santiago’s corner, to stop the fight at 1:42 of the eighth of their welterweight contest scheduled for 10 rounds. Barrios led 70-63 on all three judges’ scorecards at the time of the stoppage.
After Santiago (14-3-1, 10 KOs) touched the canvas for the fourth time of his career from the body shot, Barrios, who is back with top trainer Bob Santos, followed up with a straight right hand that snapped Santiago’s head back, causing his corner to step in. After losing his last two fights to top talents Gervonta Davis and Keith Thurman, Barrios (27-2, 18 KOs) had his way with Santiago, who was also coming off back-to-back losses to Adrien Broner and Gary Antuanne Russell.
The CompuBox stats backed up Barrios’ dominance. The 27-year-old landed 90 more punches than the gutty Santiago, who actually out-threw Barrios by a single punch. Barrios landed 39 more jabs, 51 more power punches and looked super-charged throughout the fight, buoyed from the hometown crowd and his own desire to get back into the win column.
He hurt Santiago with a right hand a minute into the sixth round, causing Santiago to briefly sag into the ropes. Barrios stunned Santiago again with a left to the body and head moments later as Santiago looked battered, his right eye badly swelling. Barrios landed a lunging left hook to end the sixth as Santiago somehow remained on his feet.
“It feels amazing,” Barrios said afterward. “It took me a while to get into that groove, to get that rhythm. I felt great. I wouldn’t say I was different [tonight], but definitely with a larger arsenal. I’m pretty thankful to have Bob [Santos] in my corner and my sister. I had to get just as physical. That’s another thing we have been working on in the gym. I knew Santiago was coming with it. And he took the fight in my backyard. That says a lot about him. He’s a hell of a warrior, I tip my hat to him.
“I felt myself breaking him down little by little. I just had to be patient. My counter right hand is something that we’ve been working on at the gym in Vegas. I feel I’m definitely up there with the [welterweight] elite. I still have something to prove. I promised my city a world title, and I got it in 2019 and I will do it again.”