Cornermen are paid to not only train their fighters but to believe completely in their capabilities and future potential. Needless to say, trainer Bob Santos is all-in on one of his young charges, 21-year-old Mario Barrios.
In virtually the same breath, Santos compares the undefeated, rapidly rising 130-pound prospect to a pair of two-division champions: Rances Barthelemy and Robert Guerrero, both of whom are similar in stature to the long-and-lean Barrios.
“With Mario’s body frame, at almost 6-foot-1, he’s already bigger than Robert ever was,” Santos says of the 5-foot-8 Guerrero, who has competed at weights from 122 to 147. “He’s like [5-foot-11] Barthelemy, who won titles at 130 and 135 and now he’s going up to 140.
“With his skills, size and potential for growth, I don’t see Mario staying very long at 130 if he wins a title.”
But first Mario Barrios (15-0, 8 KOs) needs to win that title, and he’ll try to take another step toward that goal Saturday when he meets Italy’s Devis Boschiero (39-4-1, 21 KOs) in a scheduled 12-round clash from Sun National Bank Center in Trenton, New Jersey (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
Both boxers weighed in Friday exactly at the 130-pound limit. The fight represents Barrios’ first opportunity to headline a nationally televised card, and it comes just six weeks after his 21st birthday.
Another big opportunity awaits should Barrios prevail over Boschiero, as the winner is slated to move into the No. 2 position for a shot at 130-pound champion Jose Pedraza (22-0, 12 KOs).
“Mario’s right on the precipice of getting a world championship fight, and in this game, like in baseball, you can go from Class A to Class AA to Class AAA to the major leagues,” says Santos, who works alongside Barrios’ father and co-trainer, Martin Barrios. “Mario’s in a situation where we see him winning a world title at 130 and then going up to 135 and 140 and so forth.
“But you’re only as good as your last performance, so, obviously, being on television, we want Mario to leave a lasting impression.”
The San Antonio native certainly did that in his last outing, winning a shutout unanimous decision over Edgar Gabejan on April 16. That bout, which was televised as part of the Errol Spence Jr.-Chris Algieri undercard, went eight rounds, which is as far as Barrios has gone since turning pro in November 2013.
Conversely, the 34-year-old Boschiero has gone the 12-round distance seven times. But Barrios says he’s undaunted by the prospect of having to go deeper in a fight than ever. Perhaps that’s because Boschiero is just 4-3 in 12-round fights, and perhaps because Barrios towers over the 5-foot-5½ Boschiero, just as he did the 5-foot-4 Gabejan.
“We’re focusing on using my height and my leverage to my advantage,” Barrios says. “We sparred some really tough guys who have very similar qualities to Boschiero. They’re short, stocky fighters who tried to put the pressure on me and work their way into the inside.”
A former European titleholder, Boschiero, has gone 5-1 in his past six fights, ending with stoppages of his last two opponents, Tamas Laska (fifth round, March) and Ignac Kassai (sixth round, December). However, he’s come up short in three fights against his most accomplished foes, losing a pair of 12-round decisions to Romain Jacob (currently 24-1) in 2014 and falling by sixth-round TKO to Stephen Smith (24-2) in September.
Boschiero also will be fighting on U.S. soil for the first time, having spent his entire career boxing in his native Italy, with the exception of two fights in France, one in the U.K. and one in Tokyo.
“Our main game plan is to be patient, fight smart, pick our shots and not rush anything,” Barrios says. “But we’ve been hurting our sparring partners, so I do feel there’s a high chance for a knockout. If I set it up and it’s there, I’ll go for it.”
For full coverage of Barrios vs Boschiero, visit our fight page.