Unbeaten 140-pound contender plans on making a big statement as he steps up in competition on the Mikey Garcia-Robert Easter Jr. undercard this Saturday night on Showtime.
Mario “El Azteca” Barrios has long yearned to be a world champion. Since moving up to the 140-pound division in December 2016, the 23-year-old contender has been working with world-class coach Virgil Hunter and has delivered five consecutive knockouts and looked impressive doing it.
“From the beginning, our styles meshed very well,” Mario said of Hunter. “He’s a very technical coach. I was always more of a technical boxer than a brawler. Once I came out here, he helped me take boxing and being technical in the ring to the next level. I feel I’ve grown as a fighter, especially defensively.”
On Saturday, July 28 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, Barrios of San Antonio will face Jose Roman (24-2-1, 16 KOs) on the undercard of Mikey Garcia vs. Robert Easter. The Barrios vs. Roman match 10-round contest will open the three-fight Showtime broadcast starting at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT.
“I know it’s definitely a step up for me. He has power, he places his shots very well, and he has boxing skills,’’ Barrios said. “I’m looking forward to a really explosive fight. Both of us have that Mexican background, so I know it’s only gonna be a matter of time before we trade punches for a bit.”
Barrios and his team, however, never enter the ring looking for a stoppage. Instead, Virgil Hunter has helped Mario learn to use his technical skills to achieve stellar results in the ring.
“I don’t think any of my knockouts have been from me just pressuring or going all out,” Barrios said. “Most of them have been from shots that have been well-placed. That’s from certain drills we do in the gym, the different caliber of sparring we get out here…I’m getting tremendous work all around.”
As any fighter will tell you, the jab is more than just another punch. As Mario says, the jab is key.
“That’s Boxing 101. It was something I should have been using a lot a long time ago, but now I think I use it very effectively for different reasons: to apply pressure, to get distance, to get out of the way of trouble. That’s something Virgil really helped me with learning—different ways to use it.”
Standing at 5-foot-10 ½-inches tall, Barrios towers over most other junior welterweights. As he’s grown as a fighter, he and his team have worked on using his height advantage to good effect.
“Before, I think I was falling into that Mexican style where I would sit there more than I should have been for my height. That’s one thing, coming out here with Virgil, we really started to drill on. Not just using my height, but using my legs more effectively. With that alone, I set up better shots, with leads to me having five consecutive stoppages. I’m picking my shots better. I’m finding better openings.”
“ The card is packed with amazing talent, but I’m going out there to try stealing the show, to represent San Antonio. ” Unbeaten 140-pound contender Mario “El Azteca” Barrios
On top of the exceptional coaching from Hunter, Barrios is surrounded by top talent in Virgil’s gym every day. He absorbs the experience and wisdom around him in an effort to improve as much as possible.
“It’s awesome. I’ve been over here training at times when [Andre] Ward was getting ready for fights, or [Amir] Khan. [Andre] Berto is here getting ready for August 4th [versus Devon Alexander]," he said. “So we’ve been training alongside. It’s an amazing atmosphere overall, having all this talent but there’s no egos. So everyone wants to help you, push you, because they know it helps them.
“All kinds of talent is always rolling in here. Just the other day I got some sparring with Shakur Stevenson. He’s a fighter who made it to where he is for a reason. It was great working with him, getting that high caliber of talent from a younger fighter. Most younger fighters carry that speed with them, that velocity with their punches.”
Prior to moving up to the 140-pound limit, Barrios campaigned at 130 pounds. He was ranked #2 by the IBF and had just won a title eliminator before making the change.
“I knew staying at that weight, I would have just ended up getting hurt because I couldn’t make the weight.
“Right now, our focus is on staying in the junior welterweight division. We want to get our first title in this weight class, but we’re not gonna force my body to make a weight that I can no longer do. We’re gonna stay here as long as we can, as healthy as we can. Once it starts becoming too much, then we’ll start looking at moving up. I’ve been filling out more in the junior welterweight division, and I feel like my power continues to grow as my weight did.”
Barrios has no doubt that his fight with Roman on Saturday will be one that the fans will remember.
“It’s gonna be an explosive night,’’ he said. “The card is packed with amazing talent, but I’m going out there to try stealing the show, to represent San Antonio.”
For a closer look at Mario Barrios, check out his fighter page.
- Mario Barrios