"Outside the Ring" is a regular feature centered on the charitable efforts of Premier Boxing Champions fighters. Learn more about what motivates these boxers and the causes they support outside the ring.
Like many prizefighters, Mario “El Azteca” Barrios (22-0, 14 KOs) came from humble beginnings. Now, the 140-pound contender from San Antonio, Texas is using his platform to help others who are struggling.
“Growing up, it wasn’t the best time,” Barrios said. “We faced struggles of our own. We witnessed a lot growing up. That stuck with me, and when I was younger I thought when I get to the point in my career when I’m able to help out, I want to give back to the community.”
Recently, the 23-year-old Barrios and his sister, Selina, teamed up with the Salvation Army in San Antonio for a noble cause: providing new socks to local children in need. The donated socks, along with pairs of new shoes, were given to kids at the Salvation Army’s Shoe-In event in San Antonio.
Barrios spoke about how he got involved with this cause.
“A friend of ours knew the chairman from the Salvation Army at the office here in San Antonio,” Mario said. “I had spoken to our friend saying I wanted to be more involved in our community, just giving back. He presented me with the opportunity when we went by the Salvation Army Center downtown--they gave us a walk-through of what they do at that facility.
“They said they were having a back to school shoe drive, but a lot of people don’t realize the kids can get shoes but a lot of them don’t have socks to wear with the shoes. They elaborated on things they need that no one really thinks of. Me and my sister, we’re more than willing to step up with that.”
Not everyone who showed up to the sock drive, donated socks. But they helped in other ways.
“We had a lot of people show up and didn’t have socks, but they donated money that still went towards the cause.”
Having grown up in San Antonio, Barrios had the connections. Now, as a rising contender who has performed on television multiple times, Barrios also had the platform to reach more people. He used that to rally more help for the worthy cause.
“We had a really good turnout. A lot of people came out: old friends I went to high school with, a lot of people who follow me on social media. We were able to get the word out quite a bit and we were really amped to see that with the sock drive. People were saying they saw the post from different social media (accounts), friends of friends, and it really opened our eyes to the bigger picture to what we can do for our city.
“We always just kind of dreamed of it. This was when we really hit the realization that we’re at that point (of being able to help people).”
Before he partnered up with the Salvation Army, Barrios helped found other, more grassroots ways to help those in need.
“Me and my people from the smaller boxing gym here (in San Antonio), we would go on social media and ask if anybody knows a kid who really needs shoes, to please let us know and give us their size. We were doing this the past couple years—we’d go out and buy 20 or 30 pairs of shoes, and then we’d surprise (the kids) when it gets closer to Christmas.
“It’s a really great feeling. A lot of times we’d end up crying because the families got so emotional.”
Anyone can contribute money, items, or volunteer time to the Salvation Army — which is dedicated to meeting human need and lifting up local communities throughout the country.
Another happy child receiving new shoes here at Shoe-In! pic.twitter.com/nqhn6JuInz— Salvation Army SATX (@salarmysatx) September 15, 2018