Standing Eight: Mario Barrios

The undefeated super lightweight contender plans to conquer the 140-pound division—and that's just the beginning.

Mario Barrios may be the next world champion at super lightweight.

The 24-year-old boxer-puncher they call “El Azteca” served notice to the world last month when he took on Juan Jose Velasco. Velasco was coming off an eighth-round TKO loss to current WBA titlist Regis Prograis. Barrios knocked him out in two rounds with a sensational left hook to the liver.  

The 5-foot-10 Barrios (24-0, 16 KOs) has flattened eight 140-pound opponents since adding trainer Virgil Hunter to his corner.

Can you discuss your success under trainer Virgil Hunter?

I’ve seen a huge improvement since moving to 140 and working with Virgil, especially in my boxing IQ. I’m absorbing as much knowledge and insight as I can.

There are subtle changes like using my jab properly. I’m fighting at that world championship level.

I don’t go looking for knockouts, but I’ve been setting up good punches, dominating every fight and ending them early.

Was your goal to outperform Prograis against Velasco?

I saw some of Prograis’ fight with Velasco, who was getting a lot of punches off on Prograis. But that’s why we trained so well for Velasco knowing the challenge we had before us. I didn’t expect an early knockout. But I caught him on the sweet spot with that left hook to the liver and rib cage.

Being Mexican and from Texas, body shots are what people expect out of you. I’ve incorporated those since amateurs. They’re second nature for me. The shot was a result of my being patient and setting up everything off my jab.

With this knockout of Velasco, I made a huge statement showing the world I’m ready to step up. I want any of the world champions.

It doesn’t matter if it’s Maurice Hooker, Josh Taylor, Regis Prograis or Jose Ramirez, I wanna show I’m a complete fighter, not just a boxer or a puncher, but all-around. I have size, speed, boxing ability and power.

Since beating Velasco, I’ve said I wanna fight any of the champions, but I don’t hear my name coming out of their mouths. I might be the boogeyman of the division to them. My time is coming. I know I can take any one of them.

How does a fight break down with Prograis?

Regis Prograis has the WBA, and he’s ranked No. 1 right now, so that’s who I want. I’m from San Antonio and he trains in Houston, so a fight with him would be big

Given our styles and the power and speed that we both have, I know it would be an action-packed fight that isn’t likely to go the distance.

I commend Josh Taylor on his dominating performance over Ivan Baranchyk. I think a fight with Taylor would be a chess match but definitely a good one.

Jose Ramirez would be a great fight for the Mexican base and boxing fans in general who want to witness an action-packed war.

Maurice Hooker being from Dallas, that’s another big fight for Texas. Hooker [at 5-foot-11] has good size for this weight class as do I.

I might be the boogeyman of the division. Undefeated Super Lightweight Contender - Mario Barrios

With southpaws Prograis and Taylor likely to unify in the fall, would you like the winner?

I won’t have a problem fighting Prograis or Taylor. I don’t recall the last time I faced a southpaw.

Being a switch-hitter, I’ve never had any issues and I’ve had plenty of experience against lefties in sparring.

How instrumental was preparing alongside Mikey Garcia?

There was an aura of confidence around Mikey. We never sparred, but working alongside him, you saw that hunger and drive. Mikey said he saw that same hunger in me. I was like a sponge soaking up as much knowledge as I could.

I had been around Errol Spence Jr., and I had him as the favorite going into their fight. But after hanging around Mikey, it was sort of bittersweet because I’m cool with both guys. I knew it was gonna be an outstanding fight.

Any notable sparring partners?

Me and Devin Haney got a lot of sparring together in December and January. With Haney, there were times where we’d box and also really got to mix it up inside. I also got some rounds in with Julian “J-Rock” Williams for my Velasco fight.

With J-Rock, there was only one sparring session where I went four rounds with him. J-Rock was very technical and educational. He’s a top fighter, which he showed when he beat Jarrett Hurd for the title.

Can you rank your three favorite knockouts?

I would rank my seventh- and second-round liver shot knockouts of Jose Rodriguez and Velasco as the top two. The reaction from your opponent to a body shot, wincing in pain, you can’t beat it.

The one against [Eudy] Bernardo is third. Bernardo was telling my hometown press he was gonna knock me out, so it was huge to drop him and stop him with that right hand in the second round.

What is your timetable for winning a world title?

I’m not killing myself making 140. I’m strong and looking to stay here for as long as I can. But I believe 147 and 154 are the gold mines of boxing right now where all the champions and big fights are happening.

First, I wanna bring a world title to my city against a 140-pound champion in one of those Fight of The Year type of events fans love. After that I would be honored to fight any of the champions at 147 in the future.

For a closer look at Mario Barrios, check out his fighter page.

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