Two former champions will face off in a high stakes battle when Yordenis Ugas and Mario Barrios clash tonight on the Canelo vs. Charlo SHOWTIME Pay-Per-View.
Ugas was stopped by Errol Spence Jr. in his most recent fight, a crushing setback that put a halt to his momentum and raised questions about his staying power as a top welterweight. He’s 37 years old.
Barrios lost back-to-back fights in 2021 and last year, a knockout against Gervonta Davis at 140 pounds and a one-sided decision against Keith Thurman at 147. Can he win the big fights?
Yes, both men will have a lot to prove when they meet for the WBC’s interim welterweight world title on the Canelo Alvarez-Jermell Charlo undercard Saturday, September 30 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, live on SHOWTIME Pay-Per-View (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT).
“There certainly is a lot at stake,” Ugas said through a translator. “I know I need to win against Barrios to get what I want. I’m confident in the work I’ve put in. I know I’m doing what it takes to be successful on Sept. 30.”
Ugas (27-5, 12 KOs) had the unusual experience of enjoying the highest of highs and suffering the lowest of lows in back-to-back fights.
The Miami-based Cuban claimed his greatest, career-defining victory in August 2021, when he won the WBA welterweight title – his first major belt – and sent the future Hall of Famer Manny Pacquiao into retirement by a clear decision.
Eight months later Spence outboxed him before stopping him in the 10th round in a title-unification bout, a deflating result for one of the most consistent 147-pounders in recent years.
Ugas was asked about the emotional toll. He said in so many words that heartache is part of the deal.
“That’s what champions do, that’s what warriors do. They fight against the best,” Ugas said. “Certainly it was quite the challenge, both physically and emotionally. It’s just what I do. I can’t explain it any other way.”
Barrios (27-2, 18 KOs) had a similar up-and-down experience.
The talented boxer-puncher from San Antonio turned in a series of impressive performances and won a secondary 140-pound title to build himself into a major player in the sport by 2021.
Then came disaster.
He gave a spirited effort against Davis but couldn’t withstand the pound-for-pound star’s punching power, which resulted in an 11th-round stoppage. Seven months later Thurman outboxed him to win a 118-110, 118-110 and 117-111, meaning Barrios won only a few rounds.
The latter defeat was particularly painful because the fight, from his perspective, was intended to make him a top 147-pounder.
“ I’m going to be ready. It’s exciting. ” Former WBA 140-pound World Champion - Mario Barrios
“Yeah, it definitely got to me,” Barrios said. “After the Tank fight it was a pretty hard couple of weeks but I bounced back. The Thurman fight … it was like, ‘Damn, this was supposed to be the fight I proved myself.’ I didn’t have the perfect night I would’ve liked.
“But, you know, I’m really thankful for the team I have and the friends and family surrounding me. That definitely played a big part in the way I bounced back.”
Barrios did bounce back. He took a year off to recalibrate after his disappointing losses, moved on from trainer Virgil Hunter in favor of Bob Santos, and took a transition fight against Jovanie Santiago in February.
The result? Barrios scored an eight-round knockout to get back into the win column and reassert himself as a factor in a deep division.
He’s grateful for the opportunity to take part in another big fight on a massive card in Las Vegas. And he plans to make the most of it.
“I’m 28 years old,” Barrios said. “I’m barely getting into my prime. The next two years I feel I can make a lot of noise. A win for either me or Ugas puts us in a great position to fight for another world title. Ugas is older, more toward the end of his career. This is an opportunity he’s going to be ready for, which motivates me even more.
“I’m going to be ready. It’s exciting. Like I said, a win puts me in a great place.”
Ugas feels the same way. He got a taste of being a world champion and he liked it.
“I still want to fight against the best the welterweight division has to offer,” Ugas said. “I want to win at least one more title. … I want to win the [full] WBC title. That’s what I want to do. That’s just a matter of who [my opponent will be].
“My ideal 2024 would be not only winning a title but also being able to defend it and possibly unify.”
Both men are thinking big. We’ll see on Sept. 30 whether their goals are realistic.
For a closer look at Ugas vs Barrios, check out our fight night page.