Mario Barrios: ‘It Is Very Necessary To Win This Fight’



Mario Barrios: ‘It Is Very Necessary To Win This Fight’
Photo Credit:Jarryd Duarte/Team Barrios

On February 11th, the Mario ‘El Azteca' Barrios (26-2,17 Kos) comeback train is leaving the station, and its first stop is the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, against Puerto Rican native Jovanie Santiago (14-2, 10 Kos). In terms of style, these two couldn’t be any more similar, and this ten-round co-main event should deliver fireworks.

NYFights caught up with the former super lightweight champion ahead of his February 11th  showdown. Mario seemed relaxed, expressed that training camp was going well, and was excited to get back in the ring. “Training Camp has been great. I've had a tremendous camp out here, and I’m just excited to be ending this layoff and stepping back in the ring in front of my hometown,” said Barrios confidently.

Can Mario Barrios get back on track on Showtime? Photo Credit:Jarryd Duarte/Team Barrios

 Since his last fight against former world champion Keith Thurman, the Barrios team has undergone a makeover. The Texas native parted ways with Virgil Hunter and reunited with his former trainer Bob Santos. Since Barrios’ departure, Santos has trained a pair of Dominican boxers, Hector Garcia and Alberto Puello, to world titles and was crowned the 2022 trainer of the year by both Ring Magazine and Sports Illustrated.

“I’m training out here in Vegas with Bob Santos and Richard Barrientes at the Pound for Pound Gym. I’m trying to make Vegas my new home. As you know, the last six years, I was in the Bay Area with Virgil Hunter. We're no longer together, but everything is all love between us. Me and Virgil still talk every now and then. I'm very thankful to have had his influence and support over the last few years,” said Barrios about his former trainer.

Barrios is 0-2 in his last two fights, the only two losses on his record. Mario’s first loss was a valiant effort against world champion Gervonta Davis, considered one of the greatest fighters in the world and arguably boxing's biggest star. In his welterweight debut, Barrio lost to Florida native Keith Thurman by unanimous decision.

This is what the 27-year-old San Antonio native had to say about those two losses, “They’re both really valuable learning experiences. Being there with two very dangerous fighters-‘Tank' is arguably one of the best in the sport right now, and Thurman is a former world champion and is still a very competitive contender. So, we're able to take a line from those losses. They were both very competitive fights, and I still have a lot to prove. There are still a lot of great fights to be made in the welterweight division.”

Photo CreditJarryd Duarte/Team Barrios

In boxing, when Puerto Rico vs. Mexico clashes in the ring, it almost always produces an action-packed fight. For Team Barrios, they couldn't have picked a more challenging opponent in Jovanie Santiago to launch their comeback. The 33-year-old Puerto Rican native is a rugged pressure fighter who has also lost his last two outings. Santiago lost his previous fight when his corner decided he had enough against the hard-hitting Gary Antuanne Russell. Santiago’s first loss was a controversial unanimous decision against Adrien Broner, a fight many believe he won or, at minimum, deserved a draw.

So, what’s the Mexican’s game plan to ward off the Puerto Rican’s pressure attack? “I'm not looking to stagnate that pressure at all-I'm looking forward to it; I've been working very similar. I'm looking forward to a very aggressive and very entertaining fight. That's exactly the style I’ve been preparing for, and come fight night, I'm going to be ready for a very intense ten rounds,” said Barrios.

Each is coming off two losses therefore, both fighters need this win. A loss for either fighter may derail any hopes of contending for a world title.

“It is very necessary to win this fight. Right now, because I came off two very competitive losses, a lot of people are writing me off. It doesn't bother me the opinions of the boxing world and fight fans; it has never interested me much. But I know myself, and I know I still have a lot to prove in this sport. And, like I said, there are a lot of great fights to be made for me and the other fighters in the division. So, for me, a win is absolutely mandatory. I don't see February 11th going any other way than me coming out victorious,” said Barrios.

Team Barrios is confident that their return to the ring will triumph on February 11th and is optimistic for a good run in 2023.“First thing is I have to go out there and handle business. I’m not looking past Santiago, but this is a fight I’m looking to get myself back in the mix with the top fighters in the world within the division. But right now, all my focus and everything is on February 11th then we’ll go from there. I'm looking forward to having a very busy year. I want to get at least four or three fights this year,” said Barrios to NYFights.

Mario concluded our interview with a message to his fans and those that have supported him throughout his career. “For those of you that have been supporting me up to this point and through this little layoff, I’m very appreciative. So come February 11th, make sure you tune in. I'm looking forward to making a statement.”

My Take:

Throughout our interview, Barrios kept saying he had much to prove. Mario is a formidable former world champion whose only losses were against two of the best fighters in the world. I was curious about what he felt he still needed to prove. “It's not so much that I have to prove, but I feel that there is so much more left for me to accomplish in this sport,” clarified Barrios.

Mario Barrios is an excellent fighter that can contend with anyone in the welterweight division. But first, he must get past Santiago, which will take a lot of work. The Puerto Rican is a tough out for anyone, and he, too, is banking on the survival of his career by defeating Barrios. Jovanie is a pressure fighter who attacks his opponents relentlessly once inside their guard. However, one thing ‘El Azteca' knows how to do exceptionally well is to counterpunch pressure fighters. Additionally, Mario Barrios can stand toe-to-toe and bang with Santiago if necessary.

The Mexican vs. Puerto Rico rivalry always brings out the best in the combatants, and with so much at stake for both fighters, fans should expect nothing short of a war to take place at the Alamodome. While Santiago is a formidable and solid fighter, I believe that Barrios is the more skilled of the two. On Saturday night, I think Mario Barrios will be victorious, and Jovanie Santiago’s career will make its last stand at the Alamodome.