Four of the top trainers in the sport, Robert García, Derrick James, Stephen “Breadman” Edwards, and Ismael Salas, previewed the upcoming showdown between former unified welterweight champion Keith “One Time” Thurman and former super lightweight champion Mario “El Azteca” Barrios during a virtual media roundtable Tuesday leading up to fight night this Saturday, February 5.
Thurman vs. Barrios will headline a FOX Sports PBC Pay-Per-View from Michelob ULTRA Arena at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, with the pay-per-view telecast beginning at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.
Tickets for the live event, which TGB Promotions promote, are on sale now and are available at axs.com.
Here is what the trainers had to say Tuesday:
“Mario Barrios is a young fighter who wants to be great. He hasn’t had the paydays that Thurman has, which gives him a great chance. He knows that a win here will change his life. I have many fighters from San Antonio like Barrios is, and I know he’s a very dedicated fighter who’s always training. He’s going to do whatever it takes to win this fight.
“Barrios is moving up in weight, which is a challenge, but he’s big enough and tall enough that he might be even better as a welterweight. I think he’s got a great chance of beating Thurman.
“Thurman hits very hard, so Barrios has to pressure smartly. He can’t reach on his punches, and he has to make sure he has his hands up. I see this as a close fight that’s going to go the distance. I think Barrios is going to win this fight. I could see a split decision.
“Thurman has excellent experience and has been in world-class fights numerous times. He has to go out there and be himself. He can’t get caught up in Barrios’ game plan. He has to use his angles and find his punches.
“When Mikey Garcia was off for two and a half years, he wasn’t a big name yet and was still really hungry and in the gym all the time. When he came back, he came back strong. Thurman has made millions of dollars, and that can make you comfortable. We’re going to find out how dedicated he is because those big paydays can change your work habits.”
“You have to have an extensive training camp to combat ring rust. When Errol Spence Jr. fought Danny Garcia, we worked on many things, and one of those was building back up his athleticism. One of the keys to Keith’s success has always been his athleticism. He’s going to need that, and that’s fleeting.
“This fight will depend on the type of fighter Thurman is right now and if Barrios can implement his pressure. I think this will be a good fight and that it’s going the distance.
“Keith Thurman boxes intelligently, but what helps him in the ring is his ability to move. We’re going to be able to tell how intense his training camp was.
“Thurman is going to have to adjust to Barrios’ speed. I think there will be some pressure on him to catch up with the fighter moving up in weight. There’s pressure on every soldier, but I also know that Thurman wants to shut up his critics.
“I think this fight is about pressure. I believe that Barrios has to be aggressive. He has to make sure Keith Thurman isn’t himself. Thurman is great if you let him be great. If Barrios can disrupt Thurman, it’ll be to his advantage. If he lets Thurman sit back, Thurman is going to box phenomenally.”
“Thurman moves, but his movement is not overly efficient. He glides around the ring and jumps in and out with big shots. If Barrios fights the kind of fight where he’s putting pressure on Thurman, he’s going to have a lot of success. You have to step to Keith Thurman. If you give him room, you give him a chance to load up with his punches. I think Barrios will win this fight.
“When Julian Williams got clipped by Jermall Charlo with that big shot, I compartmentalized that for him. I told him he was fighting a great fight, and you have to give the opponent credit. I let him spar with no headgear on the first time he sparred, so he knew I had confidence in him.
I also sent him out to spar with Gennadiy Golovkin, so he could see that anybody can get clipped like that. Barrios got stopped by Gervonta Davis, but that’s not the end of the world for him. How fighters bounce back from that does depend on what kind of person you are. He seems like a guy who will be able to put that behind him.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if both guys get hurt in this fight. There could be some controversy in this fight.
“I think there’s a lot of pressure on Keith Thurman in this fight. Thurman went into the Manny Pacquiao fight thinking he would have that name on his way to superstar status. Losing that fight is going to hurt the ego. The pressure on Barrios is because no young fighter wants to lose two arguments in a row and go to the back of the line. Thurman knows there’s a massive fight for him down the line if he can get past Barrios, which brings pressure.
“Fighters don’t admit it, but there is a different kind of hunger when fighters are working toward that title shot. It’s different than once you get it. Even in Thurman’s prime, he was only fighting once a year. Boxing is a game of skill, and you build skill with repetition. You don’t get better at doing anything by not doing it for an extended time. I think that’s going to make this fight more competitive than people think.”
“The most important thing in sports is longevity. It’s a highly-coordinated sport, and you have to be explosive. To remain at a high level in that category. Ring rust is something you have to deal with.
“You have to control the intensity of the work to keep a more experienced fighter fresh. But at the same time, you have to keep the boxing ability at a high level. Those reaction times need to be sharp.
“I believe that the best chance Thurman has is in rounds four through six with a stoppage. If it goes the distance, I think it’s a close decision for Barrios. If Thurman can control the tempo of the fight, he can win.
“I work with a veteran fighter in Erislandy Lara, we don’t have a date for his next fight yet, but we’ve been working three times a week for the last two months. Because we’re keeping his ability and his stamina up, that’s the way to deal with ring rust when you’re later in your career.
“I believe Thurman lost the fight with Manny Pacquiao because he lost the ability to control the aggression of Pacquiao. He was there in front of Manny Pacquiao, and Pacquiao got him early, and that changed the whole fight.
“Aggression is the way to beat aggression. Barrios needs to keep a strong front hand in this fight, with his jab, and also with mixing up those punches.”