By: Sean Crose
After two and a half plus years away from the ring, Keith “One Time” Thurman finally returns to action Saturday night in Las Vegas as he takes on underdog Mario Barrios in a scheduled 12 rounder at the MGM Grand. All eyes will be on Thurman, who lost his last battle via close decision to Manny Pacquiao back in the summer of 2019. It was Thurman’s only defeat to date and it cost him his WBA welterweight belt. Barrios, too, is coming off a lone loss to big name competition. His battle with Gervonta Davis last June ended in an eleventh round stoppage – a particularly bitter pill to swallow since there are those who had Barrios winning the fight up until that point. Long story short – each man has something to prove.
Thurman has the kind of style and personality that simply draws in attention. The 29-1 Florida native speaks quickly and brashly. He has previously said that he was not afraid to let go of his “Oh” (meaning the zero on the loss column of his record). Now that the “Oh” has been replaced by a “One,” the 31 year old will be entering the ring and different man than he was before the Pacquiao fight. Gone is any aura of ring invincibility. Gone also is the considerable amount of time that has transpired in the past 28 months. Now 33, Thurman is facing down a reputation of being a part time fighter rather than a true divisional presence at welterweight.
As for the 26-1 Barrios, this is the chance of a lifetime, an opportunity to redeem himself after the bitter loss to Davis. At 26 years of age, he is, if not a man in his prime, then a man fast approaching it. Should Barrios pull off the upset Saturday night he will become the toast of boxing. Many will be surprised, though perhaps they should not be, given Thurman’s time away from the ring and Barrios’ gutsy performance against Davis. While it’s true he does not qualify as a “big name” competition, Barrios is nonetheless a skilled, confident and hungry fighter. He is most distinctly not someone for Thurman or fans to sleep on heading into this weekend.
The Thurman-Barrios fight will be the headline of a Pay Per View event presented by Fox Sports and Premiere Boxing Champions. The broadcast will begin at 9 PM eastern time tomorrow night.