Mario Barrios Closing In on a World Title—Exclusive Interview

By Marc Livitz on August 2, 2018
Mario Barrios Closing In on a World Title—Exclusive Interview
“The important thing for me is keeping my focus and making sure I do what I need to do.”

This past Saturday evening in Los Angeles, unbeaten light welterweight contender Mario “El Azteca” Barrios scored a sixth consecutive knockout win…

Southern California. The thought alone for many beckons visions of constant sunshine and oranges on every tree. Such sentiments sell the Golden State far short, of course. In any case, it’s safe to say that every professional boxer at least aspires to treat his or her career with great respect and that each outing in the ring is the most important one. Whether between the ropes in Cancun or Siberia, a victory which will only prove positive moving forward can leave a fighter with the feeling that there just might be an orange on every tree.

This past Saturday evening in Los Angeles, American audiences were able to catch another glimpse of unbeaten light welterweight contender Mario “El Azteca” Barrios as he scored a sixth consecutive knockout win by way of an eighth round stoppage of Jose Roman. The vacant Intercontinental Welterweight title was at stake and the San Antonio native took full advantage of the Showtime Network telecast, which was presented as part of the co-main event to world champion Mikey Garcia’s lightweight unification win over Robert Easter, Jr.

Barrios (22-0, 14 KO’s) first stepped into the ring nearly five years ago at the tender age of eighteen as a junior featherweight and has over time become a hometown hero in the Alamo City. As “El Azteca” gets closer to having two dozen fights to his credit, his professional ledger boasts appearances in just about every corner of the United States. Likewise, as his profile grows, so does the admiration he receives from fans back home. Needless to say, the past few days have been quite memorable for Mario after his performance on Saturday night in Los Angeles.

“The last 48 hours have been great for me” Barrios told me when we had a chance to speak by phone on Tuesday. “I arrived to open arms back home and I returned with this new belt. It’s been amazing. There’s been lots of love not only here, but from people in general who were watching.”

Mario’s Saturday night clash with Jose Roman was his fifth fight in the City of Angels, yet it was the first time he stepped into the ring inside the home of the Lakers, the Staples Center. Although he appeared to be in full control of the contest (Barrios was winning by a complete shutout on all three scorecards ) all the way up until Roman’s corner stopped it, Mario was the first to admit that the bout was much more difficult than what most eyes saw.

He commented, “There was definitely a lot to take and I knew he’d be tough. There was some real adversity, beginning with the first round when we clashed heads and I got cut for the first time in my career. He’s a very strong puncher and even when I hurt him, I knew that I had to carefully pursue him. He’d only been dropped once in his career and I saw that this only made him more dangerous.”

Any boxing fan could likely name more than a few of the talented fighters who currently occupy the goldmine that is the welterweight division. Although Mario is aware of such opportunities at the 147-pound weight class, he’s content to listen to the wise minds around him and remain seven pounds to the south. For now, at least. A jump to welterweight may indeed come, all in good time.

Names such as Regis Prograis, Mohamed Mimoune, Kiryl Relikh and fellow Texan Maurice Hooker are the four recognized champions who are in possession of a sanctioned belt at this time. Gone are the days when one or even two belts per division was more than enough, but that’s another matter. Barrios has his sights set on a shot at a championship title and is hopeful the chance comes much sooner than later.

“Moving forward, I feel I’m ready for a shot at a world title,” the unbeaten contender said.  “I make sure to finish every fight strong and I went up to this weight class the right way. If anything, then we’re looking at maybe the Summer of 2019 or by the end of that year. The plan is to stay at 140 (pounds). I’ve been growing a lot, so it just depends on how long it’s comfortable at my age to stay at this weight unless it affects my health.”

As he moves along with what he hopes will be a promising career, Mario feels confident that his time will come and he’ll undoubtedly get the instruction to help him do so under the guidance of trainer Virgil Hunter. Mr. Hunter was the Boxing Writers Association of America’s ‘Trainer of the Year’ in 2011 as his fighter, Andre Ward, claimed the top prize in the ‘Super Six Super Middleweight’ Tournament. Barrios made sure to praise the man who is in the driver’s seat of his training.

“Virgil Hunter has been great in learning how to use my range as well as my height,” he said. “I was always an inside fighter and he’s been a tremendous help in learning to use my jab.”

In the meantime, as he awaits to see how the rest of 2018 unfolds, “El Azteca” Barrios will remain squarely grounded and close to home. He’ll soon return to the gym and avoid any intention of succumbing to idle hands. Barrios closed the interview when he told this writer, “The important thing for me is keeping my focus and making sure I do what I need to do. This is what makes me a complete fighter.”

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  1. Casanovita de Ahome 06:55pm, 08/02/2018

    Saw him in Mel Gibson’s “Apocalypto”....his performance was off the charts!

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