This Saturday, Keith Thurman finally returns to the ring after a long stint on the sidelines squaring off against a hungry contender Mario Barrios in the main event on a FOX PPV. Leo Santa Cruz tries to get back to form in the co-feature coming off a vicious KO loss to Gervonta Davis facing Keenan Carbajal in a 10-rounder.
Let’s hope that’s at least entertaining, but we won’t need much hope for the rest of the PPV undercard bouts. The opening fight on the FOX PPV is a very interesting matchup between one-loss Luis Nery and an unbeaten contender in Carlos Castro. Unfortunately, Josesito Lopez was pulled off the card due to injury. Lopez was scheduled to fight Abel Ramos.
Now getting bumped up from the FOX prelims promising 154-pound prospect Jesus Ramos takes on Vladimir Hernandez in what should be a good test. By the way, Abel takes his nephew’s place on the prelims matched up with Luke Santamaria along with Omar Juarez vs. Ryan Karl on the doubleheader FOX broadcast.
Depending on the timing with that DAZN card, putting the PPV on pause to watch Carlos Cuadras vs. Jessie Rodriguez as a make-shift co-feature might be the way to go. Whether you think this card should or shouldn’t be a full-priced pay-per-view, it has the potential to be a good night of boxing, so this boxing head will wait to see the action in the ring before I fully judge the entertainment value.
By the time Keith Thurman steps into the ring this Saturday night, it will have been right around 30 months since his last outing. After a rocky start in his July 2019 bout with 1st ballot Hall of Famer Manny Pacquiao, Thurman closed the gap, and it turned out to be one of the best fights of the year.
Injures and Covid-19 set back his schedule as a fighter, and getting Covid-19 post-Pacquiao/Ugas put the Florida native on the shelf for even longer than expected. Now Keith is back and healthy again, ready to add another chapter to his career book with a live underdog in Mario Barrios looking to derail his comeback.
Some fans and experts alike believe this is just a tune-up, and Barrios is a perfect opponent as a B-Side, having out-performed expectations in June of 2021 versus Gervonta Davis. The betting books see this matchup close to a pick’em with Barrios sitting anywhere from a +135 to +160, depending on what site you visit. Mario was already headed up a weight class to welterweight and sees this opportunity to make a major splash, possibly catching the former unified champ Keith Thurman at the perfect time.
Long layoffs can haunt fighters young and old, but the older a boxer is, father time at some point enters the picture. Now, of course, some will bring up Sugar Ray Leonard defeating Marvin Hagler after a super long spell out of the ring or what George Foreman was able to accomplish after ten years retired. But ask yourself, how good did Manny Pacquiao look against Yordenis Ugas being out for two years? Mikey Garcia comes to mind, along with a bunch of examples.
Thurman did take almost two years off after his win over Danny Garcia back in March of 2017. His comeback came versus a normally game Josesito Lopez, and Thurman started out great until he was caught with two huge punches in the 7th round. This boxing podcaster does believe Thurman has more to give over the next few fights and might be able to repeat his Pacquiao outing if he can get over the hump this Saturday.
From a skills and movement perspective Thurman is a proven commodity at the top level. Barrios has a solid skill-set and pop on his punches, at least at the junior welterweight division. It will be interesting to see how he approaches this matchup by either pushing forward with attack on his mind or using a slight reach advantage on the outside. If he remains in the middle of the ring and it turns into a skills competition, Thurman should win the battle, that is, if he can get the rust off quick enough. Timing will be a key for Keith and Mario, but again how long with it take Thurman to find his groove. The unknowns of what version of Keith Thurman we get in the ring have me holding back from picking a knockout. If Keith does stop Barrios, it will likely be a TKO stoppage, is my hunch.
Barrios has to come in confident but not overly confident and will likely look to target the body, something that has shown in the past to be a somewhat exploitable area for Thurman. If Barrios stays behind a jab and works his way, not being careless in the process, he could cause damage on the inside, thus smothering the clean harder shots by Keith. One thing that stood out during the week was Thurman saying he wanted to up his work rate, which is a great idea overall, whether it’s scoring points to win rounds or wearing Barrios down. Let me repeat Mario Barrios, given the scenario is a live dog, so no one should be surprised if he gets his hands raised on Saturday. Beyond obvious father time and rust being an issue, Keith Thurman should win this fight because he is the more skilled fighter who can stick and move but is not afraid to bang in spots.
My Official Prediction is Keith Thurman by Unanimous Decision
Side Note: Jessie Rodriguez fills in as a late replacement opponent against Carlos Cuadras on DAZN. Also, Chris Eubank Jr. vs. Liam Williams & Claressa Shields vs. Ema Kozin top the bill on this FITE.TV PPV.
Written by Chris Carlson Host/Producer of The Rope A Dope Radio Podcast Available at www.blogtalkradio.com/ropeadoperadio & Follow on Twitter @RopeADopeRadio