By: Sean Crose
After two and a half plus years away from the ring, Keith “One Time” Thurman finally returned to action Saturday night in Las Vegas as he took on underdog Mario Barrios in a scheduled welterweight 12 rounder at the MGM Grand. All eyes were on Thurman, who had lost his previous 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, was coming off a lone loss to big name competition. His battle with Gervonta Davis in June of 2021 ended in an eleventh round stoppage – a particularly bitter pill to swallow since there were those who had Barrios winning the fight up until that point. Long story short – each man had something to prove on Saturday.
The 29-1 Thurman came out aggressively at the bell while the 26-1 Barrios looked to be feeling his man out throughout the first. Thurman rocked his man in the second with a solid left, but Barrios remained composed. It was Thurman, however, who dominated the round. Barrios fought well in the third, but Thurman landed regularly and hard – especially with his left hand. Thurman went on to really put his punches together well in the fourth. By the end of the round, Barrios was hurt truly, though he remained on his feet.
Barrios looked better in the fifth, but Thurman simply had too much power for him. What’s more, the Florida native landed cleaner shots. Barrios fought a more active and confident round in the sixth. He went on to do enough to possibly edge the seventh. A bloody Barrios got banged up bad in the eighth, though Thurman got the wind knocked out of him towards the end of the round. The ninth was a close, fast paced affair. Thurman landed and moved effectively in the tenth.
Thurman dominated the eleventh. Barrios looked at that point to need a knockout or stoppage to win. He couldn’t deliver one. Looking beaten up, the still game Barrios continued to eat Thurman’s punches in the twelfth and final round. The judges went on to rule in Thurman’s favor via unanimous decision. “I still felt a little ring rust in there,” Thurman admitted afterwards. “I’m just happy to be back in the ring.”
“I want the belts, baby,” he said. “I want the champions.”
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