Former super lightweight world champion Mario “El Azteca” Barrios shared insights into his training camp and discussed making his welterweight debut before he squares off against former unified welterweight champion Keith “One Time” Thurman on Saturday, February 5 in the FOX Sports PBC Pay-Per-View main event from Michelob ULTRA Arena at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.
The pay-per-view telecast will begin at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT and also features four-division champion Leo “El Terremoto” Santa Cruz dueling Keenan “Bedo” Carbajal in the co-main event of the four-fight lineup.
The 26-year-old Barrios (26-1, 17 KOs) will make his welterweight debut following an impressive run at super lightweight that saw him capture the WBA world title and win his first nine fights in the division, including eight by knockout. Barrios lost the title to three-division champion Gervonta Davis in June in an exciting action fight on pay-per-view.
Here is what the San Antonio, Texas native Barrios had to say leading into his showdown against Thurman:
On his recent training camp:
“I’m having an incredible training camp. I’ve stayed in shape since my last fight and headed to the Bay Area to start camp with Virgil Hunter about three weeks ago. I’ve now moved camp to Las Vegas where I’ll finish off that last couple of weeks until the fight. My sparring has gotten me into perfect condition and I know that I’ll be ready for war come fight night.”
On his upcoming matchup with Keith Thurman:
“Although Thurman has been out of the ring for a couple of years, I know he’s been training hard for this fight and will be in great shape. He’s been one of the best fighters of our era and I expect him to be at his very best. I know what needs to be done on my end and I believe I can execute the game plan we have in place. We both like to let our hands go, so fans can definitely expect to see an explosive fight on February 5.”
On moving up to the welterweight division:
“Making the move to welterweight is going to be very important for me at this stage in my career. I’ve grown into my man strength, and it has been difficult making 140 pounds for these last few years. The extra seven pounds is going to make a tremendous difference in my weight cut, because I’m still big for this weight as well. In this fight we’re going to see if my power comes up with me. I’m confident that it will.”
On fighting on FOX Sports PBC Pay-Per-View:
“I’m grateful to my whole team for giving me this opportunity to fight on pay-per-view once again. I think I’ve proven myself to the fans that I’m a warrior in the ring who will always give a great performance. This fight will be no different, as I’m going into the ring to lay punishment on my opponent. Everyone should order this fight now, because I don’t think this one is going the distance.”
Photo: Ryan Hafey/Premier Boxing Champions
Boxing’s only two-division undisputed world champion, Claressa “G.W.O.A.T.” Shields, held a media workout in Las Vegas on Tuesday as she showed off her skills before her WBC/WBA/IBF middleweight world championship defense against #1 ranked challenger Ema Kozin taking place Saturday, February 5 live on pay-per-view in the U.S. and Canada.
Shields has moved her training camp to Las Vegas as she prepares for the altitude she’ll experience when stepping into the ring at Motorpoint Arena Cardiff in Wales for her U.K. debut as a pro. The four-fight PPV card begins at 3 p.m. ET/12 p.m. PT and features star U.K. middleweights Chris Eubank Jr. and Liam Williams meeting in the main event.
Shields met with media Tuesday at Mayweather Boxing Club, where she is conducting training in Las Vegas, and discussed adding co-trainer Gerald Tucker to her team and more. Here is what Shields had to say:
On adding co-trainer Gerald Tucker to her team, joining longtime coach John David Jackson:
“I just wanted some new eyes in my camp. I’ve always wanted two different coaches with two different styles in my corner. He fits into my team perfectly.
“Gerald works with Floyd Mayweather, so he brings a different kind of boxing conditioning. He does the pads differently than how I’ve ever done them. We’re able to add some things and my coaches are totally in sync.”
On a potential showdown with Savannah Marshall:
“I’ve never focused on Savannah. She’s been focused on me. If you watch her interviews, she’s always talking about Claressa Shields. I’m definitely happy that the fight with her is getting closer. They’re going to see why I’m a 12-time champion. There is just a huge difference in what we can do as fighters.”
On making her U.K. debut as a professional (Shields won the gold medal at the 2012 Olympic games in London):
“I feel like I’m returning to my old stomping grounds. I’m excited to perform and show everyone in the U.K. how I’ve gotten better as a fighter. When they saw me in the Olympics, I was still a teenager.
“I don’t think they’ve seen my style of boxing over there yet. I’m bringing my ferociousness and my swag. I’m going to show them why I’m pound-for-pound. They should all come out and watch this fight, because I’m building all kinds of new strength and power.”
Photo: Sean Jorgensen/Salita Promotions
Lawrence Okolie will make the second defense of his WBO Cruiserweight World Title against former World Title challenger Michal Cieslak at The O2 in London on Sunday February 27, shown live worldwide on DAZN (excluding New Zealand and Australia).
Hackney’s Okolie (17-0, 14 KOs) crushed Krzysztof Glowacki in six rounds to be crowned the new WBO Cruiserweight World Champion in just his sixteenth fight at The SSE Arena, Wembley in March last year.
The 29-year-old then made short work of Montenegro’s Dilan Prasovic in the first defence of his World Title on the blockbuster Anthony Joshua vs. Oleksandr Usyk card at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in September, taking out his mandatory challenger in just three rounds.
Poland’s Cieslak (21-1, 15 KOs) suffered the one and only loss of his professional career when he took WBC Cruiserweight World Champion Ilunga Junior Makabu the distance in the Democratic Republic Of The Congo in January 2020.
“Thank you to Cieslak for accepting the fight,” said Okolie. “I’m sure he is coming to get revenge for Glowacki! He is a good, strong campaigner who should be one of my toughest tests to date.”
On the undercard, France’s Karim Guerfi (30-5, 9 KOs) makes the first defence of his EBU European Featherweight Title against ‘The Thrill’ Jordan Gill (26-1-1, 7 KOs), with more exciting additions to be confirmed this week.
The Phoenix Suns extended the contract of General Manager James Jones, the team announced Tuesday.
“We’re fortunate to have a great basketball mind leading this team. James not only has tremendous instinct for identifying talent, but he has an innate ability to compose a roster that is deep with complementary players who make each other better, on and off the court,” said Managing Partner Robert Sarver. “He came in with strongly-held beliefs on what it would take to nurture a championship culture and what it should mean to wear a Suns jersey. We promised fans an elite NBA franchise that would steal their hearts and make them proud and that’s what we have built under James’ leadership.”
Winner of the 2021 NBA Executive of the Year Award, Jones is currently in his third full season in the position as the Suns sit atop the NBA standings with a 37-9 record. After officially being named general manager following the 2018-19 season, Jones engineered a basketball rise that saw the Suns become just the third team since the NBA-ABA merger to jump from a bottom two record to one of the league’s top two records in two seasons or less, completing the ascension with Western Conference and Pacific Division titles in 2020-21. Since entering ‘The Bubble’ in the summer of 2020, the Suns hold the league’s best regular season mark at 96-30 (.762).
“It’s a privilege to support our Suns and Mercury players, staff, employees and our fans,” said Jones. “The Valley is a special place and I’m excited for the future.”
In one of Jones’ first moves as general manager, and maybe his best move, was hiring Monty Williams as head coach, and the Suns jumped from 19 wins to 34 in Jones and Williams’ first season together, then to 51 wins in the second season and are currently on a 66-win pace this season.
Earlier this season, the Suns set a franchise record with an 18-game winning streak after setting a team playoff record by winning nine straight during the run to the NBA Finals last postseason.
Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young has been named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week for games played Jan. 17-23, the NBA announced today.
Young led the Hawks to a perfect 4-0 record this past week, averaging 31.3 points (3rd-most in the Eastern Conference), 4.0 rebounds, 9.0 assists (tied 3rd-most in the Eastern Conference) and 1.0 steal in 36.6 minutes of action (.464 FG%, .476 3FG%, .911 FT%). Young was the only player in the Eastern Conference this past week to average 30-or-more points and nine-or-more assists per game, while his .476 3FG% and .911 FT% led the league (min. 35 and 25 attempts, respectively).
The fourth-year point guard recorded back-to-back 30-or-more point, 10-or-more assist outings in two come-from-behind victories this past week, marking his third set of back-to-back 30+ point, 10+ assist contests this season. He surpassed Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul for the 10th-most such games in NBA history with his 41st career 30-point, 10-assist game on Monday, Jan. 17 against Milwaukee (30 points, 11 assists).
In a 134-122 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday, Jan. 19, Young poured in 23 of his game-high 37 points in the third quarter (7-9 FG, 5-6 3FG, 4-4 FT). His 23 third quarter points marked a career-high for points scored in a third quarter, as well as the second-most points scored in any quarter of his career, and the most third quarter points by a Hawk in the last 25 seasons. Young finished the game with 37 points, 14 assists, five rebounds and one steal in 36 minutes (.588 FG%, .600 3FG%, 1.000 FT%). He became the first player in NBA history to tally 35+ points, 14+ assists and 5+ rebounds, while shooting .500-or-better from the floor, .600-or-better from deep and a perfect 1.000 clip from the charity stripe in a single game.
Young registered a game-high 28 points and a team-high seven assists in a 110-108 win over the Miami Heat on Friday, Jan. 21. He followed that performance with a game-high 30 points against the Charlotte Hornets in the team’s final game of the week on Sunday, Jan. 23. Young connected on a career-high eight three-pointers on Sunday for the second time this season and seventh time in his career.
The Oklahoma product led the Hawks past four teams this week with .500-or-better records at the time of competition: Milwaukee (27-18), Minnesota (22-22), Miami (29-16) and Charlotte (26-20). On Sunday, Atlanta held Charlotte to an opponent franchise-low .111 3FG% (min. 20 attempts) and the ninth-lowest three-point percentage in NBA history (min. 30 attempts).
This season, Young is the only player to be ranked in the top-5 in points per game (28.0, 5th) and assists per game (9.3, 3rd). He owns an NBA-leading 11 30+ point, 10+ assist games this season, while his 21 points/assists double-doubles are tied for second-most.
This is the fifth career Player of the Week honor for Young and his second of the 2021-22 season.
Undefeated rising star Chris “Primetime” Colbert, whose mix of speed and power have quickly made him a fan favorite, will seek his first world title when he takes on WBA Super Featherweight Champion Roger “The Kid” Gutierrez in the SHOWTIME main event Saturday, February 26 in a Premier Boxing Champions event from The Chelsea inside The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.
The SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING® telecast kicks off at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT and will feature another unbeaten young phenom in the co-main event. Gary Antuanne Russell, a 2016 U.S. Olympian, faces former world champion Viktor Postol in a 10-round super lightweight bout, while IBF Junior Bantamweight World Champion Jerwin Ancajas defends his title against unbeaten Argentine Fernando Martinez in the televised opener of the loaded tripleheader.
Representing his native Brooklyn, N.Y., Colbert (16-0, 6 KOs) has quickly shot up the 130-pound rankings, taking on high-level competition in his first 16 pro fights. Already established as a fighter with dazzling boxing skills, Colbert showcased his ability to fight toe-to-toe with an 11th-round stoppage of Jaime Arboleda in December 2020 before most recently besting Tugstsogt Nyambayar in July 2021. The 25-year-old turned pro in 2015 and defeated three unbeaten fighters in his first eight contests. Prior to the Arboleda fight, Colbert scored a highlight-reel first-round knockout against Miguel Beltran Jr. in September 2019 and a dominant 12-round decision victory over former champion Jezzreel Corrales in January 2020.
“I’m super ready for my title shot,” said Colbert. “This has been a long time coming, but it’s no shocker to me. This was always the expectation. I know Gutierrez will come to fight. He’s a champion for a reason. So he’s not coming to lay down. But I plan to put him down and I’m willing to do whatever I have to do on February 26 to make that happen. I know a lot of people have been waiting to see when I get this title shot and now it’s time.”
The 26-year-old Gutierrez (26-3-1, 20 KOs) captured his world title with a unanimous decision victory over Rene “Gemelo” Alvarado in January 2021, in a fight that saw him drop his opponent three times. Gutierrez followed up that performance by defending his world championship and defeating Alvarado a second time in August 2021, again earning a unanimous decision. Fighting out of his native Maracaibo, Venezuela, Gutierrez is unbeaten in his last seven outings, including four knockouts.
“First of all, I want to thank God, my mother, my team, my promoter and the WBA for this opportunity,” said Gutierrez. “It cost me a lot of effort to win the world championship, this is my second title defense and I am ready to give it my all to retain it. On February 26, I am going to show the world that I am the best at 130 pounds.”
Russell (14-0, 14 KOs) has yet to allow an opponent to make it the distance against him since turning pro in 2017 following his run representing the U.S. at the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics. Russell added five more stoppage victories in 2019 before knocking out Jose Marrufo in the first round in February 2020. The 25-year-old most recently dominated Jovanie Santiago in May on SHOWTIME, on his way to a sixth-round stoppage. Russell belongs to one of the sport’s preeminent fighting families and trains alongside his older brothers, former WBC Featherweight Champion Gary Jr. and bantamweight contender Gary Antonio.
“I’m going to make sure I’m prepared mentally and ready to perform at a high-level for this fight,” said Russell. “These fights come down to who’s more mentally stable, and that’s a matter of training. I train my mental as much as I do physically. I’ve watched Postol fight before and I know that he’s a rangy fighter with a European style. He likes to stay at a distance and that works best for him. He leans on his strengths. Every fight I come in planning to make a statement. My prediction, I’m ending this fight in round five.”
A feared contender in the 140-pound division, Postol (31-3, 12 KOs) returns to the ring after losing a narrow majority decision to then unified champion Jose Ramirez in August 2020. Fighting out of California and originally from Ukraine, Postol, knocked out Lucas Matthysse in 2015 to capture a super lightweight world title before losing a unification showdown against Terence Crawford. Postol has won three of his last five fights, with the only defeats in that stretch coming against Ramirez and current undisputed champion Josh Taylor, both by decision.
“I accepted this fight as soon as it was offered,” said Postol. “I haven’t fought in a while and I wanted to get back in the ring as soon as I could. I’m especially excited that I’m going to have the opportunity to face a good young opponent on February 26.”
Representing the Philippines, Ancajas (33-1-2, 22 KOs) was only 15 years old when he was spotted by boxing legend Manny Pacquiao. The young fighter blossomed with Pacquiao’s guidance, becoming the first world champion under Pacquiao’s promotional banner when he outpointed McJoe Arroyo for the IBF title in September 2016. The 30-year-old southpaw hasn’t lost since and will be making the tenth defense of his title, following an April 2021 unanimous decision over Jonathan Rodriguez.
“I am thrilled to be back on SHOWTIME defending my world title on February 26,” said Ancajas. “It’s very exciting to be making my tenth world title defense in the first Las Vegas fight of my career. I want to thank my whole team for giving me this great opportunity to fight on this PBC event on SHOWTIME.”
A resident of Buenos Aires, Argentina, Martinez (13-0, 8 KOs) most recently knocked out Gonzalo Duran in the fourth round of their August 2021 showdown and will be making his U.S. debut on February 26. The 30-year-old rose up the rankings by stopping Athenkosi Dumezweni in his home country of South Africa in 2019, following that up with a decision over Angel Aquino in December 2020. Martinez turned pro in 2017 and owns an amateur victory over former title challenger and super flyweight contender Andrew Moloney.
“I’m excited to have this great chance to show my skills on the big stage in Las Vegas,” said Martinez. “I’m going to leave it all in the ring on February 26 and give all the fans watching an exciting fight. My goal is to become world champion and this is the night for me to prove myself.”
Unbeaten Mark Magsayo defeated longtime champion Gary Russell Jr. by majority decision Saturday night to capture the WBC Featherweight World Championship in the SHOWTIME main event from Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, N.J. in a Premier Boxing Champions event that was brimming with action from the telecast opener to its conclusion.
“This is my dream come true,” said Magsayo. “Ever since I was a kid, this was my dream. I’m so proud that I’m a champion now. Thank you so much to the Filipino fans for the support.”
A protégé of Filipino legend Manny Pacquiao, Magsayo (24-0, 16 KOs) was able to end the reign of boxing’s longest male world champion by defeating Russell (31-2, 18 KOs) across 12 hard-fought rounds. Magsayo was able to use his size advantage to lean on Russell throughout the fight and benefited from an apparent injury to Russell’s right shoulder that became discernable in round four.
“I believe I have a torn tendon in my right shoulder,” said Russell. “I haven’t competed in almost two years. This is what true champions do. I wanted to step into the ring and display my superiority regardless of the injury.
“I hurt the shoulder about two weeks ago,” continued Russell. “But I went through with the fight because I’m a true champion and this is what warriors do. I’m going to fight regardless of what the situation is. I refuse to not compete and display my skillsets to my fans and the people that came out to show support and love. Please believe that I will be back. I still want these fights.”
“I knew that he was hurt in round four,” said Magsayo. “I took advantage of it because he was only using one hand. This was my opportunity to follow through. My coach was telling me to use good combinations and follow through. He said this is your chance to become a champion and now I am a champion.”
Russell appeared to injure the shoulder throwing a short right hand and immediately winced in pain and retreated from the action. Russell was able to re-adjust his game plan and had success focusing solely on variations of his left hand. He slowed down the action and landed a number of clean shots to keep Magsayo at bay in a display of ring generalship, but it wasn’t enough to win over the judges.
The Freddie Roach-trained Magsayo was able to land 41% of his power shots in the contest, a significant improvement from the 28% clip that Russell’s previous eight opponents had connected on, according to CompuBox. Russell was limited to just 64 jabs thrown and was out-landed 150 to 69.
Magsayo continued to put the pressure on in the later rounds and was able to ride that activity to victory, including an attack that nearly dropped Russell late in round 10, thrilling the Filipino fans in attendance.
At the end of the 12 rounds, Magsayo edged out the decision on the judges’ cards with a 114-114 score overruled by two judges seeing the bout 115-113 for Magsayo. After the fight, Russell indicated that he believed he still won
the fight, while Magsayo left open the possibility of a rematch.
“I believed in my skillset and what I bring into the ring,” said Russell. “I felt like I still won the fight to be honest. Hell yeah I want a rematch. Would he want a rematch? That’s the question.”
“It’s up to my promotional team,” said Magsayo when asked about a potential rematch. “But I’m willing to fight anybody. I’m the champion now!”
Photo: Amanda Westcott/SHOWTIME