Former world champions Keith “One Time” Thurman and Mario “El Azteca” Barrios went face-to-face for the first time Wednesday, as they previewed their showdown that headlines a FOX Sports PBC Pay-Per-View this Saturday, February 5 from Michelob ULTRA Arena at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.
Both Thurman and Barrios will look to rebound from their first career defeats with statement victories on Saturday night to put them back on the path toward another world title. Each fighter expressed confidence that not only will they emerge victorious, but that they’ll do so in fan-friendly fashion.
Here is what the fighters had to say Wednesday from Michelob ULTRA Arena:
“It feels great to be back. The time is now. It feels natural. I was born and raised in this sport. This is where I belong and I’m grateful to be back in this beautiful fight town of Las Vegas.
“I missed the action. I love the sport and I love what I bring to the table. I’m looking forward to the challenges that Mario Barrios brings to that ring.
“I’m just happy to be here. I’m back where I belong, which is at the forefront of the sport of boxing. I’m facing a young and capable fighter. He’s a big little dude. It was a fun experience to size him up today.
“This is what I love. I don’t care how many days it’s been since I’ve been in the ring, I breathe boxing every day of my life. I’m here to showcase my talent to the world once again.
“I love to out-punch my opponent. Against everyone but Shawn Porter, I’ve felt like I had the ability to out-punch and out-perform them. In the Manny Pacquiao fight, when I walked him down, I wasn’t letting my hands go. I believe that I was 15 punches away from victory in that fight.
“I don’t need to waste punches in this fight. I need to land the cleaner and sharper shots. I see the warrior spirit in Mario Barrios, and I believe he’s going to push me to fight harder.
“It’s exciting to be facing someone who wants to trade. He’s stepping up and facing me because he wants to make a name overnight. I respect that, but I’m here to stop him in his tracks.
“At the end of the day, I just evolve and I learn from everyone I’ve ever been in the ring with. I’m looking forward to showing everyone my poise and experience. I believe that my experience is going to help give me the upper hand.
“This is my presidential campaign, I am back. The welterweight division is back. Without me, the division has been wack. I bring the most exciting fights at welterweight. With or without a belt, I’m a champion and that’s the statement I’m making Saturday night.”
“I never take away too much from the faceoffs. All that matters to me is that we’re fighting on Saturday. I knew that I’d have the height advantage on him. I’m moving up in weight, but I’m still the bigger fighter.
“’I’m in this sport to fight the best. There’s never been a name that I’ve turned down. I want to keep testing my abilities and prove to everyone that I belong. That’s why I picked such a difficult fight for my welterweight debut.
“It’s a dream come true for me to be in this position. I’ve stayed patient, stayed focused and stayed disciplined. Now I have the opportunity to make a name for myself at welterweight.
“The move to welterweight has been a long time coming. Me and my team have loved the results we’ve had in camp and I can’t wait for Saturday.
“The fans are going to see the same Mario Barrios that has always stepped into the ring, but I’m going to be a lot stronger. The speed and movement will be the same and I’m excited to show that.
“Every time I step into the ring I bring that intensity and determination. You’re going to have to hit me with something crazy to get me out of there. I’m always going to keep on coming. I’m in there to do whatever I can to come out victorious.
“I’m going to have to do it all in this fight. Thurman was the toughest fight presented to me and that’s why I took it. He can box, he can bang and he has good movement. We had to get ready for every style.
“Keith and I definitely have the potential to bring the best out of each other. It’s going to be an amazing night of boxing.
“I’m looking to make a statement and put the welterweight division on notice that I’m here. Thurman is a great fighter, but it’s my job to go in there on Saturday night and do everything better than him.”
Photos: Ryan Hafey/Premier Boxing Champions