After over two years away from the sport, former unified welterweight world champion Keith Thurman is back, and he got the job done Saturday night.
Thurman won a 12-round unanimous decision over Mario Barrios in the main event from Michelob ULTRA Arena at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas(FOX PPV).
The judges had it 118-110(2x) and 117-111 all for Thurman.
Anytime you’re out of the ring for over two years, there will be rust, and according to Thurman, this was not his best performance.
“This was a comeback fight after two and a half years away,” he said. “I wish I had my best performance, but I did the best I could under the circumstances. “I grade this performance a C+ or B- for myself.”
At times, the 33-year-old Thurman (30-1, 22 KOs), who lost to Manny Pacquiao in last his fight in 2019, was sharp and got off to a strong start and never relinquished control as he punished Barrios with hard shots.
Barrios (26-2, 17 KOs) had his moments in his welterweight debut, particularly in the eighth when a left hook to the body caused Thurman to back up.
“Tonight, I showed the Mexican warrior in me. I take my hat off to Keith Thurman; he’s a warrior as well. We gave the fans a great fight,” said Barrios.
At this point, Thurman wants belts, which means he wants the best at 147.
“I want the belts,” he said. “I want the champions. I want to be back on top, so whoever is willing to send Keith Thurman the contract, let’s go!”
Thurman might want to take a little more rust off before he goes after the big boys at 147. However, he might want the big money fights now. His name still rings bells in boxing, so there are big fights out there for him.
In the super featherweight co-main event, four-division world champion Leo “El Terremoto” Santa Cruz delivered another vintage performance, overcoming adversity to win a wide 10-round unanimous decision over Keenan “Bedo” Carbajal.
“I went good rounds. If I had gone in there and finished him fast, I wouldn’t have gotten the experience I needed,” said the 33-year-old Santa Cruz. “I felt the long layoff a little bit, but I did my best and hopefully the fans loved it and want to see me again.”
Santa Cruz (38-2-1, 19 KOs) suffered a cut underneath his left eye and one along his right eyelid both from accidental headbutts.
Undaunted, “El Terremoto” dominated the action, hurting Carbajal (23-3-1, 15 KOs) several times on his way to winning every round on all three scorecards (100-90).
“We’re going to go back to the gym, get better and work on what we did wrong,” Santa Cruz said. “We want to unify and defend our title. We want all the champions at 126 pounds.”
Pay-per-view action also saw rising super welterweight sensation Jesus “Mono” Ramos (18-0, 15 KOs) deliver a spectacular performance in the biggest fight of his career. The 20-year-old Ramos remained undefeated by knocking out dangerous veteran Vladimir Hernandez (13-5, 6 KOs) at 2:21 of the sixth round.
“I was boxing him smartly and I wasn’t really looking for the knockout,” said Ramos. “He’s a tough, durable guy. I broke him down round by round, landing a clean shot that hurt him, so I got the job done.
The end came swiftly in the sixth when a Ramos overhand left caused Hernandez to lose control of his legs. Ramos proceeded to batter him to the head and body until referee Mike Ortega mercifully stepped in.
“We want to build our resume, like Floyd Mayweather did,” said Ramos. “He had Gatti, Corrales, Castillo and all the guys. That’s something you can’t take away from him and that’s what I want to do. I want to earn my reputation. I’m not here to have Instagram followers. I’m here to make a statement in boxing.”
In the pay-per-view opener, former two-division world champion Luis “Pantera” Nery dropped Carlos Castro in the first round on his way to a 10-round split decision win in a tactical battle between super bantamweights.
“My experience was definitely a factor,” said Nery. “I have three world title fights under my belt and have faced tougher opponents than he has. It showed tonight.”
The action heated up in the first when southpaw Nery connected with a straight left that deposited Castro on the seat of his trunks. The Phoenix, Arizona native managed to rise and survive the frame.
The bout turned into a chess match in the middle rounds as both Castro (27-1, 12 KOs) and Mexico’s Nery (32-1, 24 KOs) had their moments. In the end, Nery’s defense and accuracy proved to be the difference as he won 96-93 and 95-94 on two cards, while a third judge scored it for Castro, 95-94.
“I wanted to show everyone that I’m not just about haymakers,” said Nery. “If I wanna brawl and be tactical, I can do that too.
“I knew I could knock him out, but I wanted to win proving I could box too. I would counter-punch and attack the way I wanted to.”
Preceding the pay-per-view, the PBC on FOX main event saw Luke Santamaria (13-2-1, 7 KOs) overcome a stiff challenge from Abel Ramos (27-5-2, 21 KOs) to win a 10-round unanimous decision in their welterweight encounter. Following a slow start, Santamaria found his footing, often switching from orthodox to southpaw and having success from both stances. Ramos was game throughout, but all three judges saw Santamaria winning clearly by scores of 98-92, 96-94 and 96-94.
In the co-main event on FOX, super lightweight contender Omar “El Relámpago” Juárez (13-1, 5 KOs) won a hard-fought 10-round split decision over Ryan “Cowboy” Karl. Juarez controlled the early action, surviving a mid-fight surge from Karl (19-4, 12 KOs) to walk away with the victory. One judge scored the action 95-94 for Karl while the other two judges had Juarez winning by scores of 96-93 and 95-94.
Photos: Ryan Hafey / Premier Boxing Champions