Undefeated super lightweight contender Mario Barrios has fought in some of the nation’s greatest venues on high-profile cards.
Now the 23-year-old San Antonio boxer, riding a streak of seven straight knockouts, is set to perform on arguably the biggest stage of his career when he takes on Juan Jose Velasco (20-1, 12 KOs) of Argentina on Saturday night (7 p.m.) at the EagleBank Arena in Fairfax, Va.
Like all of Barrios’ fights, the bout will be televised. What’s different now is that this will be his first fight televised on Fox.
Fox, which signed a four-year deal with Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions series in September that would pay out more than $60 million annually, has been averaging nearly 1.6 million viewers in its five events so far with an available audience of 120 million.
That’s a lot of eyeballs. Barrios has fought on Fox Sports 1 but never on Fox.
“Nothing compares to the exposure you get on Fox,” said Barrios (23-0, 15 KOs), who has been training in the Bay Area for the past six weeks. “I’m excited to give the fans back home in San Antonio the opportunity to see me fight on the national stage.”
The 10-round Barrios-Velasco fight will be part of a card headlined by unified and undefeated IBF and WBA super welterweight champion Jarrett Hurd (23-0, 16 KOs) defending his titles against Julian Williams (26-1-1, 16 KOs).
The high-water mark in terms of viewership for PBC on Fox came Jan. 26 when a card headlined by Keith Thurman vs. Josesito Lopez at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., averaged 1.98 million viewers and peaked at 2.8 million.
As part of the deal, Fox will air 10 marquee fight cards annually plus another 12 on FS1 and Fox Deportes. Perhaps more significantly, it marks the return of boxing to free, mainstream TV.
PBC is high on Barrios’ future.
“It won’t be long before he’s headlining his own show,” PBC spokesman Tim Smith said. “He has a fan-friendly style. And you got to love the way he’s made his way through all these divisions. The sky’s the limit for him. He has a lot of talent and personality. We just got to get him in a big show in San Antonio.
“He’s been one of our busiest young guys. We’re real high on him.”
A victory over Velasco would move Barrios a step closer to fighting for a world title.
The WBA 140-pound champion is Regis Prograis (24-0, 20 KOs) of Houston. Prograis is coming off a sixth-round TKO of Kiryl Relikh (23-3, 19 KOs) of Belarus on April 27 in Lafayette, La.
Barrios in ranked No. 1 by the WBA. In July, Prograis handed Velasco his only loss, an eighth-round TKO in New Orleans.
“This is going to be a good measuring stick for Mario,” said Barrios’ manager, Luis de Cubas Jr. “(Velasco) gave Prograis one of his toughest fights.”
“Everyone will compare what I do against Velasco with what Prograis did,” Barrios said. “That’s just part of the game. I’m going into this fight with bad intentions, with the goal to end the fight early.”
De Cubas said he thinks Barrios, who began his pro career at 122 pounds, is continuing to grow and likely will wind up in the 147-pound welterweight division, long considered one of the glamour divisions of the sport.
Currently it boasts such marquee names as Thurman, Manny Pacquiao, Shawn Porter, Errol Spence Jr., Terence Crawford, Danny Garcia and Amir Khan, among others.
DeCubas wants to get Barrios a title at 140 first, however. Barrios just wants to keep winning.
“Everyone can see I have the talent to be one of greats,” he said. “The spotlight is on me like never before so I have to be on my game at all times.”
If he pulls it off, it’ll likely be the first of many appearances on Fox.
By John Whisler – www.expressnews.com
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