Keith Thurman vs Mario Barrios

This is an interesting fight coming up next week promoted by Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) and their promoter of record, Tom Brown (TGB Promotions). One Time Keith Thurman, a former world champion and well-known fighter with wins over Shawn Porter, Danny Garcia, Josesito Lopez, and a split decision loss against all-time great Manny Pacquiao brings with him plenty of big fight experience. El Azteca Mario Barrios is also a former world champion, who lost his title against the great Gervonta Davis. Cornered in part, by Virgil Hunter, who was the coach of undefeated champion Andre Ward, Mario Barrio has a high-powered coaching team behind him.

Keith Thurman Style: Boxer/Puncher from the Outside

Keith Thurman is what I would surely call a boxer/puncher. He has the skill and movement to box from the outside. He can lead the attack and he can counter-punch. He has good power, which is why early in his career his nickname was One Time–in that he can knock you out if he hits you one time. From seeing his fights, he is a well-rounded fighter, able to make in-fight adjustments as necessary, change his style and strategy round by round.

Considering the three general styles–of boxer, pressure, and slugger–he is a boxer. Range is mostly outside, but he has the ability to fight at all ranges. However, he does not seem to prefer the mid-range.

Mario Barrios Style: Mid-range Counter Puncher

Mario Barrios is someone I was not too familiar with. After view his last three fights, he looks to be a mid-range guy. He has offense, but you would not call him an aggressive fighter. He is primarily a counterpuncher, with good finishing instincts. What I mean, is when he thinks his opponent is vulnerable, he will unleash a combination.

All in all, he is a mid-range counter puncher. He has some power, but he mostly deals damage with combinations.

Hypothesis

So we have an outside boxer/puncher versus a mid-range counterpuncher. This is a strange match up because the boxer/puncher usually, can also counterpunch. From watching his previous fights against pressure fighters, Mario Barrios has struggled a bit, losing against Tank Davis and winning with a late knockdown against the Russian Batyr Akhmedov. However, both of these pressure fighters were also southpaws, which added a challenging variable. With Keith Thurman’s history, I would not assume that he’s going to bring relentless pressure.

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In the boxing manual published by the Navy, it was written that between fighters of the same skill level, the one who is better at feinting will win. The two common strategies against a counterpuncher is a pressuring, volume attack to overwhelm the counterpuncher, or to make the counterpuncher go first. Classically, the way to make the counterpuncher go first is to use a lot of feints. A more modern style born out of Olympic boxing is to attack or show your punches while retaining your balance to step back or defend and follow with a counter to the counter; but if the counter punch does not come, you step in and throw committed combinations.

Being the smart boxer that he is, I’d assume that Keith Thurman will try to establish the jab and also use a lot of feints. I can easily imagine him circling from the outside throwing jabs and feints; if the knockout is there, he will take it, but I don’t think he has as much power as Tank. Otherwise, he might be content with winning a decision with circling and jabbing, and landing the occasional telling blow off a feint, as he counters the counter of Mario Barrios.

How can Mario Barrios win? I think strategically, he will have a little harder time because of his preference for the mid-range. I’m not 100% sure, but I think he’s moved up in weight for this fight. Okay, I’ve looked it up, and he has moved up. This is a welterweight fight as opposed to feather or super featherweight. In the lower weight classes, he had the height and reach advantage. In the battle for dominance of range, or the zone of combat as Nacho Beristain calls it, Mario Barrios’s opponents typically had to step to him, get inside to land. Barrios needed merely to hold his ground and hit them as they come in. Against Thurman, he will not have as big of a height or reach advantage. Thurman will not need to get inside to touch him, and Thurman, while circling, will be able to reach Barrios. I would like it if Barrios fought inside a bit more.

Keith Thurman has only lost once, against an all-time great, left-handed, volume and power puncher. There’s not exactly a blueprint to defeating him. Against Danny Garcia, he did take a split decision win, so maybe something there can be enlightening. Danny Garcia does have some similarities to Mario Barrios, in that both are mid-range counterpunchers. However, Garcia has the clear power advantage over Barrios.

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Against Thurman, I’d like to have a volume attack with power punching. That would be ideal, take away his space and land hard shots. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen those things from Barrios. That doesn’t mean he can’t execute those strategies, however. Perhaps, he’s been waiting to show them.

Based solely on what he has done in the past, I think Barrios would be well served by cutting off the ring, and touching Thurman as Thurman comes in. Work the body early to slow Thurman down in the later rounds. Take away the movement, force the fight into his pace towards the end of the fight. I would not carry the fight to Thurman until the ring has been cut off–you need to put Thurman in the corner first before leading because in the center of the ring, he’s just going to dance around you. Barrios needs to have the mind of winning the rounds with clean, telling blows.

I think this is going to be a tactical fight. I think Thurman takes it based on his movement and power punching.

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