Former world welterweight titleholder Keith Thurman will finally make his return to the ring.
Thurman will face Mario Barrios on February 5, Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) announced during Saturday’s FOX PBC Fight Night telecast. No official word as to where the 12-round bout will take place, but Las Vegas or Texas are the leading candidates to host the fight.
Also taking place on the FOX/ PBC pay-per-view telecast will be Leo Santa Cruz defending his WBA featherweight title against Keenan Carbajal.
Thurman (29-1, 22 knockouts), who resides in Clearwater, Florida, has not fought since losing by split-decision to Manny Pacquiao in July 2019. Thurman would lose his WBA welterweight title after making five successful defenses, including wins over Danny Garcia, Shawn Porter and Josesito Lopez.
Few knew when Thurman would actually return to action. Following the Pacquiao fight, Thurman sat out the rest of 2019 after undergoing surgery to fuse the metacarpal bones in his left hand. In an interview with boxing writer Dan Rafael in June of last year, Thurman admitted not being able to train at 100 percent due to lingering effects of his hand injury. He has also been vocal about ailments to his elbow.
Thurman hopes a convincing win would elevate him back to contender status, where he can face the likes of WBO titleholder Terence Crawford and unified titleholder Errol Spence. Both Crawford and Spence are ranked No. 1 and 2 by The Ring, respectively.
Barrios (26-1, 17 KOs), who resides in San Antonio, Texas, last fought on June 26, losing by knockout to Gervonta Davis in round 11. Barrios gave a good account of himself during the fight, despite getting dropped three times.
Prior to the loss to Davis, Barrio’s most notable fights were a knockout win over Ryan Karl on October 31 of last year and a very close decision win over Batyr Akhmedov in September 2019.
Santa Cruz (37-2-1, 19 KOs), who is originally from Huetamo, Mexico and now resides in the Los Angeles suburb of Rosemead, suffered a vicious knockout loss to Davis on the same card as Barrios-Karl. Santa Cruz has not defended his WBA featherweight title since February 2019, a one-sided victory over Rafael Rivera.
The WBA recently sent out a notice to Santa Cruz on whether he will defend their version of the world title or vacate. Santa Cruz did promise the WBA he would defend the belt against the winner of the clash between Michael Conlan and Leigh Wood.
Carbajal (23-2-1, 15 KOs), who resides in Phoenix, Arizona, defeated Josean Figueroa Bonilla by knockout in round 4 of his last bout on November 13. He has not lost since his eighth pro fight, a string of 18 consecutive wins.
Also on the card, welterweight Josesito Lopez (38-8, 21 KOs), who resides in Riverside, California, will square off against Abel Ramos (27-4-2, 21 KOs) of Casas Grandes, Arizona in what could be an all-action 12-round bout.
Opening the pay-per-view telecast will be a 10-round junior featherweight bout between former WBC titleholder Luis Nery (31-1, 24 KOs) of Tijuana, Mexico and Phoenix’s Carlos Castro (27-0, 12 KOs).
Francisco A. Salazar has written for The Ring since October 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (California) Star newspaper. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing