Keith Thurman to begin comeback against Mario Barrios on Feb. 5

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  • Keith Thurman
    Keith Thurman
    American boxer
  • Mario Barrios
    American boxer

The last time we saw Keith Thurman was in July of 2019, when Manny Pacquiao turned in one last special performance to win a split decision and take Thurman’s world welterweight title.

More than a year and a half later, on Feb. 5, the 33-year-old former champ will step back into the ring in what he hopes will be the first step toward reclaiming his place atop the celebrated 147-pound division.

Thurman will face Mario Barrios on that date on pay-per-view from Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas, it has been officially announced.

“It’s been a long time coming for my return to the ring, and I can’t wait to compete again,” Thurman said. “In 2022, I will remind the world of boxing that Keith ‘One Time’ Thurman is a fighter not to forget.

“I look not to the past nor to the future, I’m back now, and I’m ready to fight. I dream big, and now is the time to make that dream a reality.”

Thurman (29-1, 22 KOs) has battled injuries more than opponents in recent years, including elbow and then hand surgery. That’s the main reason he has fought only four times since July 2015, a span of more than six years.

He has said recently that he feels as good as he has in years, which might not bode well for Barrios.

There has been talk of a possible fight with WBO champion and free agent Terence Crawford if Thurman wins on Feb. 5. That would be the kind of high-profile opportunity that is attractive to both men.

Could Barrios spoil Thurman’s plans?

The Texan is coming off the first loss of his career, a spirited effort against Gervonta Davis in June that ended in an 11th round knockout. That fight took place at 140 pounds.

Facing a fighter of Thurman’s track record in his first fight as a full-fledged 147-pounder is a bold move on Barrios’ part. Barrios certainly will be a significant underdog come fight night.

“I’m excited to be making my welterweight debut against a great fighter and former world champion like Keith Thurman,” Barrios said. “A lot of fighters wouldn’t take this fight, but that’s why I wanted it. Both of us like to throw a lot of bombs and I believe this will be an all-out war.

“The fans know I’m a warrior and that I don’t back down from any challenge. That’s why everyone should order this fight. ‘El Azteca’ is going to make a statement on February 5.”

The undercard is deep.

  • Four-division titleholder Leo Santa Cruz (37-2-1, 19 KOs) will face Keenan Carbajal (23-2-1, 15 KOs) in a scheduled 12-round featherweight bout.

  • Welterweight contender Abel Ramos (27-4-2, 21 KOs) will take on veteran Josesito Lopez (38-8, 21 KOs).

  • And former junior featherweight titleholder Luis Nery (31-1, 24 KOs) will fight Carlos Castro (27-0, 12 KOs).