Mario Barrios ‘Welcomes’ Fights With Manny Pacquiao And Devin Haney, Says Trainer

June 22, 2024
1 month
Mario Barrios was elevated to full WBC welterweight world champion

Newly crowned WBC welterweight champion Mario Barrios “welcomes” the opportunity to put his title on the line against Manny Pacquiao and Devin Haney, says his trainer Bob Santos.

Barrios (29-2-0 18 KO) became a two-weight world champion earlier this week when the WBC announced the Texan had been elevated from interim to full champion status.

The decision was made after Terence Crawford had been placed into champion-in-recess, with the Nebraskan unable to fulfill his mandatory obligations because of his move up to super-welterweight to face WBA champion Israil Madrimov on August 3 in Los Angeles.

The elevation to world champion, achieved after defeating former world champion Yordenis Ugas in September 2023 to claim the interim title, has opened plenty of doors for Barrios to pursue major fights for his first title defense.

Pacquiao ‘A Legend’

Among those is Filipino legend Pacquiao, who is expected to make a remarkable return to professional boxing more than three years after his last bout – a points defeat to Ugas in September 2021.

Since then, the eight-division world champion has split his focus between politics and lucrative exhibition bouts. His adviser Sean Gibbons recently revealed that a bout with Barrios is among the priorities for Pac Man’s comeback.

“People were talking about Manny Pacquiao as a possible opponent for Mario’s fight for his WBC title,” Santos told BoxingScene. “We welcome that. Mario, the one thing about him, I said it many, many times, is he takes on all challenges. He has never taken the easy route. He’s never turned down a fight since we’ve been with him.

“Manny’s a legend. He’s earned the right to do what he wants to do, and he can walk to the beat of his own drum. If that’s the fight that he really wants, obviously, we welcome the challenge. We’ll see how that plays out.”

Barrios ‘Welcomes Haney, Too’

Another possibility is the WBC’s super-lightweight champion Haney, who responded to Barrios’ elevation to world champion this week by posting on social media: “Mauriciooooo…”

Haney’s step up to 147lbs to pursue a world title in a third division has been made increasingly possible after the underwhelming response from purse bidders for his mandatory defense against Spain’s Sandor Martin.

‘The Dream’ has claimed he could take a break from boxing and wait for Ryan Garcia to serve his one-year doping suspension in order to book the rematch, but the chance to face Barrios could alter his plans. “Devin Haney, we welcome that, too,” Santos added.

Whomever Barrios fights next in his first title defense, Santos insists his fighter deserves his status as world champion despite not winning the belt in the ring.

Santos Explains Barrios Eye Injury

“We’re thrilled about that. It’s a good thing, obviously, and I know he’s happy about that. We earned it in the ring,” Santos said, before adding that Barrios and his team were expecting the decision following Crawford’s move to 154.

“Yeah, that was a thought process, because you had heard Terence talking about so much that he was going to go up to ‘54,” Santos said. “He obviously made his mark at ‘47 and now he wants to go ahead and make his mark at ‘54.”

Barrios’ two defeats came back-to-back in his last fight at super-lightweight to Gervonta Davis and his first bout at welterweight against Keith Thurman. He last fought in May when he defeated Fabian Maidana on the undercard of Canelo Alvarez’s undisputed super-middleweight win over Jaime Munguia. On that occasion, he sustained a serious-looking eye injury and Santos provided some context for the incident.

“A little backdrop on that, if you look at the fight, people are like, ‘Man, how did his eye get like that? He virtually never got hit in the fight. He had a sinus infection going into the fight, so that was the big reason,” Santos said. “He had a nasty, nasty sinus infection going into the fight. So he barely got touched there, and then it just happened.”