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San Antonio boxers find success in the ring

Mario Barrios and Joshua Franco are making their hometown proud

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SAN ANTONIO – People don't always follow through when they chase their dreams. Many things can get in the way to derail your career plans. But for local boxers Mario Barrios and Joshua Franco, things are only looking up.

Mario Barrios, the current WBA Inter-Continental Welterweight champ, is currently out in California, training with Virgil Hunter as he prepares for his fight next weekend. Barrios (23-0, 15 KOs) will face Argentinian boxer Juan Jose Velasco (20-1, 12 KOs) on Saturday, May 11 in a 10-round junior welterweight bout in Fairfax, Virginia. This will be Velasco's third fight in the United States, where he is currently 1-1, suffering that first career loss back in July of last year. 

"He's tasted defeat and I'm sure he didn't like that and doesn't want to taste it again," said Barrios to KSAT 12 Sports Thursday afternoon. "He's going to be 110% which is what I want. I want to face the best version of himself and that's the only way that's going to bring everything out of me as a fighter."

Barrios, aka "El Azteca" is no stranger to the spotlight or publicity. He's already been showcased nationally and is currently on a seven-consecutive knockout streak . The achievements continue to mount up but Barrios has stayed pretty humble and only focused on the fight ahead of him. 

"Velasco is a pretty effective counter-puncher and he has power.  We're not taking him lightly and we're treating it like it's a championship fight. Come fight night, I'll be able to showcase my talents and my skills." 

Besides training out in California, Barrios has not forgotten about his family obligations, especially when it comes to his sister and fellow professional boxer, Selina Barrios. She fought last weekend in Louisiana where she faced veteran boxer Melissa Hernandez, a fighter who hadn't fought in three years. Hernandez and Barrios fought a brutal fight and in the end, Barrios suffered a swollen face, a cut over her left eye, which required stitches to close, and her first career loss.

"She's doing well and the main thing is recovery," said Barrios. "She took a few head butts that cut her eye in the end. It was rough and I flew out there for her fight and it felt like I had loss."

"She's staying positive about it," added Barrios. "She know's this is a sport where you always have to be evolving and learning.  I believe in my sister, the family has her back and I'm damn proud of her. She will come out of his stronger and smarter." 

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Meanwhile, local bantamweight Joshua Franco has returned to the Alamo City with some new hardware. Franco (15-1-1, 7 KOs) defeated Oscar Negrete last week to claim the NABF and WBA International Bantamweight title. 

"These championship belts just give me more confidence," said Franco Thursday afternoon at the KSAT 12 Studios. "I want to keep getting more and more belts. I want them all."

Franco faced Negrete for the second time in six months last week. Their first fight ended in a split decision draw that saw over 2200 punches thrown, the second most in bantamweight history. This time around, both fighters took special care to throw more accurate punches and yet, each threw almost 800 punches after going the distance. 

In the end, Franco won by a split decision, even though Negrete continued to raise his arms in victory after many of the rounds towards the end. The lack of sportsmanship from Negrete didn't phase Franco. 

"Negrete was more determined in this fight than the last one," said Franco. "You could tell he wanted to win but he was trying to show the judges maybe he won the rounds by raising his arms like that. I knew he wasn't winning. I knew the whole time. It was a close fight but my skills were just better and it was more clear this time."

This was the first time Franco faced an opponent for the second time in his professional career. Franco, aka "El Profesor" already made calculated changes in his rematch and it turned out to earn him another victory. The experience of a rematch has only made Franco a smarter and dangerous fighter.

"I learned I could go to war with any top contender because Negrete was ranked number three in the WBC. These fights are only making me more confident, knowing I can go into the later rounds and gaining more confidence in myself."

Franco has earned some time off, which will include eating some very desired dishes he's had to stay away from when he's preparing for a fight. Out on the West coast, Barrios takes small breaks from all the training to watch "Avengers: Endgame" and the final season of "Game of Thrones." 

And yes, Barrios, was just as surprised as the rest of us that Arya killed the Night King.

Barrios vs. Velasco will be the co-main event on Fox and Fox Deportes Saturday evening. Franco's next opponent has yet to be named but more than likely, he will be fighting this coming summer. You can see more on both fighters Sunday night on "Instant Replay" on KSAT 12 starting at 11 p.m. 

Twitter: @Boxer_Barrios @JoshuaFranco_ @InstantReplaySA

Daniel P. Villanueva has worked with KSAT 12 Sports for over 16 years and is an award-winning sports producer. To submit story ideas, email sports@ksat.com.