SAN ANTONIO – The last time Mario Barrios fought an opponent was in late September. He entered the ring with an undefeated record. He walked out with a world championship belt.
There had been plenty of talk since then on when and who Barrios would face next. The opponent he defeated by unanimous decision, Batyr Akhmedov, wanted an immediate rematch, claiming he had been robbed of a championship title.
As events were planned and fought with the start of 2020, it finally looked like we would see the first title defense for “El Azteca”.
Then, the coronavirus outbreak spread across the world.
On March 20, California Governor Gavin Newsom issued a shelter in place order for the 40 million residents living in the state to help stop the spread of COVID-19. The Southwest High School alum has been training in California for the last several years.
“In the Bay Area, they announced the shelter in place order and after that, there was no point in me being out there,” said Barrios to KSAT 12 Sports Thursday. “I couldn’t get my meal preps for camp, I had trouble getting waters so I came back home.”
Barrios was about to start another intense training session near Oakland with trainer Virgil Hunter when the order from the Governor’s office was made public. Instead of continuing with the workout, he stopped immediately, knowing home was where he needed to be and needed to stay.
“You could feel it with everyone, even at the airport when I was coming back, everyone being uneasy,” Barrios said. “Even when you get back here, with everyone buying everything out. It’s a little chaotic.”
Barrios, who is 25-0 with 16 knockouts and is the WBA World Super Lightweight champion, was days away from announcing his next fight. His promoters advised him to not share any of those details since there’s no telling when fighters will be able to compete again, and when fans will be able to attend.
“Right now, we’re just waiting for things to blow over," said Barrios. "I don’t think any sport has any say when things will pick back up. Hopefully, whenever it does, I’ll be right back in the ring.”
Back in January, local fighters Joshua Franco and Hector Tanajara Jr. made their San Antonio debuts, the first in their professional careers. Barrios has already fought in the Alamo City four times, but never for a world championship.
“I’m a little disappointed everything has stopped but it won’t change anything," Barrios added. "I really want to get that title defense and I’m shooting to get it back here in San Antonio.”
The world champ has always been close to his family but since he’s returned home, he’s been able to see a new side to his sister and fellow professional boxer Selina Barrios, as she stays home to take care of and teach her daughter.
“Ill stumble upon them in the kitchen going over my niece’s assignments,” said Barrios. “It’s funny seeing my sister in that role. She’s been doing a great job. My sister told me she has a great respect for teachers. She is trying to take over for my niece. She found out it’s not as easy as she thought it would be.”
In the meantime, Barrios continues to train at home in any way he can since gyms are closed. There’s only so much running you can do after awhile so he’s filling that time with another joy, playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare.
If you play online, watch out for Barrios. If he plays anything like he knock’s out fighters, you’re in for a bad couple of sessions.
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 email@example.com