INSIDE THE RING: “El Azteca” returns to San Antonio

Mario Barrios makes 2023 debut back in his hometown.

SAN ANTONIO – It’s been a long time coming but one of San Antonio’s favorite boxers is making his return.

Mario Barrios (26-2, 17 KOs) will make his 2023 debut when he faces Puerto Rico’s Jovanie Santiago (14-2-1, 10 KOs) on Saturday, February 11 in the Alamodome for a 10-round welterweight bout. Barrios has fought each of the last three years, with his last two fights being losses in pay-per-view events. Santiago did not fight last year. His only two bouts in 2021 were both losses.

“I’m so excited since I haven’t fought back at home since 2020,” Barrios told KSAT 12 Sports on Friday. “Knowing that I can make my comeback fight back at home, I’m just excited to end this layoff. It’s been a full year since I last fought. It’s been the longest layoff and I’m itching to get back for awhile now. It being back home makes it that much better.”

“El Azteca” was out for a run in Nevada when KSAT 12 Sports informed him that his next fight, presented by Showtime Sports and Premier Boxing Champions, had officially been announced.

Barrios has a new trainer, Bob Santos, who works out of Las Vegas, Nevada, where Barrios has been training since September. The former world champ had spent years working out of the Bay Area in California with trainer Virgil Hunter before he decided to make changes last year after his loss to Keith Thurman.

“I’m just continuing to add on to my arsenal and to what I have learned up to this point,” said Barrios. “I know these next couple of years are going to be the important years for my career. I’m barely hitting my prime so that’s super exciting, and I’m looking to make my mark in this sport.”

Barrios added, “I want to continue to bring that positive light for the city of San Antonio. I promised San Antonio a world title. I was able to bring that two years ago and I’m looking forward to bringing another one sometime soon.”

Barrios may have found new surroundings for his training, but that isn’t the only new addition to his camp. He has brought on his sister, former boxer Selina Barrios, to his corner, where she will also be his co-trainer.

“It’s been awesome, me and my sister started in this sport together,” explained Barrios. “I’m very proud of everything that she has accomplished for herself, inside and outside of the ring. No one knows me better than her. She has been with me every step of the way since we first began. She’s going to be in my corner for now on.”

Tickets for the match, which is the day before Super Bowl Sunday, are already available at the Alamodome Box Office, and

Daniel P. Villanueva has worked with KSAT 12 for over 19 years and is an award-winning producer. To submit story ideas, email

About the Author

Daniel P. Villanueva has been with KSAT 12 since 2003 and is the producer of our weekly sports show, "Instant Replay." Villanueva is a graduate of St. Mary's University and is a TAPB and Lone Star Emmy award winner.

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