Super lightweight contender Ryan “Cowboy” Karl is just days away from the most important fight of his professional career so far, as he’s set to challenge WBA “regular” champion Mario Barrios on Oct. 31 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. The bout will take place on the undercard of Gervonta Davis’ title defense versus Leo Santa Cruz on Showtime pay-per-view, and will be part of the first American combat sports event with a crowd in attendance since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I just feel great. My conditioning is great, my mentality is great. I’m very satisfied with my camp, [it was] the best camp I’ve ever had,” Karl said in an interview with ESBR. “I’m stronger than I’ve ever been, my weight’s better than it’s ever been. Things are really on point right now. Going into this last week [before the fight], I’m extremely confident.”
Coming off of a big year in 2019 with three consecutive stoppage wins, Karl (18-2, 12 KO) had been anticipating a title opportunity for quite some time.
“There was talk about it already. I was hoping for it to come to fruition and work out. But when it [the call to fight Barrios] actually finally did come, it was exciting but it didn’t sink in that I was fighting for a world title. It’s surreal, because this is [the moment] I’ve worked my whole life for and my hard work and dedication is paying off.”
In Barrios (25-0, 16 KO), Karl is facing an unbeaten fighter making the first defense of his title, which he won last year when he defeated Batyr Akhmedov via unanimous decision that September. Barrios has proven to be a destructive force so far in his career, as he’s won 8 of his last 9 fights by knockout or stoppage.
“I’ve watched him and we’ve been on cards together in the past as well. He’s a good, solid, fighter, he’s got a lot of heart and I expect him to be tough,” Karl said. “He’s got a good corner too. I expect a lot of things from Mario, nothing we’re not prepared for, but I expect him to come out and fight hard.”
Although Karl has been out of the ring since November of 2019, he believes the inactivity caused by the pandemic has played in his favour, as the 28 year old Texan has been using the time off to restore his health.
“[The layoff from the pandemic] has done nothing but help me, to be honest. The layoff helped me get over injuries. I was hardly able to spar before my last fight because of a hand injury, and my elbow was sore as well. But all that’s gone now because I was able to have the time off. [The pandemic] hasn’t caused me to miss any training and I’ve been able to do everything correctly. We just moved a few things around and it turned out to work better.”
In Karl’s corner is veteran boxing trainer Ronnie Shields, who’s given advice to some of the best boxers of this generation. The list of champions he’s worked with include the Charlo brothers (Jermall and Jermell), Erislandy Lara, Guillermo Rigondeaux, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Pernell Whitaker, Vernon Forrest, and Arturo Gatti, just to name a few.
“I believe Ronnie Shields is the best cornerman in boxing and a Hall of Fame trainer,” Karl said. “It’s been a great experience working with Ronnie for the past six years. We’ve gotten to know each other very well. He’s able to see things in me that I don’t normally see. So he’s been able to work with me and talk me through a lot, because he’s been through so much and trained so many top fighters.”
Karl possesses exceptional combination punching and decent handspeed, and those who have yet to have seen Karl fight should expect him to live up to his moniker.
“I’m a cowboy, and I fight like a cowboy. I’m rough and tough, so I’m exciting for anyone to watch. If you watch any of my fights, I guarantee you, win, lose or draw, you’re gonna be entertained no matter what. But my biggest flaw is liking to fight too much and straying from the game plan a bit, because I do get into those exchanges and I enjoy being in those exchanges in a fight. I’m a very entertaining and exciting fighter, and you’re gonna get your money’s worth any time I fight.”
While he is focused on capturing a world title on Saturday and becoming the best fighter he could possibly be, the Cowboy is more concerned about his legacy beyond boxing.
“Like anybody else, I want to be a Hall of Famer, an all-time great and a world champion, but I don’t necessarily think about how I want to be remembered in boxing, I like to think about how I’ll be remembered by my children and everyone around me. I want to be remembered as a strong Christian man that worked hard, and did what I had to do when I had to do it.”