On Aug. 21, 2021 at the T-Mobile center in Las Vegas, Nevada, Manny Pacquiao (62-8-2, 39 KOs) made his ring return after 25 months of inactivity. The WBA welterweight (147 lbs division) champion “in recess,” Pacquiao was originally scheduled to face unified WBC/IBF welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. in Super Fight, but 11 days prior to the bout, Spence pulled out due to a detached retina which the Nevada State Athletic Commission discovered during a routine physical.
Yordenis Ugas, WBA (Super) Welterweight champion (27-4, 12 KOs), originally from Cuba, was due to fight Fabian Maidana on the same Pacquiao-Spence card. Coincidentally, Ugas’s opponent also had to withdraw due to an injury. Ugas was offered a chance to replace Spence; he quickly accepted.
Ugas stuck with boxing, persevered, and went on an 8-fight winning streak
Pacquiao vs. Ugas made sense. They both are affiliated with Promoter Premier Boxing Champions (PBC), but more importantly, the WBA had stripped Pacquiao of his WBA (Super) welterweight championship due to inactivity and had elevated Ugas from WBA (Regular) Welterweight champion to WBA (Super) welterweight championship last January 2021. When Pacquiao signed to fight Spence, his representatives petitioned the WBA to reverse their decision to reinstate Pacquiao as champion, but the request was denied. If Pacquiao wanted his title back, he would have to do so in the ring.
The WBA’s refusal to reinstate Pacquiao was extra motivation to defeat Ugas, who wasn’t happy that Pacquiao tried to take his title without a match in the ring. Ugas defected from Cuba more than 10 years ago and has had his share of adversity. He turned professional shortly after defecting to the United States in 2010. By 2014, Ugas’ professional record stood at 15 wins and 3 losses. It appears he would not win a professional world title and there were reports Ugas even thought of quitting boxing altogether. Ugas stuck with boxing, persevered, and went on an 8-fight winning streak that earned him a world title fight against Shawn Porter for the WBC welterweight championship in 2019. After 12 rounds, many thought that Ugas had beaten Porter but was denied the victory that would’ve crowned him champion. Ugas again persevered, continued fighting, and eventually won his first world title against Abel Ramos in September 2020.
Pacquiao-Ugas was clearly not Pacquiao-Spence, but it was a terrific story. Pacquiao is a living legend that has won world titles in eight boxing divisions and is a future boxing hall of famer. Ugas had a Cinderella-type story. Many boxing experts and fans picked Pacquiao to easily defeat Ugas.
When the match began at the sound of the bell, it was clear that Pacquiao was the quicker fighter. Pacquiao used his speed and boxing ability to score against the taller fighter, Ugas. But, as the fight progressed, Ugas used his height, reach advantage, and jab to score well against Pacquiao. Both fighters had their moments where they effectively landed punches against each other. However, it was Ugas who was able to control the fight by using his jab against Pacquiao, who was never able to hurt or stun Ugas for a knockout.
Pacquiao was able to keep the fight close, but Ugas stayed a few steps ahead. At the end of the 12 rounds, all three judges agreed by unanimous decision that Ugas had defeated Pacquiao to retain his WBA (Super) welterweight title.
Pacquiao used his speed and boxing ability to score against the taller fighter
During the post-fight interview, Pacquiao, an elected Senator in the Philippines, did not reveal his future plans. Will he continue fighting, retire, or run for President of the Philippines, as some reports suggest? He said that he wants to rest and spend time with his family before making a decision about his future.
As for Ugas, after years of adversity, he will now have the opportunity to face the best welterweights in the world for multimillion-dollar fight purses. In reference to his next fight, Ugas quickly said that he wants to unify his title against Spence (WBC/IBF champ), who recently had eye surgery and has stated he intends to resume his boxing career when cleared to fight. A fight against WBO champ Terrance Crawford is unlikely as Ugas fights for PBC and Crawford fights for Top Rank, so a deal for a match between the two Promoters is unlikely.
Fights against Porter (rematch), Keith Thurman, Spence, or even a rematch against Pacquiao would all be big fights that can be made since these are all PBC fighters. Let’s see what the future holds for Ugas.
Contact Writer: Rluvsboxing@aol.com