Manny Pacquiao hasn’t determined what his future holds, but the eight-division world champion is aware that his 26-year professional boxing career could have ended with a disappointing loss on Saturday night.
Yordenis Ugás is only seven years younger than the Filipino senator, but he’s already making a name for himself after taking this once-in-a-lifetime chance to dethrone one of the greats.
On 11 days’ notice, Ugás defeated Pacquiao by majority decision in Las Vegas, putting on a superb technical display and regaining his WBA welterweight title.
“He’s a terrific fighter, but I came in here to prove I’m the WBA champion,” Ugás said. “I have a lot of respect for him, but I came out on top in this fight.”
As a late injury replacement for Errol Spence Jr., Ugás (27-4) took advantage of the opportunity. Throughout one of Pacquiao’s most frustrating contests, the Cuban veteran was somewhat better than the 42-year-old Filipino senator (67-8-2).
Ugás, who is 35 years old, fired half as many punches as Pacquiao, but his fists were more precise and efficient. Before the fight, Pacquiao was a strong favorite, but he struggled to get inside on Ugás’ excellent jab, and Ugás connected his right hand with increasing frequency in the later rounds.
Manny Pacquiao loses to Yordenis Ugás by unanimous decision
“I’m very excited, but most of all, I want to thank Manny Pacquiao for giving me this moment in this ring today,” Ugás said through a translator. “We only had two weeks of training, but I listened to my corner and it all worked out.”
Two judges scored it 116-112 for Ugás, and a third had it 115-113. The Associated Press also scored it 116-112 for Ugás.
A visibly disappointed Pacquiao said he hasn’t decided whether he will fight again after an unimpressive performance in his return from the longest layoff of his quarter-century in the sport. He also wouldn’t confirm whether he will enter the Philippines’ presidential race, as is widely expected. He intends to make an announcement next month.
“Let me rest first before my family and I make a decision,” Pacquiao said.
The victory marked the end of a long journey for Ugás, who left Cuba two years after winning a bronze medal at the Beijing Olympics. Ugás had a two-year break from boxing in the middle of the last decade, but resurrected his career and took advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity by winning his 12th fight in his last 13 battles.
Ugás was only in the spotlight because Spence was forced to withdraw last week after a pre-fight physical revealed he had a torn retina. Ugás had been scheduled for a fight on the undercard, but he leaped at the chance to get the kind of exposure and pay that had eluded him since he fled Cuba on a small boat destined for Mexico 11 years ago.
Despite the late opponent change, T-Mobile Arena appeared to be nearly sold out, and the 17,438-strong crowd was vociferous in its support for its Filipino hero. Pacquiao is a definite draw and a bankable celebrity in a sport that lacks both at the highest levels, even after an extended absence in the latter stages of his career.
On short notice, Ugás had a well-thought-out game plan, pushing hard in the early rounds with an efficient jab and body blows. Pacquiao was more aggressive, and his combinations occasionally brought the fans to their feet, but Ugás’ rangy jab baffled him.
In the middle rounds, Ugás gained confidence, and at the seventh-round bell, he replied to some action with a defiant shimmy-shake of his shoulders in Pacquiao’s direction. Pacquiao consistently threw more punches than Ugás, yet they landed approximately the same number, demonstrating Ugás’ protection and precision in the face of Pacquiao’s aggressiveness.
In the tenth round, Pacquiao got Ugás with a combination and knocked him back as the crowd erupted in applause, but Ugás recovered and rallied with massive blows. In the 12th round, Ugás also looked sharp, peppering Pacquiao all the way to the final bell.
Pacquiao has won three straight fights since July 2017, but he hadn’t competed since winning the WBA welterweight belt from Keith Thurman in 2019.
By the time Pacquiao returned, the WBA had taken away the belt and granted it to Ugás, who had earned a different version of the belt in the WBA’s byzantine championship system, while Pacquiao’s political career and the pandemic kept him out of the ring in 2020.
Pacquiao was irritated by the WBA’s decision, as he had held multiple welterweight belts for a decade after moving up to 147 pounds in 2009 and stopping Miguel Cotto in perhaps his best performance.
Robert Guerrero won a unanimous decision over fellow veteran Victor Ortiz on all three cards on the undercard of Ugás’ victory at T-Mobile Arena. Guerrero had been out in the ring for 23 months.
Guerrero (37-6-1) had a good second round and continued to throw a high volume of punches to defeat Ortiz (32-7-3), who hadn’t fought in 42 months. In 2018, Ortiz was accused with many counts of sexual assault, however the charges were dropped in late 2018.
Mark Magsayo (23-0, 16 KOs) of the Philippines kept his unbeaten record intact with a spectacular 10th-round knockout of Julio Ceja, who was leading on all three judges’ scorecards.
Source: AP News