Yordenis Ugas has taken down a legend…
The 35-year-old Cuban professional boxer scored a unanimous decision over Manny Pacquiao on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena to retain his WBA “super” welterweight title, pulling off an upset victory that establishes Ugas as a major player in boxing’s best division.
Ugas win came on a night that was supposed to be a celebration for Pacquiao, a culmination of all the great he has accomplished — a champion in eight divisions in four decades, a superstar the world over.
Instead, Ugas, who accepted the assignment on 11 days’ notice, walked away with a unanimous decision.
All three judges scored the fight for Ugas: 116-112, 115-113 and 116-112. ESPN had it 116-112 for Ugas, who won as a +310 underdog, according to Caesars Sportsbook.
“I’m very excited, but most of all, I want to thank Manny Pacquiao for giving me this moment in this ring today,” said Ugas (27-4, 12 KOs). “Now the plan is to unify the title at welterweight. … Errol Spence is the next one on the list. … I am praying that he recuperates.”
Pacquiao (62-8-2, 39 KOs) was slated to meet Spence, ESPN’s No. 4 pound-for-pound boxer, in a super fight. Those plans were canceled when it was discovered Spence suffered a detached retina in his left eye just 12 days before the fight.
Ugas, a bronze medalist for Cuba in the 2008 Beijing Games and ESPN’s No. 6 welterweight, was set to defend his title against Fabian Maidana in the co-feature and didn’t hesitate to step in to fight Pacquiao when the opportunity of a lifetime presented itself.
“We only had two weeks of training,” Ugas said, “but I listened to my corner, and it all worked out.”
Ugas’ strategy was simple yet brilliant: a double jab to the head followed by a right hand to the body. A high guard that picked off Pacquiao’s incoming shots before a crisp right looped around Pacquiao’s gloves and connected upstairs. Counterpunches that hit the target over and over, finally cutting Pacquiao over the left eye in Round 12.
Pacquiao also was cut under his right eye during the fight. His team told ESPN afterward that he needed five stitches to close one of the cuts and had three stitches glued onto the other. They didn’t specify which cut needed which fix.
On this night, under the brightest of lights, Ugas displayed the composure of a heart surgeon, patiently picking his spots with precise punches that constantly met their mark. He also imposed his superior size and strength on Pacquiao, who perhaps was fighting in his final bout.
This 42-year-old, flat-footed version of Pacquiao was not the same fighter who vaulted to the sport with dizzying speed and combinations thrown from seemingly every angle. Now, well past his best and with a potential presidential race to prepare for, this could be it for Pacquiao.
When Pacquiao was asked if this was his final fight, he said, “I don’t know. I need to relax and make a decision.”
“That’s boxing,” he said. “I had a hard time in the ring making adjustments. … My legs were tight. I’m sorry I lost tonight, but I did my best.”