Tragedy of being Ugas
By Joaquin Henson
Thu, 13 Jan 2022
It’s not Yordenis Ugas’ fault that he’s Yordenis Ugas. The Cuban can’t seem to get respect even after beating Manny Pacquiao at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas last August. That’s the price he’s paying for first, stealing Pacquiao’s super WBA welterweight title on a board room decision by the governing body and second, for retiring the Filipino before a disapproving crowd of 17,438.
Pacquiao wrested the super WBA welterweight crown from Keith Thurman in July 2019 and was stripped of the belt due to inactivity early last year as he was unable to make a defense because of the pandemic. He was declared a “champion in recess” and the beneficiary of the WBA’s decision was Ugas who was promoted from “regular” to the “super” category. There were three other super WBA champions who didn’t stake their straps within the period of contention but only Pacquiao was defrocked. The others were cruiserweight Arsen Goulamirian, lightheavyweight Dmitry Bivol and lightflyweight Hiroto Kyoguchi. The decision didn’t sit well with boxing fans and Ugas took the brunt of the displeasure.
Then, Pacquiao decided to face WBC/IBF champion Errol Spence, Jr. But less than two weeks before the fight would’ve taken place, Spence backed out with an eye injury and Ugas was brought in as a replacement. In a twist, Ugas agreed to stake the super WBA title, that was once Pacquiao’s, against the Filipino icon. Although Pacquiao hadn’t fought in two years, he was installed a -360 favorite to beat Ugas. The Cuban was a +280 underdog. Fans flocked to the T-Mobile Arena to witness another sensational showing from Pacquiao but the fight didn’t turn out to be as expected. Pacquiao couldn’t get his legs moving and the stiffness made him an easy target for Ugas. Pacquiao needed his footspeed to neutralize Ugas’ advantage in height, length and bulk just like he did in defeating a much bigger Antonio Margarito in 2010. With his legs cramping as early as the second round, Pacquiao couldn’t execute the plan that was laid out to trump the Cuban. The result was inevitable.
In his prime, Pacquiao would’ve made mincemeat of Ugas. The best Ugas would’ve been no match for the best Pacquiao. But things were different the night they met. When the decision was announced that Ugas had retained the crown, the crowd applauded Pacquiao, not the Cuban. Pacquiao was interviewed in the ring after the fight and apologized. “I had a hard time making adjustments,” he said. “My legs were tight.” Boxing News of London editor Matt Christie wrote, “No apology is required from the greatest fighter of his era … he gave this contest and his entire career everything he possibly could.” Ugas won but failed to earn the adulation that Pacquiao got. He’ll be remembered as the last man who beat a legend just like Trevor Berbick in defeating Muhammad Ali, Joey Archer in outpointing Sugar Ray Robinson and Hector Camacho in trouncing Roberto Duran. Those who bet for Pacquiao will forever hold Ugas in disdain.
After beating Pacquiao, Ugas was ordered by the WBA to defend the throne against mandatory challenger Emantas Stanionis. The Cuban protested as he demanded to face Spence instead. The WBA stood its ground but Stanionis later agreed to step aside, paving the way for Ugas’ dream duel with Spence in April. Ugas claims he won the fans’ respect by defeating Pacquiao but that’s his illusion. His chance for respect will come when he engages Spence. If he fails to beat Spence, Ugas will be destined to remain in the record books as a footnote in Pacquiao’s storybook career.
Click here to view a list of other articles written by Joaquin Henson.
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