Tonight was originally slated to feature an intriguing matchup between ageless legend Manny Pacquiao and top pound for pounder Errol Spence. That is until it was discovered that Spence had a torn retina requiring surgery on his left eye. The announcement was made on August 10th, exactly 11 days before the scheduled fight.
In most cases when a fight of this magnitude loses one of its participants so close to the night of the event the entire card is scratched. Finding a suitable opponent who is in any kind of shape, willing to take the fight on short notice and can actually make weight is a tall order. In what would turn out to be eerily similar circumstances WBA champion Yordenis Ugas was scheduled to fight Fabian Maidana on the undercard of Pacquiao-Spence. Maidana suffered an eye injury as well and was forced to pull out of his title opportunity. Gelling the main eventer with the co main eventer who were both without dance partners ended up working out perfectly, salvaging the card as well as giving fans an interesting matchup.
Sporting a deceiving record of 26-4 with 12 knockouts Ugas is not exactly the type of opponent an A side superstar like Manny Pacquiao would normally seek out as an option. Ugas is a slick Cuban fighter but not a traditional one.
Where most of the Cuban boxers prefer engaging in the middle of the ring and can be just as comfortable in retreat, Ugas likes to come forward with an aggressive style. It’s a style that with it comes a very reliable defence. A hallmark of the Cuban style is counter punching which Ugas is well versed in as well. Add to that the fact that he has fought as high as 158 1/2 pounds as recently as two years ago and enjoys a sizable advantage over his smallish opponent and one could reach the conclusion that Manny Pacquiao has his work cut out for him.
This is after all a 42 year old Manny Pacquaio who has not fought since upsetting Keith Thurman in July of 2019.
Manny looked close to vintage on that night but at Pacquio's age with all the wear and tear of a 71 fight career coupled with a 2 year layoff …the question of “is this the night Manny finally grows old” is a very realistic inquiry.
Ugas has been defeated on 4 occasions as a pro by his official record. All four losses came via decision. “Official” being the operative word as 3 of those losses were by split decision in fights he could have easily been awarded victory.
His fight with Shawn Porter stands out as a prime example of his hard luck on the scorecards. To almost all onlookers he easily defeated Porter in what should have been his signature victory, only to have the judges steal the fight from him and hand it over to Porter. The durability has been proven as the 30 professional fight veteran and 2008 Olympic Bronze medalist with over 100 amatuer fights has never been stopped.
With Ugas we pretty much know what we will get Saturday night. A hungry and talented fighter who has age, size and activity (has fought twice to Manny's zero since they shared a card together 7-20-2019) on his side.
With Manny Pacquiao we know what we SHOULD get. The aggressive spark plug of fighter constantly applying perpetual motion with an erratic, busy and speedy style. Manny's resume is a who's who of boxing superstars and greats who he has shared the ring with over the course of an incredible 26 year career. At 42 years of age he wasn't looking for an easy touch in what could and still might be his last fight.
Most people in the boxing world predicted he was biting off more than even he can chew with a prime Errol Spence as his adversary. A full training camp was spent preparing for the southpaw. Manny Pacquiao was not willing to waste all that hard work. Like the warrior he has proven to always be, he accepted the fight with an opponent who is conventional and in many ways the complete opposite of what he was preparing for.
Ugas for his part had spent a similar amount of time getting ready for a right handed fighter and now finds himself in with a southpaw. Advantage neither man.
Both fighters will make the late adjustments in camp and try to do the same in the ring fight night. The playing field is level and we have a fight Saturday night.
After all the recent big-fight fall outs, such as Fury-Joshua, Fury-Wilder 3, Lopez- Kambosos and Alvarez-Plant the news of the Spence injury and Manny Pacquaio clash not taking place was another tough pill to swallow for disappointed boxing fans.
The pandemic wiped out most of the 2020 schedule and with no fans permitted in attendance during that calendar year hindered big fights from taking place. 2021 as a whole has been a letdown and not much better. The sport has seen a lot of fights that devoted followers salivated for fall by the wayside for one reason or another.
Thankfully we have something legitimate and intriguing awaiting us tonight with Pacquiao-Ugas. Both men should be applauded for making the fight happen under less than ideal circumstances and giving the fans something to grasp onto. Hopefully this will be the beginning of the end for the drought of the big fight and this is a big fight… anytime Manny Pacquiao steps in the ring it is a big deal.
Ugas will be gunning to end Manny's illustrious career and make a name for himself. Manny Pacquiao in turn will be looking to continue to fight off the undefeated opponent who is father time…only one can be right and that is why we will be tuning in.
My prediction: I expect Manny at 42 to still have one great night left in him, although this most likely won’t be his last fight after all.