Talking Points from the weekend that was – 21/08/2021
Yordenis Ugas has arrived
An unknown quantity no more – Yordenis Ugas has arrived.
The Cuban defector has been quietly hustling his way to the top of the welterweight division and crafted a reputation as one of the sport’s most difficult puzzles to solve.
Let go by Top Rank, he has resurrected his career under Al Haymon and PBC through a baptism of fire.
From Jamal James in 2016 up until this past Saturday, Ugas has come in as the underdog multiple times, been drafted in on short notice, kept in shape as a late replacement, come agonisingly close to a world title – yet kept up the hustle.
Saturday’s victory over one of boxing’s all-time greats in Manny Pacquiao was the pinnacle of years of hard work, setbacks and graft. In a sport which has often denied its combatants righteous justice, it was just rewards for one of the sport’s good guys who has earned everything he’s fought for.
He was telling us all along that this is where he belongs – with the upper echelon of welterweights. Spence V Ugas, Crawford V Ugas, Ugas V Porter II, Ugas V Thurman – he is not short of attractive options in a talent rich division. The matchmakers have a headache worth having here.
And restored some respectability back into Cuban boxing
It was only just over a week ago that boxing fans were tortured by watching Cuban maestro Guillermo Rigondeaux lose a staring contest to Filipino Johnriel Casimero, a fight now etched in infamy with the lowest number of punches ever landed per Compubox.
Contrast that with the way Ugas powered past Pacquiao. He didn’t over move, pot-shot or clinch excessively. He stood his ground in the centre of the ring and served Pacquiao a diet of laser jabs, looping right hands and body shot counters en route to a comfortable unanimous decision victory. He deserves full credit fighting that type of fight against a fighter of Pacquiao’s calibre.
Whilst the stench of Rigondeaux v Casimero lingers as a damning indictment of what has come to characterise Cuban boxing, this was perhaps the biggest victory recorded by a Cuban in a VERY long time, at least since the aforementioned Rigondeaux outfoxed Nonito Donaire.
Saturday’s performance went a long way in restoring both pride and respectability back into a nation which has been largely misunderstood in the professional ranks.
Crawford and Spence’s Pacquiao dreams end up in ashes
Arguably the two most interested observers of the events in Las Vegas were fellow welterweight titlists and pound for pound stalwarts – WBO champion Terence Crawford and unified WBC / IBF king Errol Spence Jr.
Crawford was close several times to fight Manny Pacquiao in the past few years, even recently as last year up, until the pandemic scuppered his dream fight in the Middle East. Crawford’s date with Pacquiao permanently ended once Spence had signed a bout agreement instead and he himself was scheduled to fight Pacquiao as recently as just two weeks ago, when his withdrawal due to a retina tear paved the way for Ugas to shake the welterweight scene.
In the midst of each man chasing a Manny Pacquiao fight over the past few years, neither one expressed any concrete interest in fighting the other and up until now, one of boxing’s biggest and best fights remains farfetched.
Spence has repeatedly dismissed every talk of Crawford, citing unfinished business under the PBC house as well as asking Crawford to come join him and the likes of Garcia, Porter, Thurman, Ugas etc in Al Haymon’s favorite weight class.
It was just last December that Spence noted he wanted to spend time on his ranch and that he would speak to his team about future opponents.
Crawford, who was in the same arena when Spence made those comments, fired back stating his career will be just fine if a Spence superfight doesn’t come into fruition and that he’s not chasing Spence anymore, despite being at a clear disadvantage regarding future opponents.
Ultimately, Spence and Crawford should have fought by now for supremacy if boxing was a sensible sport. But it isn’t and both men missing out on the famed Pacquiao fight is probably what they deserve.
Too often when a megastar exists, fighters are all too happy to sit and wait for ‘that’ phone call.
Everyone sat and waited for Floyd Mayweather to call the phone. Ditto Manny Pacquiao and even now, we don’t seem to be going anywhere at 160, 168 or 175 unless it involves Canelo Alvarez. That’s virtually three division’s worth of fighters who lay back in bed with cell phones tucked under pillow, hoping it vibrates and alerts them “Canelo…calling.”
Let Spence and Crawford’s inability to put the ego aside be a lesson to all young and upcoming fighters – you must seize the moment and create your own destiny and once you do that, you don’t chase the payday – you become the payday. This is a sport with a short lifespan and even shorter opportunities and these peak years are when the best should be fighting the best, in their primes, for all the marbles and creating their own legacy without needing to be reliant on others.
All good things must come to an end
If the bell at the end of the 12th round signalled the last chapter on the book of Manny Pacquiao’s professional boxing career, it is safe to say that that book will be archived in the annals of sporting history forever.
This was a career that was filled with everything – highest of highs, lowest of lows and drama at nearly every turn. The accomplishments and credentials speak for themselves but what’s truly astonishing is he was able to etch not 1 but 2 ATG level resumes into one career.
He could arguably get inducted twice into the IBHOF – from the beginning up until David Diaz and from Oscar de la Hoya until Yordenis Ugas.
For a man to come from sheer poverty and conquer boxing the way he has is nothing short of inspirational and therein lies, for me at least, the most valuable gem in Pacquiao’s legacy – the ability to consistently rebound and reinvent himself until the hands of Father Time said no more.
To do what he did, having begun his professional career at a measly 108 pounds up until 42 years of age and a fully-fledged 147 lb’er is nothing short of remarkable.
“I had my power but I couldn’t move,” a resigned Manny told longtime coach Freddie Roach in the locker room after the fight.
“You’re the greatest,” replied Roach. Indeed, Pacquiao is Roach’s greatest student and the greatest combat practitioner the Philippines has or will ever know. He has changed the Filipino sporting culture forever and many of us are grateful to have watched one of the most stellar career arcs boxing has ever been graced by. If this is truly the last dance, thank you Manny Pacquiao for everything.