In his last fight, WBA Welterweight World Champion Yordenis Ugas (27-4) upset the legendary Manny Pacquiao before a crowd of 17,438 at Las Vegas's T-Mobile Arena. With a career-defining win, Ugas retired arguably one of boxing's greatest champions and immediately established himself as one of the elite fighters in the welterweight division. Ugas looks to continue riding the train of success as he prepares for what can be considered the most important fight of his career against the pound-for-pound superstar Errol Spence Jr. (27-0). The main event three-belt unification bout is set to take place on April 16th, at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
During a one-to-one interview with NYFights, the Cuban native was poised and exuded a high confidence level as he answered my questions. The always humble Ugas was grateful to God for his family and a great training camp thus far.
According to The Ring, Ugas is ranked as the number three welterweight globally. And although the thirty-five-year-old champion upset Manny Pacquaio, a fight many didn't give him a chance of winning, Ugas again finds himself in the underdog pen.
When I asked what he thought about Spence being considered his most formidable opponent and this being the most important fight of his career, the champ said, “Yes, he can possibly be my best opponent. I have fought against some of the best boxers in the amateurs and professional ranks. Spence is undefeated, a unified champion, and one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in boxing. I have fought against some of the best fighters in the world throughout my career, but he is possibly the best.”
Yordenis tunes out the “Spence being his best opponent” talk by maintaining a positive attitude and working hard during training camp. Ugas is surrounded by a supportive team of family, friends, and peers. In addition, he has arguably one of the best trainers in the world in his corner. A master in the art of pugilism, renowned Cuban trainer Ismael Salas has trained almost two dozen world champions. Salas believes he has the key to unlock the vault where Spence's “kryptonite” is housed.
Recently, Salas expressed that the blueprint to beating Spence is using his “strengths as a weakness.” I asked Ugas what he thought about his trainer's comments and to clarify what were the “strengths” that Salas was referring to. Trying not to give much of the plan away, Ugas responded, “In training camp, we work very hard and execute our plan every day. Spence has a lot of strengths and skills. We are focused on our plan and making the necessary adjustments. Those are the things my trainer is referring to.”
What specifically are those “strengths” Salas was referring to? It doesn't matter. When it's all said and done, Ugas is the one that must step in the ring against Spence. So, from a boxer's perspective, does the Cuban see a specific weakness in Spence that he plans to exploit? “Usually, I focus on my opponent's strengths rather than their weaknesses. Spence is a technical fighter, he is strong and aggressive, and he attacks the body well. Those are his strengths, and that's what we are focused on,” said the champ respectfully.
Spence is a battled, hardened warrior within the ring. But he also has had his share of battles outside the ring. In 2019, during a drunken binge, Errol Spence Jr. was involved in a terrible high-speed traffic accident. He was ejected from the vehicle and was subsequently charged with driving while intoxicated. Although it was reported that Spence only suffered minor injuries, one can only wonder if there are any lingering physical or phycological effects due to this horrific accident. To add insult to injury, in 2021, Spence underwent surgery to repair a detached retina forcing him to pull out of the fight against Manny Pacquiao, resulting in keeping the 2012 Olympian out of the ring for the past fifteen months.
Given all this, it begs to ask how this will affect Spence's performance the night of the fight. Will he be the best version of himself against Ugas? Yordenis dismisses any notion that Spence will somehow be affected by these incidents. “After his accident, he returned and fought against Danny Garcia. Danny is a solid fighter who always fights strong, and Spence looked good against him. I am preparing for the best version of Spence that night, and I expect him to be 100% God willing. Our work is focused on expecting the very best from Spence,” said Ugas to NYFights.
While enjoying the fruits of his newfound superstardom, it's easy to forget that Ugas has a career spanning twelve years. Ugas is thirty-five-years old and will celebrate his thirty sixth birthday this year. “Do you feel like the door to your career is closing, and does this put a certain amount of pressure on you to win on April 16th,” I asked curiously? “I thank God for the career I've had so far. It's been a great career, and I have nothing to prove. I had a great amateur career. I returned in 2016 with a record of (15-3),and look at everything I have been able to achieve since then,” said the champ reminding us that he had briefly retired from the sport for two years.
Yordenis continued, “I am coming off a win over one of the greatest fighters in boxing history. I don't have anything to prove nor to demonstrate. Thank God I have always fought tough and competitively. And that's what we are going to do that night. Therefore, there isn't any pressure. As I have always said, to the people who support me – my family, my community, the Cuban people who support me fervently – all I have to give in return is blood, sweat, tears, and effort.”
What message does an Ugas victory over Spence send to the rest of the welterweight division? “That night, two of the three best welterweights in the world will be fighting. I think whoever wins should give the fans what they desire and fight the WBO champion for the undisputed welterweight title,” said the champ, stoically referring to Terence Crawford. Ugas continued, “I also believe a fight against Thurman would be a great fight. But that night, my focus will be Spence. Right now, there is nothing that I need to focus on other than that night. Because that night, you have two of the best welterweights in the world fighting for three titles.”
Yordenis Ugas is a fighter who doesn't allow himself to be defined by what people think of him. His career and accomplishments are often subjected to harsh criticism by the media and the court of public opinion. In addition to his career, he has also been criticized for his appearance. As a result, he felt the need to disclose to the public that he suffers from alopecia, the autoimmune disorder which caused all his hair to fall out. Long before Will Smith's “Let's Slap Awareness For Alopecia” campaign, Ugas has been using his platform as a world champion to nonviolently advocate for people that also suffer from this condition. “Why was it important for you to lend your voice to this cause,” I asked.
The champ smiled, looked at the camera, removed his cap, and, unashamed by his appearance, said, “Yes, I suffer from alopecia. Many people have told me that I have brought a lot of recognition to this condition. My message to everyone is that strength comes from the inside. It doesn't matter how you look. Look at me, I have alopecia, and I became a world champion- I fight at a very high level- I fight among the elite of boxing-I have been able to achieve my dreams. My message to the people suffering from that condition is that they must keep fighting also. They can't get embarrassed by the way they look. In life, we must keep fighting for our dreams. That's the message I try to deliver each day.”
Ugas is a fighter in every sense of the word. He has worked hard to get to this moment in his career. And he didn't have to openly step on anyone or belittle anyone to get there. He is grateful for each day that he gets to pursue his dreams. He defends those that don't have a platform or a voice to speak for themselves. Whatever the outcome is on April 16th, I believe Ugas will have given fans the best version of himself.
“I'm happy to go to Dallas on April 16th; it's a great fight with two great fighters. It's almost certain that it's going to be a war. Additionally, to the Cuban community, to those that support me, my family, and my team- that night, I'm going to give you blood, sweat, tears, effort, sacrifice, and patriotism,” concluded the Cuban champion.