Pacquiao fights Ugas to grow his legend while chasing back title he once held
MANILA, Philippines — A few months ago in Manila, inside the war room of Manny Pacquiao’s posh residence, someone from his political think tank suggested producing a movie about his rise to a legend.
Monico Puentevella, the former representative and Bacolod City mayor who is now acting as his adviser, recalls that it was the senator himself who shot the idea down.
“We don’t need a movie,” he quoted Pacquiao as saying. “This (Saturday night’s title fight) will be it. We will be in the news every day.”
No doubt. The fighting senator’s boxing legacy is not the only thing that’s at stake as he takes on a little-known opponent from Cuba many believe would be easy picking.
It’s an open secret that Pacquiao is aspiring for the highest office in the Philippines next year, and that he needs no less than a stunning victory here in Las Vegas to not only grow his enormous legend in the sport but also sustain his political ambitions back home.
“I will do my best for the fans, for the honor of my country,” said Pacquiao after clearing the weight requirement at 146 pounds on Friday. “I dedicate this to the Filipino people.”
A short fight?
Yordenis Ugas, the 35-year-old last-minute replacement to A-lister Errol Spence Jr., happens to have the World Boxing Association welterweight super title, which was stripped off Pacquiao for inactivity. He tipped the scales at the exact 147-lb. limit.
“He’s a good opponent,” said Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach of the Cuban. “Not the biggest puncher in the world, but he’s good.”
Roach expects Ugas to last no longer than six rounds. “It’s going to be quick,” he said.
Roach knows what he’s talking about, he and Pacquiao share a long and glorious career that involves many of the sport’s most thrilling highlight-reel moments.
“He’s a legend’s legend. Pacquiao has been through everything,” said conquered Pacquiao rival Keith Thurman. “Everything a fighter could go through, from being knocked the (expletive) out, to winning all these world titles to always being the small guy at 147.”
Through it all, Pacquiao, the only eight-division world champion, would always come out larger than life. At the weigh-in ceremony held before a massive, masked audience, Pacquiao said he’s happy with the way his training went.
Pacquiao brings to the fight a record of 62-7-2 (with 39 knockouts), against Ugas’ 26-4-0 with 12 KOs.
Against the backdrop of the global pandemic and politics, Pacquiao will test his staying power and break a record he himself has set as the oldest welterweight champion of the world.
Over the past days, a handful of politicians have arrived to watch the fight—and most likely pledge allegiance—including Representatives Mikee Romero and Arnie Teves, and Puentevella.
However, Team Pacquiao mainstays — like former Gov. Luis “Chavit” Singson, Sen. Ronald dela Rosa and Navotas Mayor Toby Tiangco — haven’t shown up yet.
And, given the tension between Pacquiao and Malacañang of late, it is unlikely that former supporters like President Duterte and Sen. Bong Go, who both watched him fight three years ago in Kuala Lumpur, will make an appearance as well.
“At least we know who’s with us,” said Puentevella, who bared that Pacquiao’s main platform is anticorruption.
The coronavirus also played a big role in the fight that will go down as the biggest to be held here in a nonbubble setting.
Despite the surge in COVID-19 cases the United States is experiencing, this city is allowing people inside the 20,000-seat T-Mobile Arena.
Everybody is being required to take daily antigen testing to gain access to the worldwide celebrity. With or without the spikes in cases, that was daunting given the huge number of people in Team Pacquiao. “These things happen, maybe God has a reason for this,” said Pacquiao who blocked off a portion of the MGM Grand for his nightly Bible reading.
He believes, quite clearly, that it’s his destiny to be at the crossroads of boxing glory and political power.