Ugas’ stunning UD victory pushes Pacquiao much closer to retirement
Manny Pacquiao got a replacement opponent supposedly tailor-made for him. But on Saturday night, he found his old fighting style no longer fit. The result was an upheaval very few anticipated, one that could spell the end of his boxing career — and perhaps his political ambitions as well.
Yordenis Ugas stunned the boxing world when he hammered out a clinical unanimous decision victory to retain his World Boxing Association welterweight super title at T-Mobile Arena here.
“I’m a warrior,” Ugas said after the fight. “I’ve been doing this since I was six years old. I knew deep down he wasn’t going to beat me tonight.”
The judges saw it a bit close: Dave Moretti (116-112), Patricia Morse Jarman (115-113) and Steve Weisfeld (116-112) all scored the fight for the Cuban, who at 35 years old was the younger fighter on the ring.
But the disparity between the Manny Pacquiao of old and an older Manny Pacquiao was oh-so-wider.
Orphaned by the indecipherable movement that made him one of the greatest ever, Pacquiao failed to get past the defenses of Ugas, who, true to his nature and the scouting reports compiled by the Filipino’s corner, stood in front of the 42-year-old ring icon all night.
That Ugas trait, which was supposed to be something that would have allowed Pacquiao to pick him apart during the bout, became the biggest trap laid out by the former Olympian.
The Cuban lured Pacquiao in, launched scoring counters and parried several combinations to eventually wore down the aggressive Filipino late in the fight.
And just like that, the question that Pacquiao managed to evade for the past several years stared at him once again: Is this it for Pacquiao?
The sport’s only eight-division champion hinted that, indeed, it might be time to call it quits.
“I have done a lot for boxing and boxing has done a lot for me,” said Pacquiao during the post-fight presser held atop the same ring that may have seen his farewell fight.
“In the future you may not see Manny Pacquiao fight in the ring,” he added.
His trainer, Freddie Roach, was a little more upfront.
“I hate to say it, but this could be it,” said Roach, who later added the decision would ultimately rest with Pacquiao.
Pacquiao was supposed to fight the more dangerous Errol Spence Jr. on Saturday, but the American star tore his retina and was a late scrub for the card, allowing Ugas to fill the vacancy.
Spence had said he would be willing to fight the winner of the match and oddsmakers had predicted that would be Pacquiao. With the upset loss, matchup against Spence—or any fight for that matter—would be difficult to make. And even if the money would be enough to lure in a big name—Pacquiao remains a huge draw in the sport—the Philippine senator might no longer be up to it.
“Sometimes you have to think about the response of you body,” he said. Pacquiao bared that both his legs were cramping at the start of the second round.
“I don’t want to use this as an excuse but before I can handle cramps even for 12 rounds; now I can’t move,” he added.
What remains to be seen now is how the fight will affect his political plans.
While Pacquiao hasn’t made an overt announcement yet, it’s an open secret that he is eyeing a run at the presidency in the Philippines’ national elections next year.
“I want to leave a legacy for everybody inside and outside the ring. I’m not political but I am a public servant. I spend even my own money to help people,” said Pacquiao.
“I want to go back to the Philippines, there’s a lot of things I want to accomplish,” Pacquiao said. “I want to help my people especially now with the pandemic going on. That’s my mission to inspire people inside or outside the ring.”
During one training day, Pacquiao rushed back to his home in Los Angeles from Wild Card gym to catch an online class for his masters in Public Administration. He smiled at Filipino journalists and said: “I’m going to make the impossible possible.”
But a lot of his supposed run for the presidency was anchored on a win against Ugas on Saturday. An announcement from the saddle of victory would have been a perfect way to kickstart his bid for the highest position in the land.
That loss may have dented his presidential ambitions. Pacquiao, however, said nothing that happened on the fight will affect his desire to help his countrymen. He said he will make an announcement next month.
Ugas said he was grateful for the opportunity to come in as Spence’s replacement.
“I thank him for giving me the chance to fight him tonight. He is a great fighter and legend,” he said.
And for the first few rounds, he looked like a fighter overwhelmed by Sin City’s bright lights.
But Pacquiao failed to take advantage. Despite his edge in aggression, his combinations were kept in check by jarring jabs from Ugas, who slowly warmed up and started to take control in the fourth round.
The Cuban’s power punches not only sent Pacquiao backing up several times, it started taking a lot away from the Filipino’s stamina.
“My mind and my heart is 100 percent. But my legs are tight and hurt for all 12 rounds,” Pacquiao said.
That tightness took away his bounce and famed lateral movements. And with that side-to-side shiftiness gone, so were the angles. Pacquiao spent the latter rounds trying to inflict damage from in front of Ugas, who wisely used his strong jabs and accurate counters to blunt any budding explosion from the Pacman, who spent way too much time looking for an opening that didn’t come.
Ugas threw 405 punches according to CompuBox, landing 151. Pacquiao outworked the Cuban and launched 815 punches but only connected 130 times.
“He deserves to win tonight. I did my best but it wasn’t good enough,” said Pacquiao.
His more than two years of inactivity—or maybe advancing age—was evident in a lot of things he could no longer pull off last Saturday. And the 17,438 live spectators could feel it, too.
They stopped chanting “Manny, Manny” as the fight progressed, something pro-Pacquiao crowds normally do when they sense Pacquiao going for the kill. Instead, their cheers sounded more like they were meant to comfort the legendary boxer.
If Saturday’s fight turns out to be his last, Pacquiao can have few complaints about the eighth defeat of a career that has encompassed 72 fights spanning 26 years since 1995.
“I’m sorry I lost tonight,” Pacquiao said.
Ugas, a bronze medalist at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, improved his record to 27-4.
“Now the plan is to unify the title,” Ugas said in the ring through a translator. “Everyone said he was the champion, now they know who the real champion is.”