New York- Yordenis Ugas is now the legitimate WBA Welterweight champion after a unanimous decision win over eight-division champion Manny Pacquiao Saturday night at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. It was a career-defining fight for Ugas and he claimed a victory for Cuba that was televised on FOX Sports PPV.
Pacquiao, 41-years of age, showed that age caught up to him and in all probability this was his last fight. The future Boxing Hall of Fame inductee, and Senator of the Philippines, is contemplating on focusing on becoming a candidate for the President of his country.
But this fight was all about Ugas. The 36-year old champion, granted the title because Pacquiao failed to meet a mandated fight, came in as the underdog and outboxed his challenger. Ugas took the fight on two weeks’ notice and moved up to the main event when WBC/IBF champion Errol Spence Jr. had to withdraw because of a torn retina.
“I’m very excited but, most of all, I want to thank Manny Pacquiao for giving me this moment in the ring today,” Ugas said afterward. “I told you, I am the champion of the WBA and I showed it tonight.”
“I’m very emotional. A lot of people say Cubans can’t win the big fight. So, I’m very proud that I got this win for Cuba and showed what we are all about.”
“Congratulations to Ugas and his team,” said Pacquiao. “Thank you to all of you. I want to thank all my fans and the media. For many decades, the press, media and boxing fans were always behind us, supporting us. That’s why we’re here, why we became popular and why we accomplished our dreams as a fighter.
“I am a fighter outside and inside the ring. I look forward to returning to the Philippines and helping them during this pandemic.”
Ugas used his size, strength and length to keep Pacquiao guessing, slowly wearing down Pacquiao
Pacquiao, 42 (67-8-2, 39 KOs), promised a fast start and lived up to his word in the first, darting in and out with combinations. Unfazed, the 35-year-old Ugas (27-4, 12 KOs) maintained a tight guard. In the second, he unveiled his long left jab, alternating it up and downstairs as Pacquiao struggled to get inside.
Pacquiao began the third with a short left but Ugas silenced the crowd with power shots of his own. The Cuban began landing a looping right in the fourth, a punch Pacquiao struggled with the entire night.
Following a close fifth, Ugas regained the upper hand in the sixth, working the jab and delivering well-placed punches to the body. Two-way action brought the crowd to their feet in the seventh as they shouted “Manny! Manny! Manny!” Ugas remained poised, pushing Pacquiao back with more rights.
“My trainer, Ismael Salas, and I had a plan,” said Ugas. “We were going to move him around; we were going to use the jab and keep him off balance. That was the whole game plan.”
Ugas controlled the eighth. With the fight slipping away, Pacquiao picked up the pace in the ninth but the harder shots came from Ugas. Early in the 10th round Pacquiao used a left that forced Ugas to clinch. The momentum, though, had Ugas using his right and throwing it with conviction.
“The right hand was a shot I had planned to use on Manny,” said Ugas. “It kept working so I kept using it.” Three judges scored the bout for Ugas,115-113, while the other two had it 116-112.
“He’s a legend, one of the greatest fighters that ever lived,” Ugas said of his opponent. “I’ll always respect him not only as a great fighter but outside the ring. I also admire that he fights for his country, as I do. I want to free Cuba.”
In the co-main event, Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero (37-6-1, 20 KOs) battled his way to a 10-round unanimous decision over “Vicious” Victor Ortiz (32-7-3, 25 KOs). All three judges scored the bout 96-94.
“It felt good to be back in the ring with fans and I definitely fed off of their energy,” said Guerrero. “I knew this was going to be an all-out war. Victor Ortiz brought the best out of me tonight. It was back and forth action the entire fight and I came out on top as I predicted.”
Much of the action was fought on the inside where Guerrero landed the cleaner shots. After a feel-out opener, Guerrero came alive in the second, stunning Ortiz with a series of power shots.
Round after round, the two former world champions unloaded short shots in close quarters with each refusing to take a backward step. Guerrero finished strong in the final round that made the difference.
“I thought I won. It is what it is,” said Ortiz. “It was a close fight. He didn’t hurt me. A couple times I got caught off balance but that was it. I should have boxed a little better, but hey, he did what he had to do.”
“Now I’m ready to step up and fight anyone they put in front of me,” said Guerrero. “I have a lot left in me and I’m in this sport to win another world title. I dedicate this fight to my family and I give all the glory to my lord and savior Jesus Christ.”
Rich Mancuso: Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso
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