The news hit us like a brick on Monday. Errol Spence had suffered a retinal tear and was forced to withdraw from his highly anticipated blockbuster battle with Manny Pacquiao on August 21.
Taking Spence’s place that evening will be Cuba’s Yordenis Ugas– an Olympic bronze medalist in the 2008 games and the current WBA welterweight champion of the world.
Despite the understandable letdown of Spence being out of the equation, Pacquiao-Ugas is still a very solid prizefight with its own unique intrigue and points of interest.
So, as fight fans get over their disappointment at losing Spence-Pacquiao, here’s a look at new combatants Ugas and Pacquiao, their strengths and weaknesses, and how this upcoming battle may play out.
The 26-year veteran is now, what he’s been throughout most of his legendary run. Pacquiao is awkwardness wrapped in unorthodoxy. From his extreme southpaw stance to his herky-jerky ring movements to his measured aggression, backed by quick hands and a wide, varied arsenal of offensive weapons, he’s made his fame turning elite-level fighters into tentative pickers and pawers.
Although clearly past his prime at 42 years of age, Pacquiao offsets the years of wear on his body by coming into each fight in impeccable physical condition and with extreme motivation.
Despite being in great shape for a 42-year-old fighter, he’s still 42 and carries with him the realities of 26 years as a pro who’s been in many, many battles.
A somewhat slowed-down Manny has done less counter-striking at frustrated foes in recent years. No longer 100% confident in his ability to get in, get off, and get out without taking return fire, he now stays on the outside more and rarely takes the risk of planting his feet for something big. His awkwardness and the remains of his natural athletic ability have been enough to see him past all but Floyd Mayweather in recent years and smart matchmaking has also been to his benefit.
Looking at the Cuban’s less-than-sparkling professional record of 26-4 with 12 KOs is very deceiving. Ugas’ worse days as a fighter came early in his career when he was competing as a weight-drained junior welterweight. After his third pro loss in 2014, he took more than two years off to get his head together and reaffirm his desire to pursue a career in the sport.
Since returning to the ring in 2016, Ugas has looked increasingly sharp and has registered an 11-1 record. His lone defeat in that run came via controversial split decision against Shawn Porter in 2019, a decision universally disputed and criticized.
Stylistically, (as I wrote elsewhere) “Ugas is skilled and adaptive in the ring with a sharpness that has improved along with his level of opposition. His best offensive weapon may be his near-overhand right– something which should be effective against the southpaw Pacquiao– and he’s good at maintaining optimal distance in his fights. He’s also a wicked body puncher. “
(Also, as I wrote elsewhere): “Ugas’ downfall may be his preference for order and a controlled pace. He’s fallen apart a bit in the past when things come at him from odd, unorthodox angles or when some chaos is brought into the fight. Pacquiao, as we know, is ALL unorthodoxy and weird angles, with occasional bursts of chaos.”
Pacquiao will move from an underdog role to a betting favorite after the opponent change. That’s fair, but Ugas is no fall guy and there’s definitely a workable path to victory for him. He’s no worse than a top five welterweight in the world, while Pacquiao sits firmly at no. 3.
Ugas was able to control the perimeter against the usually hard-charging Shawn Porter when they met and that will be a key to his chances of beating Pacquiao. Look for the Cuban to try and use his smart, sharp jab and good positioning to keep Manny at arm’s length.
If the Filipino icon can find his way in and out of the 35-year-old Ugas’ reach, he will be nearly impossible to beat on August 21. Pacquiao’s legs and tenacious nature are the keys to victory.
Pacquiao-Ugas is no Pacquiao-Spence, but it will be a compelling clash of styles and mindsets nonetheless.