Boxing

What Now, Yordenis Ugas?

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On Tuesday, WBA welterweight champ and recent conqueror of Manny Pacquiao, Yordenis Ugas received the key to the city of Miami from Mayor Francis Suarez. It was a unique privilege for anyone, but especially for a boxer.

“Ugas could have used that platform to talk about himself,” said Mayor Suarez. “Instead, he highlighted the oppression, the brutal dictatorship in Cuba. That’s something that we have to be eternally grateful for.

“He is more, in that sense, an activist than he is a fighter. And I think that’s really impressive. I knew at that moment that I had to invite him and give him the key to the city. He earned it.”

Miami having the largest Cuban population in the world outside of Havana played a great part in that honor being brought to Cuba’s Ugas. But, without the heft of the accomplishment in beating Pacquiao, none of this would’ve happened. Beating Manny was, very much, a big deal.

The question now, however, is: What’s next?

There are definitely questions still to be answered when it comes to Ugas’ main stage viability and ability to play the role of an elite in the deep and lucrative welterweight division.

The 35-year-old Ugas will have to prove that his win on August 21 had more to do with his own talent and skill than the 42-year-old Pacquiao’s waning ability. He’ll have to prove that what he did was more than a one-time fluke brought on by catching the right fighter at the right time.

The immediate future for Ugas seems fairly certain. A unification bout with IBF/WBC champ Errol Spence will be the next big fight for him, but when that happens depends on Spence’s recovery from a torn retina. Before or after a Spence fight, Ugas could find himself rematched against Jamal James, who won the interim WBA title against Thomas Dulorme last August (and was then elevated to “full champ” status in February) and may be next in line for a title shot (depending on the WBA’s wonky championship rule and policies). The WBA’s recent calling for unification of their many, many world titles could mean a consolidation of their welterweight belts as well. Maybe…but who knows with those guys? Ugas beat James via unanimous decision back in 2016.

Other than bouts with Spence and James, standby fights could happen with anyone in the WBA welterweight top 4– Eimantas Stanionis, Abel Ramos, Radzhab Butaev, or Gabriel Maestre. If Terence Crawford-Shawn Porter talks fall through, we may even see a rematch for Ugas against Porter in an effort to avenge what was universally regarded as an awful and unjust decision loss for the Cuban.

No matter what, though, this will be Ugas’ chance to prove himself worthy of the main stage and prove to the boxing world that what happened against Manny Pacquiao was more about him than right time-right place dynamics.

Ugas’ body of work is all overall solid, although a bit shaky prior to him taking a sabbatical from the sport in 2014. Upon returning to the ring in 2016, he fired through an 11-1 run en route to the Pacquiao bout, beating names such as Jamal James, Bryant Perrella, Thomas Dulorme, Ray Robinson, Omar Figueroa Jr., and Abel Ramos. They were all solid victories against solid fighters, but certainly nothing at the elite level. His lone defeat in that run came to an elite player in Shawn Porter, but, again, it was a very disputed, controversial decision.

The glow of his career-best win close to being behind him, Yordenis Ugas will now face the harsh reality of the boxing world– a fighter has to keep proving his worth, over and over again.

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Paul Magno has over forty years of experience in and around the sport of boxing and has had his hand in everything, from officiating to training. As a writer, his work has appeared in several online publications, including Yahoo Sports, Fox Sports, FightHype, Max Boxing, Boxing.com, Inside Fights, The Boxing Tribune, The Queensberry Rules, and Premier Boxing Champions. You can reach him at: paulmagno@theboxingtribune.com