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Who is Yordenis Ugas? Meet Errol Spence Jr.’s replacement to fight Manny Pacquiao



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WBA (super) welterweight champion Yordenis Ugas will fight former eight-division champion Manny Pacquiao in his first attempt to defend his title at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on Saturday night. 

Wait, who? 

Yes, Ugas, who is 26-4 during his professional career, replaced WBC and IBF welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr., who suffered a retinal tear in his left eye, to face Pacquiao. It is an opportunity he said he is not taking for granted. 

​​“This has been a long road for me,” Ugas said during the final press conference between the two fighters on Wednesday. “Obviously, it’s a short notice fight. I’m thankful and very honored for this opportunity, and I’m ready.”

To the general public, Ugas is largely an unknown figure. He is rated as the No. 6 welterweight by ESPN.com and does not have the same reputation as Spence, who is ranked as the fourth-best pound-for-pound fighter by the same service. 

But that does not mean Ugas will be a pushover for Pacquiao. Here are five things to know about Ugas ahead of Saturday’s fight. 

MORE: Manny Pacquiao is the last of a dying breed

His career is ticking upward 

Though he is 35 years old, Ugas is arguably fighting at the highest level of his career. 

Since he lost to Amir Imam in a junior welterweight bout in May of 2014, Ugas has won 11 of 12 fights, with his only loss coming against former WBC welterweight champion Shawn Porter in March of 2019 by a controversial split decision. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nf6FQcP9_20

Since that fight against Porter, Ugas has won his last three bouts, including a split decision victory over Abel Ramos to win the WBA (regular) welterweight title in September of 2020. Ugas was promoted to the super champion in January once the organization stripped the title from Pacquiao, who won that title in July of 2019 with a split-decision victory over Keith Thurman, due to inactivity. 

He had a successful amateur career 

Though he is far less experienced than Pacquiao professionally, Ugas had a prolific amateur background that should be noted. 

Beginning his boxing career at 6 years old, Ugas went on to win a bronze medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. He also won a tournament called the PanAm championships in 2005 and took gold at the Central American and Caribbean Games in 2006, according to BoxRec. 

Ugas also defeated current WBO welterweight champion and ESPN’s second-ranked pound-for-pound fighter, Terence Crawford, and a number of other current and former champions, including Darlys Perez, Francisco Vargas, Khabib Allakverdiev, Jose Pedraza, Julius Indongo and Sadam Ali, during his amateur career. 

He has a similar story to Pacquiao 

Pacquiao has long had one of the best stories in boxing history with his upbringing. Growing up in poverty in the Philippines, he went on to become one of the greatest fighters ever and an icon in his country. 

Ugas is looking to do the same with a victory on Saturday night. He was born in the Santiago de Cuba section of Cuba and reportedly tried to defect from the nation six times, being sent to prison after each attempt. 

Ugas finally defected from Cuba in 2010 and carved out a successful boxing career. He did so while being separated from his mother for nine years, according to one of his tweets, and then another year-and-a-half due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

If Ugas can defeat Pacquiao on Saturday night, he would certainly add another memorable chapter to his story. 

He will have an edge in height and reach 

Listed at 5-foot-9 with a 69-inch reach, Ugas will have a 3 ½-inch height and 2-inch reach advantage over Pacquiao. 

Pacquiao, who began his career at flyweight, has typically been at a size disadvantage against his opponents but has made up for it with his lightning-quick hands and foot speed. Pacquiao’s longtime trainer, Freddie Roach, said in a recent interview that he felt like Ugas’ size would not be an issue. 

“He (Ugas) isn’t as good as the other guy (Spence),” Roach said. “He doesn’t make good use of his height.”

Ugas and his camp contrastingly presented confidence in his ability. 

“I have come to prepare for 12 hard rounds,” Ugas said. “If this is the final fight that the legend, Manny Pacquiao, has, that he fought against a guy who brought his best and is a world-class fighter.” 

He throws a high volume of punches 

Like Pacquiao, Ugas is a fighter who likes to bring pace to his fights, averaging 18.1 punches landed out of 56.6 per round, according to CompuBox, compared to Pacquiao’s average of 19 landed punches out of 57.6. 

Unlike Spence, Ugas is an orthodox (right-footed) fighter, presenting different challenges to Pacquiao in terms of his body positioning. It is something that Roach, despite his belief that Pacquiao could win by knockout, is taking into consideration. 

“He’s not a typical Cuban boxer that’s real slick or anything like that,” Roach told DAZN. “This guy is going for the knockout and looking for the knockout all the time.”

It is often said that styles make fights, and Saturday’s bout will show if Pacquiao’s speed will win out or if Ugas can present bigger challenges with his aggressiveness, length and physicality. 

For more information on how to watch Saturday’s fight, click here. 




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