Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Pacquiao-Ugas: High Risk/Low Reward?


One of the biggest fights on the Boxing calendar in the year 2021 was the Welterweight unification bout between Welterweight world champions Errol Spence and future Hall of Famer Manny Pacquiao. What was to be a classic scenario of youth versus experience with the forty-two year old Pacquiao returning to the ring after a lengthy absence due largely to the ongoing global COVID-19 epidemic to challenge a man eleven years younger, who is regarded as the top fighter in the talent-deep division in the eyes of some.


Although Boxing history is full of such encounters, what had become one of the most anticipated fights in recent memory even as the world continues to battle the COVID-19 virus was put on the back burner. Unlike many of the postponements/cancellations that have occurred throughout combat sports as a whole for well over a year now, this cancellation had nothing to do with the COVID-19 virus, but did have to do with something that is also very serious. This observer is referring to the news that come to light on August 10th when it was revealed that Spence was forced to withdraw from the scheduled August 21st showdown with Pacquiao due to a retinal tear in his left eye.


Under the circumstances, it would be understandable if the scheduled date would be postponed in order to allow Spence time to recover. It is also understandable that from a business perspective, especially given the tough and go nature that has been created by the circumstances of COVID-19, if this fight would have simply been rescheduled in time that is such for Spence to be medically cleared to compete, especially since the Spence-Pacquiao fight was to have headlined a pay-per-view card promoted under the Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) banner and televised by Fox Sports Pay-Per-View and FITE TV here in the United States. Instead, Pacquiao will still fight on August 21st and will remain on Pay-Per-View as he faces Yordenis Ugas for the WBA Welterweight world championship at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV.


Although it is fair to question why both the PBC as well as Fox Sports would want to keep the existing pay-per-view date with a new opponent for Pacquiao with a limited amount of time to promote the bout as well as the wisdom or lack thereof in keeping the same $74.99 price point, this is one might argue a fight that offers a high risk/low reward scenario for Pacquiao.


While Pacquiao was facing a younger and arguably fresher opponent in Errol Spence, which if he were able to be victorious, would see him take procession of three of five recognized world championships in the 147lb. Welterweight division, Yordenis Ugas is a dangerous fighter that through no fault of his own does not have the same name recognition value as Spence currently has.


What the thirty-fJul year old Ugas does have in his favor is like Spence, he will be the younger man when he steps in the ring with Pacquiao. In thirty professional fights, Ugas has a record of 26-4, with 12 Knockouts and has a style that he looks to wear down his opponents over the course of a fight, which usually results in fights being grueling battles of attrition.


The Pacquiao-Ugas Fight unfortunately also has the element of “Controversy” at least going into it. As some may recall, in July 2019, Pacquiao defeated then undefeated Keith Thurman to win the WBA Welterweight world championship. Due in part to Pacquiao’s commitments as a senator in his native Philippines as well as the COVID-19 crisis , this was Pacquiao’s last fight. Yordenis Ugas meanwhile held an Interim/Regular championship designation in the WBA’s Welterweight ratings and the organization due to Pacquiao’s inactivity named Ugas the WBA world champion while also designating Pacquiao as “Champion In Recess.”


In a perfect world, which unfortunately the sport of Boxing is far from, when Pacquiao signed to fight Spence, the WBA should have theoretically reinstated their recognition of him as world champion due to the fact that he was no longer “In Recess” and intended to return to competition in the division he held his world title. If the reader cannot sense this observer’s “Sarcasm”, I do apologize, but the reality is this is the flaw of the World Boxing Association’s (WBA) structure in the way it’s organization ranks and designates Interim, Regular, and in this case, “Champions In Recess.”


The WBA as of this writing has not reinstated Pacquiao’s status as WBA world champion so as far as the organization is concerned, Ugas will be making what amounts to his first title defense against Pacquiao. While the politics of Boxing should be held accountable when situations like this occur, it should not reflect poorly on Ugas, who is a threat to anyone in the Welterweight division and did earn his position as a mandatory challenger for Pacquiao before the elements of Pacquiao’s political career, an ongoing global crisis, and the politics of Boxing all in some way intervened.


Nevertheless, taking a fight on short-notice is a difficult scenario for both fighters involved. For Pacquiao, he was preparing for a fighter in Errol Spence that has a mix of hand speed, punching power, and a fighter that much like himself likes to attack his opponents from various angles. Now, Pacquiao will be facing a fighter in Ugas that likes to get in and make fights grueling with a somewhat grinding style. When one factors in both Pacquiao’s age and the limited time to adjust what ever fight plan that might have been in development, it cannot be an easy task.


The same holds true for Yordenis Ugas in that he now steps into a situation where he is going into the biggest fight of his career, but is doing so with limited time to prepare. As much as this is a high risk/low reward scenario for Pacquiao, for Ugas it is high risk/high reward because if he is successful and defeats Pacquiao, significantly more lucrative opportunities are likely to follow.


How does Ugas succeed under this scenario? Although it is certainly easier said than done, the task for him is the same as virtually every Manny Pacquiao opponent. He needs to find a way to limit his movement, his ability to attack at angles, and his hand speed/punching power. One of the things that makes Pacquiao so dangerous and extremely difficult to combat is he has immaculate foot work, which allows him to not only set up angles in which he can attack, but also allows him to counter an opponent before the opponent even knows what is happening.


For those readers who might be confused, in simple terms, he has the ability to throw a punch where an opponent will move to before the opponent moves. This results in opponents almost walking into punches that they do not see coming. A tactical asset that has bedeviled many opponents. 


It is important to keep in mind however, Pacquiao is forty-two years old, has not competed in two years, and has been through many wars in his seventy-one fight professional career. As great as he has been throughout his career, as much as his legacy as the first fighter to win world championships in eight different weight divisions has secured his place in any Hall of Fame associated with the sport of Boxing, one has to wonder just how much Pacquiao has left to give as a fighter, which for the moment does not include his political career that has seen him elected congressman, senator, and may eventually see him as a candidate for president of the Philippines. Whether or not this scenario in choosing to keep a scheduled date to resume activity against a fighter that is under the radar in Ugas, at least in the view of most casual fans, proves to be a mistake remains to be seen.


Boxing is and has always been a sport of opportunity and for Yordenis Ugas, the opportunity to become a household name not only in regard to those who are Boxing enthusiasts and those of us who cover the sport, but more specifically those for whom the sport is a casual interest. There has arguably been no bigger star in Boxing in the last fifteen years in terms of both drawing power and longevity than Manny Pacquiao. For a fighter who began his career twenty-six years ago and with the exception of the ongoing epidemic and his political career, has been mostly active during that time, at this stage of his career, it is likely a fight by fight process in terms of whether he chooses to continue his career for Pacquiao. We will see what happens on Saturday night.


“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”


Pacquiao vs. Ugas takes place on Saturday, August 21st at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV. The fight can be seen on a pay-per-view basis on Fox Sports Pay-Per-View beginning at 9PM ET/6PM PT in the United States across cable/satellite telco providers, the Fox Sports app, as well as being available in the United States and globally on digital  sports pay-per-view network FITE TV for $74.99. 


Contact your cable or satellite provider for ordering information. To order directly from Fox Sports as well as instructions on how to download the Fox Sports app on mobile, tablet, and connected streaming devices/platforms/Smart TVs please visit: www,FoxSports.com/ppv


To order on FITE TV and for instructions on how to download the FITE app on mobile, tablet, and connected streaming devices/platforms/Smart TVs please visit: www.FITE.TV or the following link to order: https://www.fite.tv/watch/pacquiao-vs-ugas/2p9vf/.


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