Monday, August 23, 2021

Was The Final Chapter Of Manny Pacquiao’s Career Written With Loss To Ugas?


The story of Manny Pacquiao’s fight against Yordenis Ugas on August 21st at the T-Mobile Arena was one that this observer described as High Risk/Low Reward. This was because the fight between the two was made with a little more than eleven days for both fighters to prepare following undefeated IBF/WBC Welterweight world champion Errol Spence being forced to withdraw from what was a highly anticipated showdown with Pacquiao due to a torn retina in his left eye. While some might question the wisdom in Pacquiao choosing to retain the scheduled date with Ugas stepping in as a replacement for Spence, in many ways, this was a return to what some might call “Old School Boxing” in that even with a limited amount of time to prepare, Pacquiao decided to fight on even though going into the bout Ugas did not represent the same level in terms of marquee value as did Errol Spence, but was just as dangerous an opponent that unless one is a Boxing aficionado, would likely regard him as a fighter that was under the radar.


In previewing this fight, yours truly discussed the circumstances regarding the World Boxing Association (WBA) in their decision to strip Pacquiao of its Welterweight world championship and elevate Ugas, who held an Interim/Regular champion designation to world champion. While this pointed out the flaw in the WBA’s rankings structure, which has been heavily criticized for many years now, for once circumstances allowed for a controversy to be resolved in a relatively short time frame. It also allowed a fighter in Ugas the opportunity to prove that he belonged on the elite level of the sport by taking on one of Boxing’s all-time greats. Although such an opportunity came under less than ideal circumstances for Ugas in what was his first title defense, it was simply an opportunity that he could not pass up.


Whenever fights occur under circumstances of limited notice, the question that usually comes to my mind is whether one fighter will look to jump on the other in an attempt to catch their opponent cold and try to end the fight quickly. In this case, I was somewhat surprised to see a tactical battle from the opening bell. Of course, this was an encounter taking place at the highest level of the Welterweight division so, it was not surprising in the sense that it was a fight between two boxers who could do a little of everything, but what was surprising was the missing element of aggression, particularly from Manny Pacquiao.


It is important to remember that due to both his commitments as a current senator in his native Philippines as well as the circumstances of the ongoing global COVID-19 epidemic, this was the first fight for the forty-two year old Pacquiao in over two years. The potential for “Ring Rust” is always there for any fighter coming off of a long layoff, but based on the styles of the two fighters, I somewhat expected Pacquiao to try and implement a swarming attack that would be reminiscent of how he would approach offense in his prime. This was not the case though much of the first half of the fight saw Pacquiao attack in spurts of offense. While Yordenis Ugas was consistently the more active of the two fighters, it was these spurts by Pacquiao, which were eye catching that I felt would sway the opinion of the judges. For a period of time, it did sway how I  saw the fight in that I felt Pacquiao did enough to win four of the first six rounds based on his ability to seemingly pick his spots and make the most out of those moments of offensive spurts in rounds that were otherwise very close and could have been scored either way.


In addition to the absence of a swarming offensive attack that bedeviled so many of Pacquiao’s previous seventy-one opponents prior to this fight, he also lacked head movement and the ability to attack from varying angles from what this observer has called his immaculate foot work over the years. Instead, Pacquiao seemingly chose to engage Ugas, a fighter who is four inches taller and who had a two inch reach advantage over him at a distance where it allowed Ugas to get his punches off consistently and as the fight progressed, the offensive spurts Pacquiao was able to have in the first half of the fight became less and less frequent.


Whether or not it was a combination of both inactivity/“Ring Rust” and age is only a question Manny Pacquiao can answer, but his failure to adapt in what was a tactical Boxing match ultimately played right into Ugas’ hands as the fighter, who felt like he needed to prove his validity as a world champion after being put in that position by the politics that be in the sport, gradually pulled ahead in the fight and never seemed to halt his consistent offense down the stretch, which was ultimately what resulted in Ugas retaining his world championship with a twelve round unanimous decision over Pacquiao by scores of 115-113 seven rounds to five, and 116-112 on two scorecards eight rounds to four. 


Unofficially, I scored this fight 115-113 for Ugas. The primary difference in this fight, which may be consensus amongst both fans and experts alike, came over the second half of the fight. Although the bout remained close from start to finish, over the second half of the fight, Ugas’ overall accuracy and the success he was able to have in landing his jab on Pacquiao could not be ignored. Despite being ahead four rounds to two on my card after six rounds, Pacquiao’s inability to get around Ugas’ jab, his lack of head movement, and the seemingly gradual decline of his offense resulted in him only winning one of the remaining six rounds of the twelve round world championship bout on my scorecard. This left the door open for Ugas to take control of the fight and at the end of the bout, I arrived with the 115-113 or seven rounds to five score in his favor.


With the victory, Yordenis Ugas not only validates his crown as the WBA Welterweight world champion, but more importantly by beating someone of Pacquiao’s caliber, his value instantly increases and more lucrative paydays are likely to follow. Whether or not it is Ugas who faces Errol Spence whenever Spence is medically cleared to resume competing remains to be seen.


Even though this fight can be described simply as one fighter besting the other, the inevitable questions has to be asked. After a close, but convincing loss to Yordenis Ugas, has the Boxing world seen the last of Manny Pacquiao as a fighter? What does he have left to prove? First, I feel it necessary to state for those who did not see the bout, despite coming out on the losing end of a decision, at no point did Pacquiao appear hurt nor was he overwhelmed by Ugas.


It does make sense to note however, that this was Pacquiao’s seventy-second bout in a career that began over twenty-six years ago in 1995 when he entered the sport as a Jr. Flyweight. After so many battles, many grueling wars, and just the process of time, it certainly is not hard to understand the possibility that Pacquiao has left a lot inside the ring and win or lose, each fight does have to take something out of a fighter if not by what occurs in the fight itself than in the process of preparing for a fight, which obviously can take a toll on one’s body.


If one were to ask my honest opinion on what Pacquiao should do next, as someone that has covered his career extensively since his debut in the United States in 2001 when he knocked out the late Lehlohonolo Ledwaba to win the IBF Jr. Featherweight world championship, at this stage he has nothing left to prove. Pacquiao’s legacy as Boxing’s only eight division world champion, an accomplishment that is unlikely to be surpassed, is more than secure. His legacy outside the ring however, as a humanitarian and public servant will likely surpass his accomplishments as a boxer. While ultimately the decision on whether or not he will continue his Boxing career even as a potential run for the presidency of the Philippines may be in the future, will be something that only Manny Pacquiao can decide, if this is the end of the road for a truly great fighter I would like to say in closing to Manny Pacquiao, it’s been an honor to cover you throughout your career.


“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”


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