Thursday, April 14, 2022

Spence-Ugas: Welterweight Unification


In an era where there are interim/regular championship designations in Boxing’s respective sanctioning organizations and sometimes those fighters who hold such designations get an opportunity to fight for a different world championship than the one shot they have earned due to the politics that be in the sport, it can at times be confusing to determine who the actual world champions are. Particularly when such scenarios occur, it is not uncommon to see such fights between a top contender/interim/regular “Champion” and a world champion from a different organization actually promoted as a unification bout.


While such scenarios are not in fact world title unification fights and are more or less used as a sales hook to draw in those who may not be as familiar with the structure of rankings in Boxing, it can unfortunately take away from those occasions when there is a legitimate unification bout taking place in the sport. Longtime readers know this observer’s stance on interim/regular championship designations throughout the sport as doing more harm than good in creating more problems than it was intended to solve.


Such a structure does however, serve a purpose in at least trying to ensure fighters that earn opportunities to fight for world championships do get that opportunity most of the time. In the case of Yordenis Ugas, he had held the World Boxing Association’s Interim/Regular championship designation in the 147lb. Welterweight division and was named champion prior to then WBA world champion Manny Pacquiao’s scheduled unification bout with undefeated IBF/WBC world champion Errol Spence last August. While this for a time created confusion due to the WBA’s ruling and was a circumstance of it’s own creation, as fate would have it, Ugas would get an opportunity to legitimize his claim on the title due to an eye injury to Spence forcing him to withdraw from the scheduled bout against Pacquiao.


Although the circumstances for Ugas were far from ideal in first being named world champion before getting an opportunity to fight the champion in a controversial ruling, then ironically getting the opportunity to step in to face that champion on short notice, Ugas put on an impressive performance in out Boxing the future Hall of Famer Pacquiao over twelve rounds to earn a unanimous decision victory and in the process successfully defend his crown for the first time. The significance of Ugas’ victory took a crucial turn in the days following the fight as Pacquiao chose to retire from the sport to focus on his political career as a current senator in his native Philippines and a run for the presidency of the country.


For Yordenis Ugas however, he was able to take a negative and turn it into a positive by legitimizing his claim on the World Welterweight championship and his victory over Pacquiao has now led to an even bigger opportunity as he will get the opportunity to face Errol Spence in a Welterweight unification bout on Saturday, April 16th at AT&T Stadium in Dallas, TX. The fight, which will headline a Showtime Pay-Per-View card brings together two of the best fighters not only in the 147lb. Welterweight division, but in the entire sport.


In some ways it is ironic, yet simplistic that this fight has come about. For one, it should not be overlooked that Ugas stepped in for Spence who suffered a retinal detachment in his left eye. Understandably, despite successful surgery, some might have questioned if Spence’s career was in jeopardy after suffering an injury like that. Ugas’ victory over Pacquiao however, did create the obvious next step, which is for Ugas to get the opportunity to face Spence.


The bout between Spence and Ugas brings together two boxer/punchers who can each do a little bit of everything inside the ring. In thinking of how this fight might be fought, I immediately thought of Ugas’ fight with Manny Pacquiao in the sense that he had pretty much everything against him going into that fight. Taking a fight on short notice, doing so against one of the all-time great fighters, and having to do so in front of a mostly pro-Pacquiao crowd. While not the most ideal circumstances for a fighter in Ugas’ position, he succeeded by sticking to a fight plan with an emphasis on Boxing and gradually outworking Pacquiao as the fight progressed. A fight plan that also proved to be effective in taking the crowd out of the fight.


This time, Ugas will be in a similar circumstance as he will be fighting Spence before what is likely to be a pro-Spence crowd at AT&T Stadium in Dallas, where the longtime Texas resident has fought two of his last three bouts. Given the similarities between the two in terms of style, this observer feels it crucial that Ugas find a way to establish the tempo of the combat early. Much like in his fight against Pacquiao, he needs to get into a rhythm early and keep his opponent, in this case Spence from being able to get into a rhythm himself.


While this is easier said than done, Ugas must find a way to accomplish this and, in the process, take what will likely be an enthusiastic crowd out of the equation as he was able to do against Pacquiao. In his most recent fight in December 2020, Spence out boxed former two-division world champion Danny Garcia over twelve rounds to retain his IBF/WBC world championship. The obvious question regarding Spence going into this fight is whether the eye injury will have an effect on him during the bout. Although it is not uncommon to hear of fighters suffering eye injuries over the course of their careers including the type that Spence suffered, it goes without saying that each fighter is different and at least for a period of time, that will be a question that Spence will have to deal with, not unlike when Hall of Famer Sugar Ray Leonard went through a similar injury in the 1980’s. Though Leonard would retire twice during the decade, the question of the health of his eyes and the risk of permanent injury did go away as he eventually returned in 1987 off of his second retirement as a professional in 1984 and subsequently went on to take part in some of the marquee fights of the 1980’s.


Obviously, medical treatment and technology has advanced quite significantly since the 1980’s when it was thought that Leonard had suffered a career ending injury. For a fighter in his prime such as Spence, this fight presents an opportunity to not only further unify the 147lb. Welterweight division, but to answer any questions that might be regarding his eyes with one significant performance. Yordenis Ugas is not the easiest fighter to combat based on style, but Spence has been in the ring with fighters who were thought to pose a difficult challenge for him before and has resulted in him scoring convincing victories.


While it is logical to expect at least in the early rounds a tactical chess match between the two fighters, Spence needs to establish himself early and not allow Ugas to get into a rhythm and in a position to dictate the fight. When you have two highly skilled world champions sharing the same ring, it is a task that is often easier said than done. Although both fighters have also shown an ability to score knockouts in the undefeated Spence having stopped twenty-one of his twenty-seven professional opponents compared to Ugas’ twelve knockouts in twenty-seven career wins, it is hard to envision this fight being anything, but a tactical fight that will end in a decision. Does it mean that the fight will not end in a knockout? Of course not, but based on the styles of both fighters and the fight that both are comfortable going twelve rounds, this may come down to who is able to outwork the other.


As seems to be the case with most unification bouts, there is also the possibility of what might be ahead for the winner of this fight in a possible showdown with undefeated WBO world champion Terrence Crawford for what would be the Undisputed Welterweight championship of the world. Obviously, there are other things in play involving the politics of the sport that will likely play a part in how quickly such a fight can take place for the winner of this fight.


For the moment, Errol Spence and Yordenis Ugas only have to focus on the fight that is at hand, against each other. Although some might say this is simply another step for Spence on his road towards an undisputed world championship, this is the biggest fight in Yordenis Ugas’ career and like it was against Pacquiao, he is likely only focused on this fight and this fight alone. Whether we see the tactical fight this appears as though it will be, or an action fight that will be talked about in the weeks, months, and years to come remains to be seen. We will find out what happens on Saturday night April 16th.


“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”




Spence vs. Ugas takes place on Saturday, April 16th at AT&T Stadium in Dallas, TX. The fight as well as a three fight undercard can be seen on a pay-per-view basis on Showtime Pay-Per-View in the United States and Canada for $74.95. Contact your cable/satellite provider for ordering information. The pay-per-view will also be available on the Showtime streaming app on mobile, tablet, and connected streaming devices/Smart TVs. For more information on how to order from Showtime please visit:


Check your local listings internationally.


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