Yordenis Ugas Upsets Manny Pacquiao Via Unanimous Decision in Title Fight

Nate Loop@Nate_LoopFeatured ColumnistAugust 22, 2021

Yordenis Ugas, right, of Cuba, reaches in to hit Manny Pacquiao, of the Philippines, in a welterweight championship boxing match Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
John Locher/Associated Press

Yordenis Ugas wasn't supposed to be fighting Manny Pacquiao on Saturday night, but he made the most of the opportunity. The 35-year-old was brought in to replace an injured Errol Spence Jr. and turned out to be more than Pacquiao could handle, earning an unanimous-decision win and defending his WBA world welterweight title at a packed T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Judges scored the bout 115-113, 116-112, 116-112 in favor of Ugas, per the Fox Sports pay-per-view broadcast.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Yordenis Ugás defeats Manny Pacquiao via unanimous decision 🔥 #PacquiaoUgas https://t.co/GCpSmn5YXU

Its a career-defining win for Ugas, who used his excellent jab and great defense to neutralize Pacquiao's hand speed and aggressive combinations.

"I'm very excited, but I want to thank Manny Pacquiao for giving me this opportunity," he said through an interpreter after the bout, per the broadcast.

While boxing fans were surely disappointed when Spence announced he was unable to fight, Ugas wasn't your typical replacement fighter. He was already training for a fight on the Pacquiao-Spence undercard, but his intended opponent also got hurt, paving the way for him to take on Pacquiao.

In addition, the WBA belt he carried into the bout had belonged to Pacquiao, who had it stripped from him due to inactivity. That gave Pacquiao an added bit of motivation, even if he couldn't capitalize.

When asked if he would fight again, the 42-year-old Pacquiao simply said "I don't know", per the broadcast. Saturday's fight was his first in more than two years, and its clear his skills are diminishing with age.

Ugas was patient from the start, staying behind the jab and using his length to pick off Pacquiao as he tried to set-up combinations and work his way inside. He stayed firmly planted in the center of the ring, choosing his spots carefully and letting Pacquiao circle him. 

SportingNews.com's Andreas Hale was impressed with Ugas' tactics:

Andreas Hale @AndreasHale

Pacquiao is having a difficult time finding an entry point and Ugas cracks him with a combination and an uppercut.

Pacquiao did better in the third round, avoiding the jab and swarming Ugas a couple of times with his punches. Ugas did well to block some of the punches and looked sharp returning fire. 

Here's a look at the exchange, via PBC on Fox:


Manny Pacquiao is starting to 🔥🔥 up in the 3rd round! Buy #PacquiaoUgas PPV: https://t.co/fEC2fmRrAv https://t.co/7X5ZgI1wtI

While Pacquiao had the more eye-catching flurries, some of his work was wasted on Ugas' excellent defense. Ugas remained calm and balanced during those spurts of action, absorbing the punishment and punishing Pacquiao with counter right hands.

Rappler.com's Ryan Songalia felt both fighters had their moments in the fifth round:

Ryan Songalia @ryansongalia

Pacquiao landing some nice shots around the guard in round 5, but Ugas is not retreating, he’s got a great chin #PacquiaoUgas

Here's a look at  some of the action from that round, per PBC on Fox:


Manny Pacquiao and Yordenis Ugas bring the smoke at the end of RD5! 💨 Buy #PacquiaoUgas PPV: https://t.co/fEC2fmRrAv https://t.co/zkGFeHQj6A

Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard liked what he was seeing from Ugas:

Damian Lillard @Dame_Lillard

Ugas fighting his ass off… and they tryna convince viewers that he not winning this fight… and ima a fan of both! SMH

Even when Pacquiao got inside, Ugas did an excellent job of re-setting and forcing Pacquiao to fight from a distance. Pacquiao didn't have many opportunities to sustain his rallies, so he had to try to overwhelm Ugas in short spurts. Ugas' feints kept Pacquiao off-balance and also opened up opportunities for him to land cleanly with the jab.

Former world champion Andre Ward warned Ugas had to keep the pressure up as the fight moved into the later rounds:

Andre S.O.G. Ward @andreward

I keep seeing ppl saying Ugas is winning...as if he doesn’t have to pick up the pace. He could be winning, but this is boxing y’all. He needs to pick up the pace. You just don’t know !!!

Pacquiao couldn't ever quite take control. Ugas stuck to his gameplan, and his right hand continued to find a home even in the championship rounds. There was never an ounce of quit in Pacquiao, but his will to win wasn't enough to sway the judges.

Ugas is in prime position to cash in on this victory. He came into the bout ranked fifth in Ring's welterweight rankings, trailing only Keith Thurman, Pacquiao, Terence Crawford and Spence.

Thurman could make for an interesting opponent as he looks to rebound from his split-decision loss to Pacquiao in 2019. Spence (IBF and WBC champion) or Crawford (WBO champion) might also be interested in taking on Ugas in a title-unification bout.

As for Pacquiao, he may finally consider retiring after the loss. There's nothing left for him to prove in a sport he dominated for years, winning the hearts of fans worldwide with his power, speed and intense devotion to the the sweet science.