Errol Spence Jr. vs. Yordenis Ugas: Head-to-Toe Breakdown and Prediction

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistApril 15, 2022

Errol Spence Jr. vs. Yordenis Ugas: Head-to-Toe Breakdown and Prediction

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    Damian Dovarganes/Associated Press

    The era of 40-something welterweights is over.

    Errol Spence Jr., 32, and Yordenis Ugas, 35, will enter a ring at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, this weekend to compete for three significant shares of the 147-pound championship kingdom, in a fight that would have included a 43-year-old Manny Pacquiao had Ugas not intervened.

    The Filipino was scheduled to fight Spence last August before the Texan was sidelined by eye surgery. In stepped Ugas to score one of 2021's most significant upsets, driving Pacquiao to retirement soon after and ending a stretch of a dozen years in which he'd had a starring role on the title-belt stage.

    The B/R combat sports team took a head-to-toe look at each main event principal as a primer for the weekend extravaganza. 

    Take a look at what we came up with and drop a thought or two of your own in the comments.

What You Need to Know

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    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    What: Errol Spence Jr. vs. Yordenis Ugas

    Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas

    When: Saturday

    TV: Showtime PPV

    What's at Stake: A whole lot of sanctioning-body jewelry, among other things.

    Spence is the world's welterweight champion, according to the WBC and IBF, while Ugas is deemed preeminent by the WBA. So the winner of Saturday's fight will take home all three title belts.

    But more important is the status as the top 147-pounder in the world, or at least No. 1A alongside WBO champion Terence Crawford, with whom a subsequent fight would conceivably or ideally be made.

    The Ring lists Crawford, Spence and Ugas at Nos. 1-2-3, respectively, in its welterweight rankings, and both Crawford and Spence are on the pound-for-pound list as well at spot Nos. 3 and 5.     

Errol Spence Jr.'s Tale of the Tape

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    Brandon Wade/Associated Press

    Nickname: "The Truth"

    Record: 27-0, 21 KOs

    Height: 5'9½"

    Weight: 146.5 pounds*

    Reach: 72"

    Age: 32

    Stance: Southpaw

    Rounds: 132

    All stats per BoxRec.com.

    *Official weight at last fight in December 2020.

Yordenis Ugas' Tale of the Tape

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    Nickname: "54 Milagros"

    Record: 27-4, 12 KOs

    Height: 5'9"

    Weight: 147 pounds*

    Reach: 69"

    Age: 35

    Stance: Orthodox

    Rounds: 208

    All stats per BoxRec.com.

    *Official weight at last fight in August 2021.

Boxing Ability

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    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    It may not be a firefight. But it probably won't be a clinic either.

    Both Spence and Ugas tend to lean a bit more combative than so-called traditional boxers, which means they're more likely to engage while simultaneously possessing the sorts of tools—solid jab, sound movement, etc.—that they'll be able to use to control distance and dictate the fight's pace.

    Which fighter does that better, or more often at least, is likely to have a tangible edge.

    Still, don't be surprised if technical boxing is eschewed at times in favor of old-fashioned close-quarters exchanges, because neither man is averse to working on the inside and banging the body.

    Ugas may attempt that more often with Spence than he did with Pacquiao because he won't possess the same physical advantages he had when facing the Filipino. And Spence, meanwhile, is a skilled southpaw who's had consistent success against right-handed fighters, though Ugas breaks the mold a bit because of a tendency to shift stances with little trouble.

    They're not the same fighter by any means, but their skill sets rise to a similar level.

    Tough to call in advance.

    Advantage: Even

Power

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    Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

    Based solely on numbers, this one tips in Spence's favor.

    He has 21 KOs in his 27 victories, though few of them are of a highlight-reel, one-shot quality. Instead, his aforementioned pressure, accuracy and work to the body tends to break down opponents as they get to the midway points and beyond in 10- and 12-round fights.

    Of the three KOs he has in title bouts, two came after Round 6. And in the four fights immediately preceding his championship victory over Kell Brook, he finished opponents in Rounds 8, 5, 5 and 6.

    On the other side, Ugas is not an elite power puncher.

    He's got 12 KOs in 27 victories, which is respectable enough, but exactly half of those stoppages came within his first 12 victories, and he's only stopped six of his last 15 victims since 2012.

    He punched out early for two of six wins at the 12-round championship distance, but the names Ray Robinson (no, not that one) and Mike Dallas Jr. are hardly worth mentioning as a prelude to Spence.

    He was able to control Pacquiao in their fight thanks to work rate and effective use of space, and while he did jolt the Filipino on occasion, it never appeared as if a shocking end was imminent.

    So if he scores a KO here, it'll be a stunner on a level not seen in quite a while.

    The expectation is a long fight, but if it ends early, it's more likely to be because of Spence.

    Advantage: Spence

Defense

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    Steve Marcus/Getty Images

    They're not known primarily for their defensive wizardry.

    But neither Spence nor Ugas is likely to be on the receiving end of a 12-round beatdown thanks to deficiencies in that area either.

    A long-armed fighter, Ugas is often able to position his body well enough to block or parry incoming blows, and his typical work rate doesn't allow for many prolonged incoming volleys anyway. 

    Spence uses subtle adjustments in footwork to control distance and make it difficult for opponents to land cleanly, if at all. He's also skilled enough on the inside to catch and counter shots rather than sustaining heavy punishment when things get particularly close.

    Because they're both so adept, it'll probably hinge on which guy can defend while also scoring enough to win.

    Advantage: Even

X-Factors

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    Ringo H.W. Chiu/Associated Press

    Ugas' X-Factor: Be Careful What You Wish For

    Ugas is underappreciated.

    He's world champion in a marquee division and beat a first-ballot Hall of Famer in his last fight.

    So the reality that he's in this spot—a high-profile unification bout against a quality champion—is surely everything he's wanted after years of toiling in the shadows.

    "Being an underdog means nothing to me," he said. "I was the underdog against Pacquiao and now again against Spence. I've always been the underdog, and it doesn't faze me."

    But as good as Pacquiao was over a career that yielded belts from flyweight to junior middleweight, the version that stood opposite Ugas last summer was 42 years old and hadn't fought in 25 months.

    Spence is younger, more active, and, at this point in his career, far better than Pacman.

    If Ugas is everything he says he is, the sudden change in magnitude won't mean a thing. But if he looks across the ring and suddenly realizes he's in deeper than he's ever been, it might not be pretty.

                

    Spence's X-Factor: How Much Is Still There?

    Spence has been a big-time guy at 147 pounds for nearly a half-decade.

    He went to England to beat down a championship version of Kell Brook and has defeated four reigning or former world champions across five subsequent title defenses.

    But he's fought just once since a high-speed car crash in October 2019 and is returning for the first time since having surgery to repair the torn left retina that scuttled his chance to fight Pacquiao last August.

    Ugas stepped into the breach, scored the upset and got the Spence fight for himself.

    Is Spence still the fighter he was before the crash, or even the fighter who won eight, eight and nine rounds on official scorecards against Danny Garcia between the crash and the eye surgery?

    That's what everyone will be trying to discern shortly after Saturday's opening bell.

Prediction

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    Ringo H.W. Chiu/Associated Press

    Spence is a big favorite in this one. And it's warranted.

    He's done more on the championship level. He's fought and beaten better opposition. He's been one of the division's stalwarts for a while and has seemed completely at home on big stages.

    He's not a lock, though. Because Ugas is a champion.

    But he still fights with the hunger of a guy not yet receiving the respect he believes is warranted. And he's got a style that's just unique enough and just tricky enough to give good fighters problems.

    Ask Shawn Porter, whom Ugas fought to a split-decision loss three years ago in a bout the Cuban insists that he deserved. And ask Pacquiao, who arrived as a big favorite, too, before losing seven, eight and eight rounds in the eyes of the ringside judges last August.

    Which means picking this fight is an exercise in splitting hairs. 

    And the biggest one, as was referred to earlier, is just how close to peak level Spence still is.

    If he's the fighter he was while beating Porter and Mikey Garcia and Lamont Peterson in title defenses, he's good enough to get a clear, if not brutal win here. If he's anything less than that, however, Ugas is plenty good enough to make it really close or take the belts home for himself.

    We'll inhale sharply and go with the former—in the 115-113 (7-5 in rounds) or 116-112 (8-4) range.

    But we wouldn't bet the ranch on it.

    Prediction: Spence by unanimous decision

           

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