Manny Pacquiao got a supposedly tailor-made replacement opponent for him. But on Saturday night, he found his old fighting style no longer suited. The result was a very unexpected upheaval, which could spell the end of his boxing career – and possibly his political ambitions as well.
Yordenis Ugas stunned the boxing world when he clinched a unanimous clinical victory to retain his World Boxing Association super welterweight title at the T-Mobile Arena here.
“I am a warrior,” Ugas said after the fight. “I’ve been doing this since I was six. I knew deep down that he wasn’t going to fight me tonight.
The judges saw it up close: Dave Moretti (116-112), Patricia Morse Jarman (115-113) and Steve Weisfeld (116-112) all scored the fight for the Cuban, who at 35 was the youngest. fighter on the ring.
But the disparity between the older Manny Pacquiao and an older Manny Pacquiao was so much wider.
Orphaned by the indecipherable movement that made him one of the greatest of all time, Pacquiao failed to pass the defenses of Ugas, who, true to his nature and to the scouting reports compiled by the Filipinos, stood in front of the 42-year-old. all night ring icon.
The biggest trap
This trait of Ugas, which was meant to be something that would have allowed Pacquiao to pull him apart during the fight, became the biggest trap set by the former Olympian.
The Cuban drew Pacquiao, threw score counters and parried several combinations to finally exhaust the aggressive Filipino at the end of the fight.
And just like that, the question Pacquiao has managed to evade over the past few years stared at him again: is it for Pacquiao?
The sport’s only eight-division champion has hinted that indeed it might be time to quit.
“I’ve done a lot for boxing and boxing has done a lot for me,” Pacquiao said during the post-fight presser held atop the same ring that may have seen his farewell fight.
“In the future, you may not see Manny Pacquiao fighting in the ring,” he added.
His trainer, Freddie Roach, was a bit more outspoken.
“I hate to say it, but it could be,” said Roach, who later added that the decision would ultimately be up to Pacquiao.
Pacquiao was supposed to fight the most dangerous Errol Spence Jr. on Saturday, but the American star tore his retina and was a late erasure for the card, allowing Ugas to fill the post.
Spence had said he would be ready to fight the winner of the match and punters predicted it would be Pacquiao. With the loss upset, the match against Spence – or any fight for that matter – would be difficult to do. And even if the money was enough to attract a big name – Pacquiao remains a huge draw in the sport – the Filipino senator may no longer live up to the task.
“Sometimes you have to think about your body’s response,” he said. Pacquiao revealed that both his legs were in cramps at the start of the second round.
“I don’t want to use that as an excuse, but before that I can handle the cramps even for 12 laps; now I can’t move, ”he added.
What remains to be seen now is how the fight will affect his political plans.
While Pacquiao has yet to make an open announcement, it is an open secret that he plans to run for president in the national elections in the Philippines next year.
“I want to leave a legacy for everyone inside and outside the ring. I’m not a political person but I’m a civil servant. I even spend my own money to help people,” Pacquiao said.
“I want to go back to the Philippines, there are a lot of things I want to accomplish,” Pacquiao said. “I want to help my people, especially now with the ongoing pandemic. It is my mission to inspire people inside or outside the ring.
During a day of training, Pacquiao rushed home in Los Angeles from the Wild Card gym to take an online course for his Masters of Public Administration. He smiled at the Filipino journalists and told them, “I will make the impossible possible.
But much of his so-called presidential run was rooted in a win over Ugas on Saturday. An announcement from the saddle of victory would have been an ideal way to launch his bid for the highest position in the country.
This loss may have dented his presidential ambitions. Pacquiao, however, said nothing that happened during the fight would affect his desire to help his compatriots. He said he would make an announcement next month.
Ugas said he was grateful for the opportunity to replace Spence.
“I thank him for giving me the chance to fight him tonight. He’s a great fighter and a legend, ”he said.
And for the first few rounds, he looked like a fighter overwhelmed by the bright lights of Sin City.
But Pacquiao failed to take advantage of it. Despite his aggressive edge, his combinations were overpowered by the tweaks of Ugas, who slowly warmed up and began to gain control in the fourth round.
The Cuban’s powerful punches not only knocked Pacquiao back several times, but began to take a heavy toll on the Filipino’s stamina.
“My mind and my heart are 100 percent. But my legs are tight and sore for the 12 rounds, ”Pacquiao said.
This tightness took away its rebound and its famous lateral movements. And with that side-to-side shift, so were the angles. Pacquiao spent the last few laps trying to deal damage past Ugas, who wisely used his powerful punches and precise counters to blunt any burgeoning outbursts from the Pacman, who spent far too much time searching for an opening that isn’t not come.
Ugas threw 405 punches according to CompuBox, landing 151. Pacquiao outclassed the Cuban and threw 815 punches but was only logged 130 times.
“He deserves to win tonight. I tried my best but it wasn’t good enough, ”said Pacquiao.
His more than two years of inactivity – or perhaps his advanced age – was evident in many things he couldn’t achieve last Saturday. And the 17,438 live spectators could feel it too.
They stopped chanting “Manny, Manny” as the fight progressed, which pro-Pacquiao mobs normally do when sensing Pacquiao wants to kill. Instead, their cheers seemed more meant to comfort the legendary boxer.
If Saturday’s fight turns out to be his last, Pacquiao can complain about the eighth loss in a career that has spanned 72 fights spanning 26 years since 1995.
“I’m sorry I lost tonight,” Pacquiao said.
Ugas, a bronze medalist at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, improved his record to 27-4.
“Now the plan is to unify the title,” Ugas said in the ring through a translator. “Everyone said he was the champion, now they know who the real champion is.”
—WITH AFP REPORTS
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