A few weeks back, fans witnessed the return of eight-division champion Manny Pacquiao to the squared circle against Cuba’s Yordenis Ugas at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Ugas won a unanimous decision over Pacquiao, who at times looked every bit of his 42 years to retain and validate himself as the WBA Welterweight champion.
The hyperbole on social media has led to tall tales of comparisons to Rocky Marciano-Joe Louis, Larry Holmes-Muhammad Ali, and Terry Norris-Ray Leonard.
For a fighter with over 70 fights, a career-long layoff spanning over two years, and a change in opponent with 11-days’ notice, Pacquiao looked about as good as one could expect. Also, there is the fact that Ugas much like all of Pacquiao’s opponents at Welterweight sans Juan Manuel Marquez and possibly Timothy Bradley, is the bigger fighter with advantages in height, size, reach, and weight.
The fight with Ugas was far from a blowout or a demolition. This was a close, but clear win for Ugas that will propel him to more opportunities.
After the fight, Pacquiao was somewhat gracious in defeat giving Ugas his well-deserved credit. But every fighter, no matter how humble, has an ego.
“Yes, I can come back in January,” said Pacquiao in an interview with The Athletic after the fight with Ugas.” I will see about it. I know I can rematch him if I want. I will think about it because I can’t believe that one of the easiest opponents I ever faced did that. In my entire career, Ugas was one of the easiest opponents.”
Pacquiao’s comments about Ugas come off as slightly disrespectful. Still, the reality is that had the Filipino defeated the Cuban; it wouldn’t rank among the top ten victories of his career that has spanned over 25 years.
However, this isn’t to say that a rematch is a good idea.
Sometimes, when fighters get old, they fall off a cliff, and there is an immediate decline that sees them knocked out brutally. Other times, however, that decline isn’t as vast and comes slowly. Little by little, your legs don’t allow you to move, you aren’t able to time the jab for a counter, and you don’t see punches coming.
Pacquiao hasn’t been knocked out by a lesser opponent or came even close to being knocked out, let alone knocked down by Ugas, but the longer he decides to keep fighting, the inevitable will happen.
Even with the controversy of how they were scored nights against fighters like Jeff Horn and Ugas that were clearly not Pacquiao’s best performances no matter how you scored the bouts, will become more frequent if the Filipino continues fighting.
“Obviously, I’ve walked this road that I’m sort of suggesting and hoping that Manny Pacquiao walks,” said boxing Hall-of-Famer and ESPN commentator Andre Ward in an interview with ESPN’s Mike Coppinger. “So, I don’t say this haphazardly. A fighter, especially one of Manny Pacquiao’s stature, it’s not going to be easy walking away and staying away. It’s going to be the hardest thing he’s ever had to do in his life.”
For Ugas, the victory and opportunity to fight Pacquiao was humbling and something that not even Pacquiao’s comments could take away from him. A rematch with Pacquiao is a match that he wouldn’t pass on.
“If he said those things about me in spite of my great performance and the win I was able to achieve, all I can say about him is that I respect his opinion,” said Ugas. “Manny Pacquiao is a legend. He is a warrior. It would be my honor and pleasure to face him again.
“To face Pacquiao, to face a legend was an absolute honor-the greatest moment of my career,” continued Ugas. “If this was the last fight of Manny Pacquiao’s career, it should be remembered that he faced a world-class fighter who capable of beating him.”
Pacquiao showed that he can still be competitive against Ugas, and in many respects, he deserves to leave the sport on his own terms.
The fighting Senator has stated on numerous occasions that he would like to fight in the United Kingdom.
A fight with undisputed Junior Welterweight champion Josh Taylor would be a massive event in the United Kingdom. It would give Pacquiao the chance to accomplish something he never has in becoming an undisputed champion in a division.
A final fight in the Phillippines could also be a great send-off for Pacquiao, who hasn’t fought in his country since 2006.
Far too many fighters, having overstayed their welcome in boxing continuing to fight until an opponent finally hurt them enough to keep them away for good. Similar to knowing when to cut a movie short or when to end a song, there is a level of wisdom in knowing when to walk away from something that you still have love and passion for.
They say that every great fighter has one last great showing. Pacquiao may have had that showing against Keith Thurman in 2019. No one would have complained if Pacquiao chose to retire right after that fight.
Whether he has one more great performance left in him is debatable, but Pacquiao should be careful about how he precedes moving forward because while he wasn’t at his best, Ugas may not have been either.