On Saturday, August 21, 2021, eight-division world champion and Filipino senator Manny Pacquiao returned to fight under the bright lights of Las Vegas after a two-year layoff from boxing.
Ring Magazines No. 5 ranked Welterweight, Yourdenis Ugas took on the challenge on 11 days notice after Pacquiao’s original opponent–WBC and IBF champion Errol Spence Jr.–pulled out of the event with a torn retina in his left eye.
Ugas was scheduled to fight on the same card–originally against Fabian Maidana–and quickly pounced on the opportunity to fight the living legend that is Pacquiao.
Pacquiao welcomed the new challenge and showed little worry with the change in opponents leading up to the fight. At the same time, Ugas reveled and understood the magnitude of the opportunity at hand.
The bout started in typical Pacquiao style, center of the ring and aggression from the Filipino. Ugas kept his composure but found himself getting pushed back by the smaller man early on. Ugas would turn to his jab in the second round and began to snap Pacquiao’s head back with every shot. The length advantage was evident from the get-go and a sturdy jab would be key in Ugas’ bag of tricks.
Pacquiao threw punches in bunches during the big exchanges, while Ugas patiently countered shots that kept Manny honest. The name of the game for Pacquiao was volume, while Ugas elected to pot shot and pick his spots with the Filipino.
Through the halfway point it was anyone’s fight, with both men going back and forth each round. But it was Ugas who seemed to be gaining the momentum. The Filipino fighter struggled to find his range often and would find himself on the wrong end of an Ugas counter right hand.
As the championship rounds came and went, the 17,438 fans in attendance gave praise to both fighters as the fight came to an end. All three judges agreed on the victor and Yordenis Ugas claimed the win with scorecards reading 115-113 and 116-112 twice.
The crowd noise dimmed slightly after the announcement as many in attendance witnessed what could be the end for the great Manny Pacquiao.
“I’m the WBA champ,” exclaimed Ugas after the fight. “I have a lot of respect for Manny. He’s a great competitor, but I came here to win tonight.”
Ugas welcomed all challengers after the win and said a fight with Errol Spence makes the most sense moving forward.
As for Pacquiao, the future is uncertain. The sitting senator maintained his patented smile even in defeat, while describing what went wrong in the ring.
“That’s boxing. I had a hard time making adjustments in the ring right away,” said Pacquiao. “My legs felt tight in there and I wasn’t able to move my legs as much as I liked. I’m sorry we lost tonight but I did my best.”
The Pacman did not mention retirement in the ring, but rather gave the typical answer of resting up and seeing how he feels before making a decision on his future.
One of the most commonly used phrases in sports is that of father time being undefeated. Perhaps Pacquiao was yet another victim of time or perhaps the long layoff played a part–but the days of Manny Pacquiao standing amongst the elite in the Welterweight division may be behind him.
Should Pacquiao hang up the gloves, he leaves behind a career that few will ever match and a legacy that is undeniable.