In many ways the torch was passed on Saturday night, as Yordenis Ugas overcame the odds to defeat the great Manny Pacquiao.
Ugas, 35, did what many said would not be possible, retaining his WBA welterweight crown in dominant fashion at the T-Mobile Arena and securing himself in the history books with a unanimous decision victory over certain Hall of Famer, Pacquiao, who we may never see in the ring again.
Pacquiao (62-8-2, 39 KOs), now 42-years-old looked a shadow of the once ferocious man who knocked Ricky Hatton out cold, retired Oscar De La Hoya and stunned Keith Thurman, as recently as July 2019.
Age? Inactivity? Perhaps both played their part, but it takes two to tango and Ugas (27-4, 12 KOs) more than deserved his win, executing his game plan with precise boxing leading off his jab which found the target for the majority of the twelve rounds.
‘Pac Man’ did have some success reflected in the 115-113 scorecard returned by judge Patricia Morse Jarman, however the Cuban limited it with his strength and lateral movement, a style that seemed to trouble the Filipino throughout.
For Ugas, it’s the crowning moment of a career that has often promised so much but never truly delivered. What’s perhaps most impressive is that the 35-year-old was not even meant to be in this position.
Pacquiao was lined up to face WBC and IBF champion, Errol Spence Jr, yet the Texan was forced to withdraw with a torn retina 12 days from the fight. Ugas was slated to fight on the undercard against Fabian Maidana and jumped at the opportunity to be moved into the main event after his opponent also withdrew through injury.
The stars aligned for ’54 Milagros’ who is now a bonafide, arguably top four contender in a welterweight division stacked full of talent.
Whilst, Ugas said in his post-fight press conference he would be open to facing Pacquiao in a rematch, there is no guarantee that he will fight again.
The 42-year-old, a full-time senator is expected to run for presidency in the Philippines with the election taking place in May.
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He told ESPN that he was 60-40 on whether to retire and is turning 43-years-old in December, with nothing to prove in a legacy that will forever be remembered.
Whilst that would likely hold the highest financial reward for Ugas, there are a number of other options who he could face next.
Errol Spence Jr
Ugas is targeting a unification with Errol Spence Jr.
Spence Jr (27-0, 21 KOs) will need time to recover from surgery he had on his eye, but did confirm on his social media that he had been informed by doctors that he would be able to resume his career and Ugas said he would be keen to face him should he make a full recovery.
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There is no indication on when the 31-year-old may return to the ring, although a unification makes a lot of sense especially given both are signed with Premier Boxing Champions and fight on FOX, meaning in theory it should be straightforward to make.
The WBC and IBF champion looked better than most anticipated against Danny Garcia in December in his first fight since a near-fatal car crash 14 months earlier.
Spence is a tricky southpaw who boxes effectively on the front foot and is difficult to catch clean, making for an intriguing style match-up with the technically sound Ugas, although ‘The Truth’ would likely head in as favourite.
Terence Crawford – Shawn Porter victor
Terence Crawford is likely to defend his WBO welterweight champion in an eagerly-anticipated clash against former titlist, Shawn Porter, making for another potential unification with Ugas.
The WBO scheduled a purse bid hearing for September 2nd and a fight between the pair could take place towards the end of the year.
Ugas has history with Porter (31-3-1, 17 KOs) having lost to ‘Showtime’ on a controversial split decision for the WBC title in 2019, making for a potential rematch between them.
Whilst three-weight world champion, Crawford (37-0, 28 KOs) is seen as arguably the best in the division, vying for that tag with Spence.
A showdown with Porter at this stage would be the easiest to make considering they are signed to the same promotional outfit, whilst ‘Bud’ reportedly has one fight left with Top Rank with no indication of if he will resign.
Another PBC fighter in former world champion, Keith Thurman could also be an option.
Thurman (29-1, 22 KOs) has not fought since being relieved of the WBA ‘Super’ belt by Pacquiao in July 2019, losing his undefeated record and a meeting with Ugas would give him the opportunity to regain that title.
‘One Time’ has been linked with a fight against three-weight world champion, Gervonta Davis and called for a contract to be sent to him when speaking to the press on Friday.
Thurman would represent a significant challenge with his experience and talent, having already beaten the likes of Porter and Danny Garcia, although his inactivity could be a potential issue against Ugas who has been much more active.
Having taken a voluntary against Pacquiao, Ugas could have to face a mandatory with Eimantas Stanionis the next contender in line and also with PBC.
Stanionis (13-0, 9 KOs) is unbeaten in 13 fights and is ranked as the number one contender with the WBA.
The Lithuanian saw his step-up clash against former world champion, Luis Collazo in August end in a no contest after an accidental head clash in a fight he was winning.
The 27-year-old is lacking the experience at the highest level and may require a few more fights before challenging for a world title, but such is the position he’s manoeuvred himself into, a world title shot could come sooner rather than later.