YORDENIS UGAS stepped up at short notice to replace Errol Spence, and on Saturday night (August 21) he defeated the great Manny Pacquiao at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Even at 42 years old and with a late change of opponent, Pacquiao was the favourite going into this fight. But for Pacquiao this was his first return to action since beating Keith Thurman two years ago. Ugas, a Cuban based in America, was not overawed by the Filipino’s reputation. The 35 year old Ugas’ career is spotted with losses, Shawn Porter beat him most recently back in 2019. By he was a gifted amateur, with a 2008 Olympic bronze medal to his name, and is now a seasoned pro. It all came together for him on Saturday.

Despite Pacquiao’s characteristic aggression and work rate, Ugas used his jab as an effective weapon. The composed Cuban took a unanimous decision, 116-112 for Dave Moretti and Steve Weisfeld and 115-113 for Patricia Morse Jarman.

With this result Ugas has made his name. “He’s a great competitor,” Ugas said afterwards. “A lot of respect for him, but I won this fight.”

The result also clears up the confusion of the WBA’s own making. After picking up a ‘regular’ belt from the sanctioning body, now Ugas is the holder of the WBA’s ‘super’ belt at welterweight. “Everybody said that he was the champion. Now they know who the real champion is,” Ugas claimed. But rather than the particular strap that Ugas will get to adorn his waist, it is the result in the arena and the man he’s beaten that will elevate the Cuban in the sport.

Errol Spence, who holds the WBC and IBF welterweight belts, needs to recover from eye surgery but he is waiting for the winner of this fight. “Now the plan is to unify,” Ugas said. “[Errol Spence,] he’s the next one on the list I want to fight.”

At his age and with an astonishing legacy already set, Pacquiao must consider what next. He will soon turn 43 years old, he has political ambitions in the Philippines and his place in boxing history is undoubtedly secure. His wins over Erik Morales, Oscar De La Hoya, Miguel Cotto and many more belong in another era. Yet even in the years since his points defeat to Floyd Mayweather, he has continued to compete at the highest level. He has come back from defeats before, bouncing back from a shuddering knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez, yet another great on Pacquiao’s resume, and shrugging off the blip of his unexpected reverse against Jeff Horn in 2017. Now however the time might have come for him to consider retirement from the sport that made him a legend.

On whether this will indeed be his last fight, Pacquiao said, “I don’t know. I need to relax and make a decision.”