42-year-old boxing icon Manny Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39 KO) is set to return to the ring on Saturday night, facing WBA welterweight titlist Yordenis Ugas (26-4, 12 KO).
It may not be Errol Spence Jr — in fact, it isn’t, that’s a plain fact — but this is still an intriguing and dangerous fight for the aging Filipino legend to take, as Ugas is no joke and a top welterweight.
So who wins? We’ve got our picks in.
Scott Christ (44-14-3)
I think Manny Pacquiao is probably still a really good fighter, but he’s been at “really good” as far as where he actually is anymore, not great, for years now. I do not think Yordenis Ugas is a great fighter, nor do I think at 35 he is likely to become one. He is also “really good.”
I don’t have any inside info on what Pacquiao has shown in camp. He’s 42 years old and hasn’t fought in 25 months. Those are facts. Yes, he’s Manny Pacquiao and he might come back from that OK, but here are the points I’m sticking on far more than age, inactivity, speed, power, whatever:
- Pacquiao’s only stoppage win since he put Miguel Cotto away in 2009 came over Lucas Matthysse in 2018. We otherwise haven’t seen that combination of speed, power, and killer instinct from Manny in a long time, and the odds are this goes to the cards.
- Pacquiao has not always been so lucky with the judges. His 2012 loss to Tim Bradley was widely seen as a robbery, as was his 2017 loss to Jeff Horn, but they are officially losses all the same. And for as much as people seem to remember him dominating Keith Thurman two years ago, that was a split decision, and Pacquiao barely hung on to win on the official cards.
I think there’s a really good chance 2021 Ugas is better than that 2019 Thurman, who hadn’t looked like himself in his previous fight, has had years of nagging injuries, and also hasn’t fought since then because he reportedly had more. Ugas is physical on the inside, will work the body, and has a good jab that he can employ, trying to keep his height and reach advantages.
I hate to pick against Pacquiao because there’s every chance he wins this fight. It wouldn’t surprise me at all. But I’m going with Ugas with some controversy in a fight that Pacquiao occasionally seems to be winning handily, but giving too much ground to convince the judges all the time. Ugas SD-12
Wil Esco (47-11-3)
This certainly wasn’t the fight any of us were anticipating, but it’s definitely not a bad fight to make on short notice. In this meeting Pacquiao will get the opportunity to regain the world title he felt was unfairly taken from him and handed to Ugas, and if Pacquiao wants it back he’ll get his opportunity to hand Ugas a beating. Ugas is really a good all-around fighter but I think the one area he’ll be lacking in this fight is the foot speed.
Ugas isn’t much for being on his toes and bouncing around and much more often shells up behind a tight guard as he tries to apply pressure and look for counter opportunities. Because of this I can’t help but liken this matchup to when Pacquiao fought Joshua Clottey. I don’t think Ugas and Clottey have the same style per se, and don’t think Ugas will simply serve as a punching bag, but they do have similarities in their posture and approach - enough that I can see Pacquiao picking off Ugas with shots while stepping off to the side which I suspect won’t leave Ugas with enough opportunities to match Pacquiao’s offense. This could well turn out to be a spirited fight, but I think this is a fight Pacquiao clearly takes on points. Pacquiao UD-12
Patrick L. Stumberg (47-11-3)
I’ll be honest; I don’t really trust my own judgement here. I feel like I went into my tape viewing having already decided that Ugas would win, then used what I saw to justify it post-hoc. That’s not to say I can’t make a case, though.
Ugas certainly lacks the speed, power, and output that made Spence such a toxic matchup, but he definitely has the tools to win here. As impressive as Pacquiao was against Keith Thurman, he had his fair share of mortal moments, largely due to his inability to keep the pedal to the metal for all three minutes of each round. When the offense and footwork slowed, “One Time” found plenty of success forcing him back and ripping the body, an opening Ugas is more than equipped to exploit. Between his solid jab at range and his nasty body attack in close, Ugas has the skills to punish Pacquiao’s lapses better than Thurman did.
If this were a younger Pacquiao, even just five or so years ago, there wouldn’t be enough of those lapses to turn the tide. This Pacquiao is 42 years old and coming off the longest layoff of his career; I don’t trust him to maintain the dazzling onslaught that is his trademark, especially when he may no longer have the speed necessary to keep Ugas from timing his counters.
PassingGuest mentioned last week that we’ve seen a rash of aging fighters turning in great performances recently, and I’m not saying Pacquiao can’t do the same. Ugas went from prepping for Fabian Maidana to prepping for one of the most unique offensive engines in the sport, and if Pacquiao gets to him early, things could go south for the Cuban in a hurry. Still, Ugas strikes me as too sharp and too gritty for today’s “Pac-Man” to overwhelm. He takes a competitive but clear decision. Ugas UD-12