Expectations are always high for a Manny Pacquiao fight, and he was a big favorite heading into his welterweight title match against Yordenis Ugas – who replaced Errol Spence Jr. after he suffered an eye injury.
Pacquiao was clearly the smaller man, but was aggressive in the first round with his superior speed. Ugas, however, smartly chose to stay out of reach with his size and length. In a bid to slow Pacquiao down, he focused on trying to hit body shots early in the fight.
This continued into the second round where, Ugas continued to maintain distance and caused Pacquiao to back up a few times with body shots. Pacquiao was also left with a bruised eye early on thanks to Ugas’s stiff right hands.
Pacquiao drove Ugas to the ropes momentarily in the third round, but Ugas stayed composed. It was clear by the end of the third that this was a chess match, and that Pacquiao needed to find a way through his defense without eating so many body shots.
Ugas hit Pacquiao with a low blow in the fourth round, causing a momentary stoppage of the fight. Pacquiao recovered from this but continued to have trouble landing big combinations due to Ugas’ elusive style, stiff jab, and good counter right hands.
Pacquiao looked to have slowed down a bit halfway through the fight, and Ugas continued to find the target with his jabs and straights. Ugas continued to hit Pacquiao with big right hands, with one in the eighth round snapping his head back.
In the tenth round, Ugas started to get more aggressive early on, which played more into Pacquiao’s advantage, but went back to his slippery style pretty quickly.
The 11th round was much of the same, with Pacquiao continuing to throw more punches but unable to land any of the big hits that he’d done so many times in his career. Pacquiao looked to be slightly desperate in the final round, but still couldn’t hit the decisive blows as Ugas tied him up every time it looked like he might get a shot at opening up his opponent.
With no knockdowns in the fight, it was a tense atmosphere heading into the announcement of the judges scorecards. All three judges announced a unanimous decision for Ugas, with one scoring it 115-113 and two 116-112.
The 25-month layoff may have been too much for the fighting pride of the Philippines, and though he was able to still show a superior work rate and attack, he just didn’t seem to have the same blazing speed that we’ve all been used to. He still showed flashes of his old self, but a smart gameplay from Ugas and his coaches nullified the majority of Pacquiao’s attack.
Pacquiao, already one of the greatest boxers in history and the only eight-division world champion, had nothing left to prove in the ring. However, he still chose to try to recapture another belt, and he’s got to be commended for that.
While all of us wanted him to win the fight, which could very well be the last of his illustrious career, it was still great to see him walk into the ring with his signature smile, and walk out of it without suffering any devastating knockouts or injuries.
If this was the last time we’re ever going to see the Pac-Man in the ring, we can at least take solace knowing that he fought his last fight in the same style that made him a legend.