YORDENIS UGAS WAS silent. He was completely satisfied, soaking within the second. The 35-year-old had simply obtained an surprising name, providing him a possibility he’d lengthy dreamed of.
The reply about whether or not or not he’d take a battle in opposition to boxing’s solely eight-division champion, Manny Pacquiao, was by no means doubtful. In fact he stated sure.
And when Ugas steps into the ring in opposition to Pacquiao on Saturday in Las Vegas, he’ll be defending his WBA “tremendous” welterweight title in opposition to a 42-year-old dwelling legend having solely 11 days’ discover.
Each males had been coaching for drastically totally different fights on the identical card: Pacquiao in opposition to IBF and WBC world title holder Errol Spence Jr.; Ugas in opposition to Fabian Maidana. Each Spence and Maidana suffered eye accidents that knocked them out of these fights. Immediately, Pacquiao and Ugas had been set to headline a PBC on Fox pay-per-view at T-Cellular Enviornment.
“I used to be stunned,” says Ugas, ESPN’s No. 6 boxer at 147 kilos. “I had emotion working by [me], however I additionally knew I used to be ready. This was meant for a motive.”
If Ugas appears unfazed, it is due to every thing he is been by over the previous decade in his skilled profession, and every thing that led up so far. He is an Olympic medalist for his native Cuba, who defected to the USA to pursue his skilled goals. He spent two years (from 2014 to 2016), retired from the game. And earlier than he might even launch his skilled profession, Ugas struggled for years to get his toes beneath him.
The celebs have lastly aligned for Ugas. It has been a very long time coming.
TWO YEARS AFTER successful bronze on the 2008 Olympic Video games in Beijing, Ugas made the one selection obtainable if he wished to pursue his dream of successful a world title: He defected from Cuba.
“Think about being within the open sea for 2 days, you are in a small little boat so that you’re all over with the waves,” Ugas recalled. “I believed at each second I used to be going to die. It is not one thing I would need on anybody; it’s totally harmful.”
That small raft introduced him from Cuba to Mexico. From there, he made his option to Miami, the place many Cuban defectors have settled over the previous few a long time.
Dwelling in the USA with a minimal help system and little cash was troublesome, and lonely. Throughout these seemingly unending days, Ugas would head over to McDonald’s and order a dollar-menu apple pie. Not only one — generally as many as seven. It was consolation meals, and the one meal he might afford that might provide any solace.
However Ugas’ professional profession began properly sufficient contained in the ring. He recorded 5 wins in 2010, and that November, two key issues occurred: Ugas received his first up-close have a look at Pacquiao, when Pacquiao picked aside Antonio Margarito in a 154-pound title battle and have become boxing’s first eight-division world champion. And that night time, as Ugas was ringside on the dwelling of the Dallas Cowboys, he met Bob Arum and laid the groundwork for his first promotional contract.
“Ugas was sporting a white go well with, he had that Don Johnson look, no shirt on, and Arum f—ing falls in love with the look,” High Rank Boxing matchmaker Brad Goodman recalled. “Arum thought he was the actual deal.”
TOP RANK SIGNED Ugas and positioned him on a February 2011 card in opposition to Carlos Musquez. Ugas gained his first six fights with the promotion, working his document to 11-0 with 5 knockouts.
Then they stepped up the competitors for Ugas with a battle in opposition to Johnny Garcia, on Showtime’s prospect-oriented collection, ShoBox: The New Era. It was a catastrophe for Ugas, who suffered his first skilled loss by way of break up determination. And that wasn’t all.
“His first exhibiting to essentially showcase his expertise, and he misplaced a break up determination,” Goodman says. “He actually did not go on the market and shine like he was imagined to. We had been simply actual down [on him] and we simply launched him.”
The discharge, Ugas says, was a psychological blow that took him years to recuperate from. He gained 4 fights after parting methods with High Rank, however then misplaced back-to-back fights in opposition to Emanuel Robles and Amir Imam in 2014. Following the unanimous-decision setback to Imam that Might, Ugas abruptly known as it quits.
His profession hadn’t gone the best way he deliberate; removed from it, the truth is. At 15-3, and simply 4 years into his professional profession, Ugas could not deal with dropping. He had been among the best amateurs in Cuban historical past, successful a number of nationwide championships and a gold medal on the 2005 World Championships in Mianyang, China.
“Darkish days again then, it was very miserable,” Ugas stated, by way of translation from his supervisor, Luis DeCubas. “I have been competing in boxing over 20 years; by no means not been competing; by no means thought I did not have a future. Sitting in a room with no future, no cash, no life: it is fairly miserable. You assume the worst issues.
“I used to be retired, 100% out of boxing; wasn’t certain what I used to be going to do. I used to be confused. I did not know what I used to be going to do in life, interval. … Dangerous time in my profession; dangerous time in life.”
“He isn’t a drinker, however [he was] hanging out till late, not taking issues critically, not working,” stated DeCubas.
Ugas was dwelling in New Jersey at that time, and to get by, he labored odd jobs to pay the payments — the primary jobs he ever had outdoors of boxing. Arduous labor.
Then Ugas obtained the decision that “100% modified my life.” On the opposite line, together with DeCubas, was Aroldis Chapman, the longer term MLB All-Star nearer. Chapman, a fellow Cuban defector and considered one of Ugas’ closest mates since they arrived in Miami, had signed a profitable contract with the Cincinnati Reds in January 2010, and he was prepared to supply Ugas a much-needed lifeline and a doorway again into boxing.
The message from Chapman: “I will provide the cash to maneuver to Vegas, however you higher take this as your final alternative.”
WHILE HE WAS dwelling in New Jersey throughout that two-year hiatus, Ugas had loads of time to assume. He could not wrap his head round all of it. How had he reached this level?
He surveyed the boxing panorama and noticed who was thriving. Terence Crawford? Ugas beat him once they met within the Pan American Video games qualifier in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, in 2007. Sadam Ali. Darleys Perez. Jose Pedraza. Together with Crawford, all titleholders at the moment. And all fighters Ugas had overwhelmed as an novice.
“These guys are champions; I am not a champion?” Ugas recollects pondering. “I gotta be a champion.”
Decided to benefit from the chance Chapman positioned at his toes, Ugas packed up what little he owned and moved to Las Vegas for a contemporary begin — linking up with coach Ismael Salas, one other Cuban, and reuniting with DeCubas. He modified his life-style and devoted himself fully to his craft.
He additionally moved up in weight, from 140 kilos to 147, and witnessed the delivery of his son, Yordenis Jr. — the 2 greatest elements in his dramatic turnaround, Ugas says.
Through the second act of his profession with DeCubas, during which he finally signed with Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions promotion, Ugas impressed as a dependable fill-in. Lower than a yr into his return, Ugas scored a second-round stoppage vs. Nelson Lara on two days’ discover in 2017. Later that yr, he agreed to tackle a fair higher opponent on one week’s discover, defeating Thomas Dulorme by determination.
“I might inform when he got here out [to Las Vegas,] he wasn’t taking part in round,” DeCubas stated.
“He simply made an entire turnaround. He has all the flexibility on the planet,” stated Goodman, who considers Ugas’ inside sport his greatest attribute. “… He is very calm. He carries a whole lot of confidence. Nothing rattles him.”
By 2019, Ugas had put collectively eight consecutive victories, and lined up reverse Shawn Porter for a WBC welterweight title shot — the form of alternative he had lengthy dreamed of. Regardless of being as a lot as a +400 underdog, Ugas went punch for punch with Porter, and within the minds of many within the boxing world watching that night time, did sufficient to win. But the cards ultimately went against him, albeit narrowly in a break up determination.
Moreover the controversial defeat to Porter, Ugas’ résumé contains determination wins over strong fighters like Jamal James, Abel Ramos and Omar Figueroa Jr., in addition to TKOs vs. Bryant Perrella and Ray Robinson.
None of these boxers, in fact, come near the legendary Pacquiao.
Manny Pacquiao shares his ideas on his new opponent Yordenis Ugas, following Errol Spence Jr.’s withdrawal on account of damage.
SEVEN YEARS ON from hitting the pause button in his profession, Ugas, a fighter as soon as labeled a bust, is on the doorstep of a life-changing alternative.
“I by no means anticipated to battle Manny Pacquiao, particularly at his age and the way far more forward [of me] he was,” Ugas stated. “He is such an ideal fighter and he confirmed [it] with what he did in opposition to Keith Thurman and Adrien Broner [in his two most recent fights]. What an ideal fighter he nonetheless is, even at 42 years outdated.
“He is one of many best fighters of all time, there is not any query about it. It may be a pleasure and honor to share the ring with a legend. However as soon as the bell rings, all that goes out the window and it is a battle. It is not, ‘I am preventing Manny Pacquiao.’ I am preventing for my life.”
“He has to organize for his future outdoors of boxing; these are the fights that try this,” DeCubas says. “And a win over Pacquiao units him up for all times.”
Ugas (26-4, 12 KOs) enters the battle in opposition to Pacquiao because the WBA champion, a place he was elevated to again in January. The outdated champ? Pacquiao, who gained the title from Thurman in July 2019 however hasn’t fought since. As a result of lengthy layoff, the WBA appointed him champion in recess. Pacquiao petitioned the WBA to be reinstated forward of the Spence battle, however in a shock determination, the WBA dominated final month to take care of Ugas as champion.
“Ugas is a champion as a result of they gave him my belt,” Pacquiao stated final week. “Now, we have now to settle it inside the ring. I can not take him frivolously as a result of he is the form of fighter who will make the most of that.”
Ugas is in a well-recognized place, each as a last-minute substitute and as a +280 betting underdog as of Wednesday morning at Caesars Sportsbook.
Given what he has fought by — defecting from Cuba, preventing again from a two-year hiatus and the frustration of not getting the win over Porter, amongst many different challenges alongside the best way — doubting Ugas’ probabilities Saturday is a dangerous place to take.
“If he is overlooking me, he’ll have an issue,” Ugas stated. “I am within the prime of my profession. I am a world champion; I am preventing on the highest stage I ever fought. You place the championship pedigree with the Olympic pedigree — I can not watch for the battle.”