Ugas upsets Pacquiao, retains super WBA welterweight belt

Manny Pacquiao may have accepted his fate and wrapped up his decorated career spanning more than two decades and four generations.

Manny Pacquiao (right) of the Philippines fights against Yordenis Ugas of Cuba during the WBA Welterweight Championship boxing match at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on August 21, 2021. (AFP)

"I just had to make adjustments for a few days. It's good but that's boxing," said Pacquiao shortly suffering defeat at the hands of Cuban boxer Yordenis Ugas at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada Saturday there (Sunday in Manila).

Ugas, 35, displayed mastery on his orthodox stance and pulled off an upset against the Filipino boxing legend by way of unanimous decision to defend the super WBA welterweight belt, sealing the deal for authenticity after only being elevated from "regular" status when Pacquiao got stripped of his belt last January.

Judges Dave Moretti and Steve Weisfeld scored 116-112 while Patricia Morse Jaman had it 115-113 in favor of the Olympic bronze medalist from Cuba, proving the doubters wrong by taking down the only eight-division world boxing champion with precise counterpunching and powerful right hands.

Ugas improved to a 27-4 record on top of 12 knockouts while Pacquiao now has 62 wins with 39 KOs, eight losses, and two draws.

Buboy Fernandez, head trainer of Pacquiao, reminded the fighting senator to secure the 12th round by all means possible but Ugas smashed that last-minute positivity with disciplined boxing.

Pacquiao, the shorter southpaw, standing at 5-foot-6, who remained flat-footed against the right-handed Cuban, was catching his breath heading in what could be the final round of his boxing career.

The 5-foot-9 Ugas started strong with a hefty right hook, his signature move, that pushed the 42-year-old Pacquiao off balance. Still, the Filipino icon, who has a knack for explosive combat, flashed a huge smile back to Ugas.

That smile, however, shortly marked the downfall of Pacquiao as Ugas charged with a couple of crisp right punches that wobbled the Filipino fighting senator with a minute left.

The Sarangani pride retaliated with left counterpunches but Ugas responded with another right hand before the final bell as both fighters sustained evident bruises on their faces though Pacquiao had more cuts near both eyes.

"I had problems with judging before so I was a little nervous so okay but I felt confident that I was gonna get this one," said Ugas in the post-fight press conference, earlier expressing gratitude for facing the living legend in Pacquiao. "I'm a warrior, I've been doing this since I was six years old. I want all kinds of tournaments. I knew deep down inside he (Pacquiao) wasn't gonna beat me tonight. I felt it coming it into the fight and that's what happened."

As much as Pacquiao wanted to close in with his classic left hooks, Ugas showed who's boss not only in sustaining rock-solid defense but also with effective counterpunching.

Pacquiao had to rely on his barrage of punches but it dealt little to no damage to the Cuban champion, who leveled the Filipino's revitalized aggressiveness starting the 10th round.

Pacquiao, who will turn 43 years old four months from now in December, admitted making a few adjustments in the ring against the orthodox fighter in Ugas, revealing his legs felt tight without much footwork ongoing.

"I'm sorry I lost tonight. But you know, I did my best. I apologize," said an emotional Pacquiao in front of the hyped 17,438 T-Mobile Arena crowd after the match with the Filipino sports hero remained in awe after the loss in what was deemed as his swan song by many boxing experts and analysts.

The fighting senator furthered that his future remained undecided for now and might need a couple more time to rest before making a decision to hang up his gloves for good, leaving a huge question mark for his original opponent Errol Spence Jr., the unified WBC and IBF champion who recently underwent eye surgery due to a retinal detachment on his left eye.

One of the concerns surrounding Pacquiao as well is his candidacy for the highest political seat in the country, being the President of the Republic of the Philippines, but said he will declare an announcement next month.

Meanwhile, Mark Magsayo rose from the heavy burden hammered by Julio Ceja (32-5-1, 29 KOs) and scored a sensational 10th round knockout win over the former Mexican champion in their WBC featherweight title eliminator while John Dato (14-1-1, 9 KOs) suffered the first defeat of his career after yielding to Angel Contreras (11-4, 6 KOs), also of Mexico, via unanimous decision in a bloody eight-round thriller in the undercards.

Magsayo, hailing from Tagbilaran, Bohol, remained unbeaten in 23 matches and 16 KOs and became the top contender for the belt against American champion Gary Russell Jr., who holds an impressive record of 31-1 slate with 18 KOs, for his first major world title.