There’s a big difference between a 42-year-old Manny Pacquiao and a prime, healthy Errol Spence Jr. Yordenis Ugas learned that the hard way Saturday.
Spence outboxed, outworked, beat up and finally stopped Ugas in the 10th round to unify three of the four major welterweight titles before an estimated 40,000 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, not far from Spence’s hometown of Dallas.
He did it even though he had fought only once the past 2½ years – a decision over Danny Garcia in December 2020 – because of a car accident in 2019 and a detached retina last year.
And, perhaps best of all, the victory could set up a long-awaited showdown with fellow beltholder Terence Crawford for the undisputed 147-pound championship.
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“I didn’t have any doubts at all,” said Spence, referring to his mindset going into the fight. “Like I said, I believe in myself 100 percent, I train 100 percent. And I just knew I would come out with the victory.
“That’s what I wanted. I didn’t want a tune-up fight or fight somebody I know I could beat. I wanted somebody to fight someone who could bring out the best in me. And I knew Ugas would bring out the best in me.”
Indeed, Ugas did.
The conqueror of Manny Pacquiao this past August was outworked by Spence from the outset but gave a good account of himself early on, particularly with hard, well-placed body shots that threatened to slow Spence down.
However, by the fourth or fifth round, it was clear that Spence (28-0, 22 KOs) was building a lead on the cards and picking up steam.
Then a came strange Round 6. In the middle of the frame, Spence lost his mouthpiece and then lost his concentration, believing that referee Laurence Cole had yelled “stop” and would retrieve the guard.
Cole did not. That allowed the alert Ugas (27-5, 12 KOs) to land several punches while Spence was unprotected, including a hard right that stunned him and sent him stumbling into the ropes for what could’ve been ruled a knockdown.
“I thought the ref had stopped it,” Spence said. “So I stopped. And I got hit with three, four shots. It was a rookie mistake. You’re supposed to protect yourself at all times and I didn’t do that.”
That moment could’ve been a disaster for Spence. Instead, it was Ugas’ last hurrah.
Spence picked up later in the round where he left off before the gaffe, delivering a systematic beating that would close Ugas’ right eye and wear him down.
He dominated Rounds 7, 8, 9 and the beginning of Round 10, landing almost at will as Ugas fought with courage but little effectiveness. Cole stopped the action in the middle of Round 10 to have the ring doctor look at Ugas’ eye a second time.
The doctor determined that he couldn’t see well enough to defend himself and advised Cole to stop the fight. He did so at 1:44 of the round.
“I feel sad because I trained really hard for this fight,” said Ugas, his right eye completely shut. “All respect to Errol Spence. He’s a great champion. I’m just said with what happened tonight.
“… I wanted to do battle. I couldn’t see from the eye so the ref stopped it. I wanted to keep going until the end.”
Spence expressed in his low-key manner gratification after what is arguably his greatest performance and most-important victory. However, he truly came to life when he was asked who he’d like to fight next.
Fans have been clamoring for a superfight between Spence and WBO champ Terence Crawford for years but it hasn’t happened, in part because they’ve been aligned with competing handlers.
Crawford is a free agent now, though. And Spence couldn’t have been more effusive in his desire to make the fight happen.
“Everybody knows who I want next,” he said. “I want Terence Crawford. “… I will definitely [make it happen]. That’s the fight I want, that’s the fight everybody else wants. Like I said, I’ll get these straps over there and take his s— too.”