Stand-in in the way of control as Pacquiao fights to win back WBA belt

By Sports Desk August 20, 2021

Manny Pacquiao is a man on a mission as he attempts to reclaim the WBA 'super' welterweight belt he was riled to relinquish.

The Filipino superstar tackles Cuban defector Yordenis Ugas in Las Vegas in a title bout on Saturday night, gently teasing it might be his last fight.

That seems unlikely, given the 42-year-old expressed such an obvious hunger for more success in the pre-fight news conference.

But Pacquiao might have to think seriously about his future should Ugas spring a huge surprise after being called into the main event at late notice.

Pacquiao was meant to face Errol Spence Jr, but the American withdrew from the bout with a torn retina in his left eye.

Spence's stand-in Ugas was promoted to be recognised as the WBA's champion when Pacquiao was controversially stripped of his title in January, relegated to champion-in-recess status due to inactivity.

Now raring to go, two years since he last fought, with COVID-19 pandemic factors largely the cause of his absence, Pacquiao said he "felt bad" about Spence's setback.

"But it's a good thing that Ugas wanted to challenge me in the ring, and a good thing we can settle the dispute about the WBA belt. It will be good for us to talk in the ring, settle down in the ring on Saturday," Pacquiao told a news conference.

"I feel young. I'm just happy doing this. Boxing is my passion and I'm enjoying doing the training camp and excited to undergo the sacrifices and discipline especially to prepare for a fight like this.

"The coaching staff were trying to stop me, because I wanted to do more but they told me I might get over-trained."

Speaking at Friday's weigh-in, Pacquiao added: "I don't want to be taking this fight lightly. I don't want to be over-confident for this fight, but I want to make sure that tomorrow night we get a victory. I will do my best. I will give my best for my fans and of course the honour of my country."

Ugas, who won a bronze medal for Cuba at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, majorly troubled Shawn Porter in a WBC title fight in March 2019, and he wants to show there is merit in him owning the WBA belt.

Pacquiao feels disenchanted by the WBA's decision, saying it was "not good" that he had been stripped of that title out of the ring.

"Let's see if he will get the belt on Saturday. Both of us are champions," Pacquiao said this week. "It might be my last fight or there's more, one at a time. That's my answer to the question of whether it's my last fight."

Ahead of the tussle as the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Ugas said: "This has been a long road for me. It's a short-notice fight but I'm thankful for this opportunity and I'm ready.

"I have come to prepare for 12 hard rounds. If this is the final fight that the legend Manny Pacquiao has, [I want to show] that he fought against a guy who brought his best and who is a world-class fighter."

RECENT HISTORY

Pacquiao has had a busy time of it, but not so much in the boxing ring. The coronavirus crisis has kept him occupied in his day job as a senator in the Philippines, where some expect him to make a bid to become president next year, a move that would surely end his boxing career. Pacquiao has made allegations of corruption in government, which have been denied, as he pulls no punches in his second career.

'PacMan' last fought against Keith Thurman at the MGM Grand in July 2019, where Ugas won on the undercard. Ugas has since had a seventh-round stoppage win over Mike Dallas Jr and a split-decision victory against Abel Ramos.

TALE OF THE TAPE

MANNY PACQUIAO

Age: 42
Height: 5ft 5.5ins (166cm) 
Weight: 146 lbs
Reach: 67 ins
Professional record: 62-7-2 (39 KOs) 
Major career titles: Eight-division world champion

YORDENIS UGAS

Age: 35
Height: 5ft 9ins (175cm) 
Weight: 147 lbs
Reach: 69 ins
Professional record: 26-4 (12 KOs) 
Major career titles: Holder of WBA 'super' welterweight belt

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