Cuban Yordenis Ugas has the potential of altering Manny Pacquiao’s future in politics as they face each other in a Las Vegas ring on Sunday, August 22.
There should be no room for complacency on the Filipino boxing icon’s part because the younger Ugas is hungry, and motivation makes him a dangerous opponent, local boxing analysts and aficionados agree.
They also said one false move by Pacquiao or even a lucky streak in Ugas’ favor could send the aging senator to retirement from boxing and even change the course of his political career.
“Kay kon mapildi, hoyhoy gyud iyang abaga. Pildi pud iyang politika (If he loses, he would be in low morale, and he can kiss his politics goodbye),” said Roberto Caballero of the Green CdeO Eagles Club (GCEC).
He said it would be difficult to separate Pacquiao the boxer from Pacquiao the politician given that it was his celebrity and status in the boxing world that brought him to the Senate in the first place.
Another boxing aficionado who followed Pacquiao’s career, banker Charome Marte, said that if Ugas pulls off an upset, then Pacquiao may opt to kiss and make up with President Rodrigo Duterte to save his political career.
Although vocal “die-hard” supporters of Duterte, Caballero and Marte said they were still banking on Pacquiao to outpunch the Cuban.
“Idol gyud namo siya in boxing (He’s our boxing idol). His victory would mean a chance for his political ascension. Pinoys love winners,” Caballero said.
But not everyone knows that Pacquiao would be facing a formidable foe in Ugas, a former world amateur boxing champion before he turned pro.
For one, the WBA super welterweight titlist Ugas has never been knocked out in his entire professional boxing career.
At 42, Pacquiao (62-7- 2 laced with 39 KOs) is already at the twilight of his boxing career, trying to beat Father Time.
In contrast, the taller and younger Ugas (26-4, 12 KOs), at 35, is still at the peak of his physical strength, and has been given the rare chance to exchange blows with Pacquiao as WBC and IBF belt holder Errol Spence Jr.’s replacement.
Cagayan de Oro City sports director Jaymar Rivera sees Ugas as a good counter-puncher like retired Filipino boxer Rustico Torrecampo and Mexican legend Juan Manuel Marquez who both knocked out the senator earlier in his boxing career.
Although not as powerful, Rivera said, Ugas packs wallops on both hands for great counter uppercuts to the body, and can pull off a surprise through good timing and a lucky punch.
“But he’s not the El Tornado of Tijuana. I think Manny can handle him well in 12 rounds. But he cannot be overconfident and take chances,” said Rivera.
He said the towering and granite chin of Mexican-American Antonio Margarito made that mistake. Margarito reigned in multiple world welterweight divisions prior to his stunning setback in 2010 in the hands of Pacquiao.
Unlike Pacquiao who challenged and succeeded in taking the IBF super bantamweight crown from Lehlohonolo Ledwaba in 2001 as a last-minute replacement, the Olympic bronze medalist Ugas replaced Spence Jr. but as an elite welterweight ruler.
In his amateur days, Ugas defeated at least seven rivals who in the future would become world champions, including the feared American Terrence Crawford, the world’s No. 2 pound-for-pound.
Entering the ring on Sunday after almost a two-year layoff, Pacquiao has had a heavy excess and the distraction of politics to carry on his back, while Ugas is grimly focused and will take the challenge not for the money but for boxing legacy and his country.
Cagayan de Oro native James Abucejo, now based in Houston, said the betting odds in the Filipino community in the US was heavy – $375 to $100 – in favor of Pacquiao.
“But Manny should not lose,” said Abucejo, adding that some of Pacquiao’s friends in basketball like former PBA stars Kenneth Duremdes, Paul Alvarez, and Zaldy Realubit have already been drum beating there for the senator’s likely presidential bid.
“What’s at stake here is not only in boxing,” Abucejo told Rappler. “A win over Ugas will also be a big push for his politics in the Philippines. We’re one with Manny in this fight.” – Rappler.com