Errol Spence is making the most of his minutes.
Since winning the IBF welterweight belt from Kell Brook in 2017, Spence has only fought five times with more than two years lost to injuries. Two of those fights will have been unification bouts after this weekend (Showtime PPV, 9 PM EST). Spence, a 2012 US Olympian, faces another veteran of the Games this time around.
Yordenis Ugas isn’t wasting any time either. The 2008 Bronze medalist suffered three losses in his first 18 fights, two of them consecutively in 2014. Ugas took over two years off and hasn’t looked back since. Ugas has won 12 of his last 13 with the only loss coming on a hotly debated decision versus Shawn Porter. Ugas could easily be unbeaten over his last six active years in the ring and rides the momentum of fortune.
Ugas is here in part because a Spence injury opened the door for Ugas to face, and defeat, Manny Pacquiao.
Barring a draw, someone is going to feel the sting of defeat this weekend. Three welterweight belts are on the line and WBO titlist Terence Crawford is waiting on the other side to make the welterweight title picture whole.
Let’s get into it.
Stats and Stakes
Titles: IBF welterweight (2017-Present, 5 Defenses); WBC welterweight (2019-Present, 1 Defense)
Previous Titles: None
Height: 5’9 ½
Weight: 146 ¼ lbs.
Hails from: Dallas, Texas
Record: 27-0, 21 KO
Record in Major Title Fights: 6-0, 3 KO
Last Five Opponents: 162-7-2 (.953)
Press Rankings: #1 (TBRB), #2 (Ring, ESPN)
Notable Outcomes, TBRB and/or Ring Rated Foes: Kell Brook KO11; Lamont Peterson RTD7; Mikey Garcia UD12; Shawn Porter SD12; Danny Garcia UD12
Additional Current/Former Titlists Faced: Chris Algieri TKO5
Title: WBA Welterweight (2021-Present, 1 Defense)*
Previous Titles: None
Weight: 146 ¾ lbs.
Hails from: Miami, Florida (Hails from Cuba)
Record: 27-4, 12 KO
Press Rankings: #2 (BoxRec), #3 (TBRB, Ring, ESPN)
Record in Major Title Fights: 1-1 (2-1 including WBA sub-title fights)
Last Five Opponents: 168-15-8 (.901)
Notable Outcomes, TBRB and/or Ring Rated Foes: Shawn Porter L12; Manny Pacquiao UD12
Additional Current/Former Titlists Faced: Omar Figueroa UD12
*Ugas won a WBA sub-title in 2020 and was elevated to their primary titlist slot in January 2021 when Pacquiao was stripped for inactivity.
The Case for Spence: Assuming Spence returns at the same form he held in the Danny Garcia fight in 2020, and the Porter fight before it the year before, he will present a dynamic offensive package for the more methodical Ugas. Spence is a balanced fighter in almost every way. Look at the punch stats for his last two fights. Spence never abandons his jab and he doesn’t head hunt. In both fights, he landed more to the body than he did upstairs. Ugas is the opposite, typically favoring head shots over working downstairs. While Spence can be caught upstairs, his volume offense and jab limits chances to catch him in combination upstairs. If he can set the tempo for the fight, Spence has a chance to steadily outwork Ugas or force Ugas to fight outside the Cuban’s comfort zone, throwing more and creating even more offensive openings to exploit.
The Case for Ugas: Ugas makes his second start in a row against an elite southpaw talent who throws more punches than Ugas does. Against Manny Pacquiao, Ugas stayed relaxed and on his game. He countered greater volume with superior accuracy and timing. Against Spence, Ugas will have to be even more focused. This time, the opposing southpaw is longer and taller than him with real power. Ugas can draw on a deep well of amateur and professional experience to aid him. There’s nothing Ugas hasn’t seen and he’s now had the experience of a genuinely big fight. If Ugas can land as Spence is beginning assaults, and keep Spence out of rhythm, he can catch the eyes of the judges. Ugas doesn’t have to be better than Spence all night. He just has to find a way to be better, and get the credit for it, for seven rounds.
The Pick: Despite coming off a long layoff following a nasty car accident, Spence came right back and dominated Garcia in his last start. Given that performance, it’s not hard to guess Spence will be on form for this encounter as well after a late withdrawal from the Pacquiao fight last year for an eye injury. The styles of both men make it very difficult to see a way for Ugas to win. Ugas hasn’t been a one-punch knockout threat in the past and Spence has displayed a good beard so far anyways. Spence has home court in Texas, better size, more diverse offense, and a body attack Ugas doesn’t match. Ugas is a smart fighter and is riding in with a lot of confidence but in this shootout he just doesn’t have the artillery. Spence will throw more, land more, and land harder on his way to what will most likely be a decision win on Saturday.
Rold Picks 2022: 16-4
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at email@example.com
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