By Lem Satterfield

WBC 147-pound titleholder Shawn Porter is approaching his initial defense in his second reign as world champion against wily title challenger Yordenis Ugas on March 9 as if the battle of Las Vegans is the the fight of his life, and Showtime's ringside analyst Paulie Malignaggi believes that he should.

"Ugas has a nice timing scheme and great boxing abilities which can cause Porter some serious problems," said Malignaggi, a 38-year-old former 140- and 147-pound champion.  "But he's also a natural 147-pounder, and it's very difficult for a natural 147-pounder to deal with Porter at this point in time."

Porter (29-2-1, 17 KOs) has to be ready for the potential upset by Ugas (23-3, 11 KOs), a 32-year-old 2008 Cuban Olympic bronze medalist in pursuit of his ninth straight victory and fifth knockout during that time at The MGM Grand in Las Vegas as Premier Boxing Champions returns (FOX 8 p.m. ET/ 5 p. m. PT).

“[The professional ranks] haven’t been easy for me,” said Ugas, who is in his first-ever world title shot against Porter. “This is the fulfillment of a dream I’ve had for my nine years as a professional. Now that I have this opportunity, I’m really happy and I’m going to make the most of it. I’m not thinking about losing. My focus is on winning.”

The 31-year-old Porter had wanted the division’s bigger names following September’s unanimous decision over two-division champion Danny Garcia (34-2, 20 KOs) for the WBC’s vacant crown at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

The feat made Porter a 147-pound world titlist for the second time by earning WBA counterpart Keith Thurman’s injury-vacated WBC title at the same location where he won the IBF’s crown with a unanimous decision that dethroned southpaw Devon Alexander in December 2013.

 After falling by unanimous decision loss to Thurman (28-0, 22 KOs) in a June 2016 “Fight Of The Year” contender, Porter wanted a rematch upon “One Time’s” return from injuries that sidelined him since defeating Garcia in a March 2017 unification by split-decision, or a then-unscheduled southpaw IBF counterpart Errol Spence Jr. (24-0, 21 KOs).

There was hope for a dream bout against former sparring partner and WBA “regular” titleholder Manny Pacquiao (60-7-2, 39 KOs), if not, a return bout with two-time title winner Andre Berto, whom Porter  floored three times during a ninth-round stoppage win in April 2017.

But Pacquiao will fight four-division champion Adrien Broner (33-3-1, 24 KOs) on January 19 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Thurman pursues his eighth defense and fifth knockout in title fights opposite Josesito Lopez (36-7, 19 KOs) on January 26 at Barclays Center, and “The Truth” Spence, his third defense and 12th straight knockout  on March 16 in Dallas against four-division champion Mikey Garcia (39-0, 30 KOs).

But Porter can't look beyond Ugas, who recalls their sparring in advance of his own split-decision victory over Levan Ghvamichava in February 2017 even if “Showtime” doesn’t.

“I was that same guy in 2013 when I won the championship against Devon Alexander. Nobody knew who I was. It was supposed to be another win for Devon Alexander. But I’m in Devon’s position, right now, and I’m not going to let that happen to me."

Ugas' winning streak includes split- and unanimous decisions over Ghvamichava and title challenger Thomas Dulorme (August 2017) as well as September’s unanimous decision over Cesars Miguel Barionuevo.

Jamal James and southpaw Bryant Perrella were a combined 34-0 with 22 KOs before falling by unanimous decision and fourth-round stoppage in 2016 to Ugas, who won February's IBF eliminator by seventh-round TKO over southpaw Ray Robinson.

Ugas faced Dulorme as Porter’s replacement on the Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor undercard, scoring a pair of second-round knockdowns and rising from the deck in the seventh.

James fought Ugas on three days notice after Perella pulled out with a thumb injury, and Ugas weighed a career-high 158 ½ pounds for his last fight in June, a four-knockdown, second-round TKO of 164 ½ pound Jonathan Batista on the undercard of Spence’s first-round knockout of previously unbeaten Carlos Ocampo.

“Ugas throws a mean overhand right and a nice throw an uppercut, punches that usually don’t come from the outside,” said Porter. “He uses a really tight shell defense, but I can use my boxing abilities, continue to turn him and make him use up energy.”

Porter made one defense of the crown he won from Alexander, a two-knockdown, fourth-round stoppage of Malignaggi in April 2014 before losing to Kell Brook by majority decision that August.

Porter is 5-1 with two knockouts since Brook, his lone blemish being to Thurman. His run includes rising from a 12th-round knockdown to complete a unanimous decision victory over Broner in June 2015, and overcoming an injured left hand damaged in the sixth round of a unanimous decision in November 2017 over Andrian Granados before facing Garcia.

"We saw Porter come out boxing against Danny Garcia," said Malignaggi. "But against a guy like Ugas, who is a natural boxer, I think we're gonna see the old-style Porter come back, and that's a guy who is going to be a bit more physical. In that way, he can try to throw off the timing dynamic that Ugas has."

Ugas claimed amateur victories over current and past champions Terence Crawford, Darlys Perez, Francisco Vargas, Khabib Allakverdiev, Jose Pedraza, Julius Indongo and Sadam Ali. He has four knockouts in his past eight consecutive wins while competing from 140-to-158 ½ pounds, last suffering consecutive unanimous decision losses to then-unbeatens Emanuel Robles and Amir Imam in 140-pound bouts in February and May 2014.

“I’m an Olympic medalist and amateur champion. I’m going to show why that matters and that I’m not a nobody,” said Ugas, who weighed a career-high 158 ½ pounds for his four-knockdown, second-round TKO of 164 ½ pound Jonathan Batista on the June undercard of a first-round stoppage by Spence of previously unbeaten Carlos Ocampo.

“I’m glad the WBC gave me Porter It’s a really good matchup for my style, one of the best I could get and a very good opportunity. Our styles are made for each other. You’re going to see two warriors giving it their all,”Porter’s a great champion who has never been in a boring fight, and many of my fights are also pure action.”

Malignaggi agrees, giving the edge to Porter.

"I see this coming down to a late-round stoppage or a unanimous decision for Porter,” said Malignaggi.

"While I think Ugas has some great skills, I think Porter's physical style will be the difference in the fight.”