LAS VEGAS – Mario Barrios became a two-weight title-holder Saturday night at the expense of a former welterweight champion who again bravely battled through severe swelling surrounding his right eye.
San Antonio’s Barrios dropped Yordenis Ugas with a jab late in the second round and again with a counter left hook early in the 12th round to secure his unanimous-decision victory in their fight for the vacant WBC welterweight title. Judges Tim Cheatham (117-108), Chris Flores (118-107) and Steve Weisfeld (118-107) all scored Barrios the winner of their Showtime Pay-Per-View bout on the Canelo Alvarez-Jermell Charlo undercard at T-Mobile Arena.
Barrios (28-2, 18 KOs) could become the WBC’s full welterweight champion if undefeated, undisputed 147-pound champion Terence Crawford decides to give up his WBC belt to compete in the 154-pound division in his next fight. Ugas (27-6, 12 KOs) entered the ring as a 2-1 favorite over the 28-year-old Barrios, a former WBA secondary 140-pound champ, but the Cuban-born boxer lost a second straight fight.
The 37-year-old Ugas fought for the first time in 17 months. Before he battled Barrios, the former WBA welterweight champion hadn’t boxed since Errol Spence Jr. stopped him in the 10th round of their welterweight title unification fight in April 2022 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Ugas suffered a fractured right orbital bone during his loss to Spence. The area around Ugas’ right eye began to swell by the halfway point of his return to the ring Saturday night.
A ringside doctor examined that damage before the 10th, 11th and 12th rounds, but he allowed Ugas to continue each time. The gutsy Ugas seemingly couldn’t see out of his right eye in those rounds, but he was able to make it to the final bell.
A left hook by Barrios dropped Ugas for the second time in their bout, this time about 30 seconds into the 12th and final round. Referee Thomas Taylor took a point away from Ugas later in the 12th round for repeatedly losing his mouthpiece.
Ugas landed several right hands thereafter, but it wasn’t enough to beat Barrios.
Barrios and Ugas traded right hands almost 50 seconds into the 11th round. A ringside doctor looked at the damage around Ugas’ prior to the start of a second straight round, the 11th, yet he again allowed Ugas to keep fighting.
Ugas connected with a right hand that forced Barrios to move away from him with just under a minute to go in 10th round. He didn’t throw a lot of punches during that round, however, which allowed Barrios to have some success.
A ringside physician closely examined Ugas’ right eye before the 10th round began, but he allowed the action to continue. Ugas was wary of Barrios’ jab during the ninth round, perhaps because he was having trouble seeing out of his right eye.
A right uppercut by Barrios backed up Ugas 35 seconds into the eighth round.
Ugas connected with a left and then a right several seconds before the seventh round ended. A hard right by Ugas landed cleanly with just over a minute remaining in the seventh round.
Ugas nailed Barrios with a right hand to the side of his head a few seconds before the bell sounded to end the sixth round. A short right by Ugas landed with just under 40 seconds on the clock in the sixth round.
Barrios hit Ugas with a right hand that knocked Ugas backward barely 10 seconds into the sixth round.
Ugas snuck in another right hand to the side of Barrios’ head a couple seconds before the fifth round concluded. A right by Ugas landed in an exchange with just over 40 seconds remaining in the fifth round.
Ugas drilled Barrios with a right hand that forced Barrios to retreat with just under 40 seconds to go in the fourth round. Ugas caught Barrios with a right hand after Barrios mostly missed with a flurry of punches with just under 1:40 on the clock in the fourth round.
After suffering a knockdown late in the second round, Ugas fought with purpose in the third round, when he continually out-landed Barrios and kept him on his back foot. Ugas landed a right hand that made Barrios move away from him just after the halfway point of the third round.
After a first round that lacked action, Barrios landed a quick power jab that caught Ugas off guard and sent him to the canvas several seconds before the second round ended. Ugas beat Taylor’s count and the round ended before the action could resume.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.