Errol Spence and Yordenis Ugas are moving closer towards presenting the welterweight division with its first three-belt titlist in nearly seven years.
The pair of reigning titlists have both confirmed that plans are being finalized for the WBA/WBC/IBF welterweight title unification fight, very likely to take place this coming spring. Ugas (27-4, 12KOs) will defend his WBA “Super” title for the second time, while Spence risks his WBC and IBF belts in the forthcoming fight.
“We are targeting March or April for the fight,” Ugas told Fox Sports’ Ray Flores while in attendance for a Pay-Per-View event at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida. “It’s a fight for three titles. It’s a fight that we want and are targeting the springtime.”
His division rival had a more specific timeframe for the bout.
“The fight’s in April,” Spence confirmed in an Instagram Live video with actor/comedian Desi Banks. “Man down, strap season. He already know what time it is.”
Plans for the fight have been in place since last September, though on hold due to a previously unresolved matter between Ugas and the WBA. A four-man box-off was ordered by the sanctioning body that would have required Ugas to defend versus mandatory challenger Eimantas Stanionis (13-0, 9KOs; 1ND), with the winner to face WBA “World” welterweight titleholder Radzhab Butaev (14-0, 11KOs; 1NC) following the unbeaten Russian’s ninth-round knockout of Jamal James to win the secondary belt last October 30 at Michelob ULTRA Arena in Las Vegas.
Ugas and Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) feverishly pushed for the WBA to reconsider matters, as a fight with Spence (27-0, 21KOs) is far more relevant for the sport than a routing title defense versus the unbeaten but still unproven Stanionis. Efforts made by the WBA to play peacemaker initially proved futile, as Stanionis—through manager Shelly Finkel and promoter Richard Schaefer—previously declined to step aside to allow Ugas-Spence.
The matter threatened to go to a December 9 purse bid hearing, only for the session to be canceled at the eleventh hour as an undisclosed deal was reached. Stanionis subsequently agreed to permit Ugas to proceed with the Spence fight, as he will now face Butaev with the winner promised first crack at the three-belt unified titlist, barring a draw or no-contest in either fight.
Ugas claimed the WBA “World” title in a twelve-round win over Abel Ramos in September 2020. The Miami-based Cuban received an upgrade to WBA “Super” titlist last January after Manny Pacquiao (62-8-2, 39KOs) was downgraded to “Champion in Recess” after failing to update the sanctioning body of his upcoming plans.
The two wound up meeting by chance in August, with Ugas replacing an injured Spence on just eleven days’ notice. Ugas outpointed Pacquiao in what was regarded as an upset, solidifying his place among the best welterweights in the world. Pacquiao subsequently retired, as the now 43-year-old southpaw—currently a Senator in his native Philippines—is now making a presidential run in his home country’s upcoming election this May.
Spence has held the IBF belt since an eleventh-round knockout of Kell Brook in May 2017, claiming the strap on the road in Brook’s hometown of Sheffield, England. Five title defenses have followed, including his adding the WBC belt following a twelve-round, split decision victory over Shawn Porter in September 2019.
The last welterweight to hold three or more titles was Floyd Mayweather, who left the ring with the WBC/WBA “Super”/WBO titles following his twelve-round win over Pacquiao in their historic May 2015 fight. Mayweather—who was voted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in December 2020—entered the ring as the WBC/WBA “Super” champ, collecting Pacquiao’s WBO title in what remains the most lucrative event in boxing history.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox