It was a dream enjoyed by Yordenis Ugas from his first memories as a child amateur boxer in his native Cuba and the reason he gave the sport another try after walking away from good in 2014.
Now four years and fourteen fights into his comeback tour, the 34-year old boxer has emerged as among the welterweight elite.
That moment was realized well before his latest performance, although his seemingly clear-cut win over Abel Ramos sent a reminder of the problems Ugas poses when at his physical peak. The three ringside judges did their best to soil the moment, with the 2008 Olympic Bronze medalist and former title challenger forced to sweat out a split decision in order to have his hand raised on Sunday evening live in primetime on Fox.
Still, it was a moment he will savor as it results in his bringing him a secondary version of the welterweight title.
“I set a goal when I was a child back in Cuba to become a world champion and I accomplished that goal tonight," said Ugas (26-2, 12KOs), who won the World Boxing Association (WBA) “Regular” welterweight title following Sunday’s win in Los Angeles. “I'm so grateful to everyone who helped me along the way.
“Ramos was a very tough opponent and I knew it was not going to be easy, but I wasn't going to let this opportunity slip away.”
Ugas was thought to have been done for good after walking away from the sport following back-to-back losses in 2014. Management issues and few in his corner looking out for his best interests prompted the Cuban export—who relocated to Miami prior to turning pro—to put on hold his championship dreams and boxing career as a whole.
Armed with a new team including renowned trainer Ismael Salas, Ugas returned in 2016, tearing through nearly every welterweight prospect and mid-level contender that the Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) circuit had to offer.
Ten straight wins came of the triumphant ring return, leading to his first career title fight. It would end in heartache, as Ugas dropped a debatable 12-round decision to then-WBC titlist Shawn Porter last March before regrouping to have now scored three straight victories.
An extensive training camp even during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic preceded Ugas’ latest ring opportunity. Neither a global health crisis nor the questionable scoring of Dr. Lou Moret (who had Ramos winning Sunday’s contest 117-111) could deny what has for years worked so hard to ultimately achieve.
Simply winning a belt—a secondary version of the title, no less—is hardly the end game, however. The welterweight division is stacked with some of the best talent in the sport, including a trio of pound-for-pound entrants in unified titlist Errol Spence (26-0, 21KOs), legendary eight-division and reigning titleholder Manny Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39KOs) and three-division champ Terence Crawford (36-0, 27KOs). Just below them resides Ugas’s old friend Porter (31-3-1, 17KOs), along with former champs Keith Thurman (29-1, 22KOs) and Danny Garcia (36-2, 21KOs).
The likely next step—barring COVID-related travel restrictions—will be a WBA-ordered mandatory title defense versus Radzhab Butaev. Beyond that, any of the aforementioned welterweight players will do just fine.
“I came into this fight in the best shape of my life and it showed,” insists Ugas. “Now that I'm a world champion, I want all the big names in the welterweight division.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox