By Keith Idec
LAS VEGAS – Yordenis Ugas got himself back into position Saturday night for another title shot.
Four months after losing a split decision to WBC welterweight champ Shawn Porter, Ugas dealt Omar Figueroa Jr. his first professional defeat in a 12-round WBC elimination match on the Manny Pacquiao-Keith Thurman undercard at MGM Grand Garden Arena. The Cuban-born Ugas (24-4, 11 KOs) defeated Figueroa (28-1-1, 19 KOs) by unanimous decision in a largely uneventful, forgettable bout.
Miami’s Ugas scored a knockdown late in the first round and won by huge margins on all three scorecards. Judges Eric Cheek, Julie Lederman and Steve Weisfeld each scored 11 of the 12 rounds for Ugas and had the same final tally (119-107).
The sharper, stronger Ugas did enough holding to have a point deducted in the fifth round by referee Russell Mora. Otherwise, Ugas landed almost all of the power punches in a fight Figueroa seemingly never had a chance to win.
Ugas nearly upset Porter in his previous fight. Porter (30-2-1, 17 KOs) beat Ugas by split decision March 9 in Carson, California, but that result generated a lot of debate on social media and elsewhere.
In Figueroa’s prior appearance, he comfortably beat John Molina Jr. (30-8, 24 KOs) by unanimous decision in a 10-rounder February 16 in Los Angeles. Unlike Ugas, Molina is past his prime.
The 29-year-old Figueroa, of Weslaco, Texas, never got into a rhythm Saturday night and seemed to have little snap on his punches. He displayed the toughness that has long been his trademark, but just didn’t do much against Ugas.
An aggressive Ugas unloaded several right hands to the side of Figueroa’s head late in the ninth round and continued building on a big lead he maintained during the 10th, 11th and 12th rounds.
Referee Russell Mora gave Figueroa time to recover with 51 seconds to go in the eighth round, after Ugas hit him low. Mora also warned Ugas for hitting Figueroa after the bell to end the eighth round.
Ugas landed a right uppercut about 1:10 into the seventh round. Ugas connected with a left-right combination very late in the seventh round as well.
With Figueroa moving toward a neutral corner, Ugas hit him with four right hands in the final 15 seconds of the sixth round. Figueroa shook his head as the bell sounded to let Ugas know he wasn’t hurt.
Mora deducted a point from Ugas for holding 22 seconds into the fifth round. He had warned Ugas for holding before taking a point away from him.
Ugas clipped Figueroa with a short left hook when there were 35 seconds to go in the fifth round.
The third round was full of holding and wrestling, but short on clean punching until the very end of it. That’s when Ugas cracked Figueroa with a left hook amid of flurry of power punches, as Figueroa was backed against the ropes.
Ugas hit Figueroa with a left uppercut and then a right uppercut just after the halfway mark of the second round. Mora warned Ugas for holding Figueroa’s arm later in the second round.
Ugas landed a looping, overhand right less than a minute into the fight. A right uppercut by Ugas landed flush less than a minute later and drew a response from the crowd.
With just over a minute to go in the first, Ugas got perfect extension on a right hand that sent an off-balance Figueroa into the ropes. Mora correctly counted it as a knockdown because the ropes held up Figueroa.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.