Yordenis Ugas thought for multiple months earlier this year that he would fight Keith Thurman next.
The WBC ordered a bout between Ugas and Mario Barrios in mid-March for its interim welterweight title. His handlers later assured Ugas, though, that he would meet Thurman in what would’ve been a pairing of former 147-pound champions.
Ugas ultimately was scheduled to box Barrios next. Their 12-round fight for the WBC interim championship will air as part of Showtime Pay-Per-View’s undercard before the Canelo Alvarez-Jermell Charlo bout September 30 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas ($84.99; 8 p.m. EDT; 5 p.m. PDT).
The Cuban-born, Las Vegas-based Ugas never received a straight answer as to why his fight with Thurman fell apart.
“I was training to fight Thurman,” Ugas told BoxingScene.com through a translator. “I was practically sure that was gonna happen. I have no idea why that fight got undone. But I’m here and I’m ready for this next challenge, and it’s gonna be a great one.”
The 37-year-old Ugas hasn’t boxed since Errol Spence Jr. beat him by 10th-round technical knockout in their welterweight title unification fight in April 2022 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The damage Ugas suffered around his right eye led to his TKO loss to Spence (28-1, 22 KOs), who took the WBA 147-pound championship from Ugas (27-5, 12 KOs) that he won when he upset Manny Pacquiao by unanimous decision in August 2021 at T-Mobile Arena.
Thurman (30-1, 22 KOs, 1 NC), who doesn’t have a fight scheduled, hasn’t fought since he beat Barrios by unanimous decision in their 12-round welterweight bout 19 months ago at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino’s Michelob ULTRA Arena in Las Vegas. The 34-year-old former WBA and WBC 147-pound champ from Clearwater, Florida has competed just three times in the 6½ years since he defeated Philadelphia’s Danny Garcia by split decision in their 12-round, 147-pound title unification fight at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Ugas acknowledged that he would’ve preferred to face the fighter who beat Barrios (27-2, 18 KOs), but Barrios stopped Puerto Rico’s Jovanie Santiago (14-3-1, 10 KOs) in the eighth round of his last fight February 11 at Alamodome in Barrios’ hometown of San Antonio.
“I wanted Thurman,” Ugas said. “I don’t know what happened to Thurman, but Barrios is a great fighter. I’m happy to fight with Barrios. … Barrios is strong. He’s a great fighter. He’s a former world champion.”
Ugas is listed by most sportsbooks as approximately a 4-1 favorite to beat Barrios, who lost the WBA’s secondary 140-pound to Gervonta Davis by 11th-round TKO in June 2021 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.