Former welterweight champion Yordenis Ugas sent Manny Pacquiao into retirement with a career-defining win in 2021 and leveraged the opportunity into a title-unification shot against Errol Spence Jr. in his last fight. 

Although Ugas turned in a competitive and respectable effort against Spence in April 2022, he eventually suffered a 10th-round stoppage loss due to a broken right orbital bone. 

The 37-year-old Ugas (27-5, 12 KOs) has since recovered and is ready to return after a 15-month layoff when he faces Mario Barrios (27-2, 18 KOs) in an interim WBC welterweight title fight on Sept. 30. The bout will serve as one of the three co-featured attractions on the Canelo Alvarez vs. Jermell Charlo card at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Showtime pay-per-view.

“The most important thing right now is not what people might be saying, it’s that I’m healthy and happy. I’m preparing the right way for a great fight against Barrios. I don’t care about anything else,” Ugas said during a Los Angeles press conference. 

“I thought I fought well against Errol Spence Jr. and I walked away from the fight knowing I can compete against the best. I want to prove that I’m one of the best welterweights in the world.”

The Cuban contender Ugas has been a prominent welterweight player ever since entering the division’s picture in 2016 with an upset win against then-unbeaten Jamal James. 

Wins against the likes of Ray Robinson and Thomas Dulorme helped set up Ugas with a title shot against then-champion Shawn Porter in 2019, but Ugas suffered a split decision loss in a fight that can be argued he won. 

Ugas kept himself busy with wins against Omar Figueroa Jr., Mike Dallas Jr., and Abel Ramos leading up to Pacquiao. The breakout win against the Filipino legend and spirited performance against Spence has made Ugas a -390 betting favorite to beat Barrios, according to DraftKings. 

Barrios is 1-2 in his last three fights dating back to 2021, with the losses coming against Gervonta Davis and Keith Thurman.

The 27-year-old Barrios will be fighting for just the second time as a welterweight. 

“Barrios is a strong fighter, a tough fighter … I’m motivated to face an opponent of his caliber,” said Ugas. “There’s a lot at stake in this fight, but this is what I do. I go out and fight the best. I plan to take full advantage of this opportunity.

“I promise that the fans are gonna see another exciting fight on September 30. This is another chance for me to challenge the best. Win or lose, I always push forward, and that’s what you’ll see on September 30.”

Manouk Akopyan is a sports journalist, writer, and broadcast reporter. He’s also a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and the MMA Journalists Association. He can be reached on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan, through email at manouk[dot]akopyan[at], or via