Preview: Spence Jr. vs Ugas get down in Dallas, Showtime PPV Saturday
SAN DIEGO, Calif., April 20, 2022 –At the end of 12 hard rounds last August, eight-division champion Manny Pacquiao accepted the defeat dealt to him by late replacement Yordenis Ugas of Santiago de Cuba via Miami (27-4, 12 KOs). The surprising victory earned Ugas an even greater opportunity Saturday in Dallas against WBC and IBF champion Erroll Spence Jr. (27-0, 21 KOs). Can Ugas make lightning strike twice?
Spence Jr., considered by most experts to be at the top of the division with only Terence Crawford challenging his case, will be shaking off considerable ring rust since his return to the ring in December 2020 after a catastrophic car accident with a solid showing against Danny Garcia.
We don’t get Spence Jr vs Crawford, but Spence Jr vs Ugas isn’t a bad consolation prize. The pair headline a dual network boxing event on Showtime and Showtime PPV from AT&T Stadium in Dallas. Early fights air on Showtime at 7 pm ET/4 pm PT, followed by three marquee fights moving to the PPV event at 9 pm ET/6 pm PT.
Spence Jr.: ‘Just one more to go’
The 32-year-old Spence Jr. seemed invincible before his auto accident and health issues. There’s a sense Spence Jr.’s career isn’t going to extend much into the distant future. He’s not wasting time with tune-up fights. It’s possible he only fights once more if he wins Saturday in a unification bout against his longtime nemesis Bud Crawford.
“I know Ugas is coming to fight,” said Spence Jr. at this week’s final news conference. “I know his coach has a great game plan, but come Saturday night, I’m putting on a great show and another great performance. I’m looking forward to adding the WBA belt to my titles, so I have three belts. That means there’s just one more to go.
“When people say I can’t do this or I can’t do that, I prove them wrong every time. I am the same guy I was before the accident and the injury. Spence Jr. said he’s willing to go toe-to-toe, and even predicted a stoppage win.
Ugas: ‘I promise a win’
Ugas has flown under the radar until a surprisingly strong performance against Shawn Porter, a fight many observers believe he won. He won a more decisive victory against Pacquiao. Even if the eight-division veteran wasn’t at his best, Ugas won an impressive victory on short notice. He’s not afraid to bet on himself.
“I have nothing but respect for Spence. He’s a great fighter, and this is not only going to be a clash between us but also between two of the greatest trainers in the world, so you’re not going to want to miss that either,” said Ugas.
Ugas believes Spence Jr. is completely healed from any injuries. “I prepared for the best Spence possible. That’s been my mindset throughout. If he’s the big fish, I belong in that same tank because I’m willing to swim with the big fishes whenever, wherever. I have been willing to do whatever it takes to get to where I am right now. I promise you blood, sweat, and everything that I have to give for my country and for my fans.”
Spence Jr. vs Ugas fight analysis
Is Spence 100%? Only Spence knows. Not even his trainer Derrick James or sparring partners can say for sure. He looked recovered from the auto accident against Garcia, but he had to heal from the retina injury. James says Spence has worked hard in the gym.
Ugas lets the chip on his shoulder motivate him, and he loves providing people wrong. He isn’t flashy, and he’s not a star. But Ugas has exceeded expectations for years. He held his own against one of the most physical fighters in the division in Porter. It’s an ideal dress rehearsal for Spence Jr., who also had to battle Porter and wasn’t always successful.
Spence Jr. and Ugas are polished, with natural skills developed during amateur careers. They both have high ring IQs, which shores up any lack of hand or foot speed. Neither is one punch knockout artist.
Spence Jr. needs to stay busy and be the aggressor. He must take the initiative to neutralize Ugas’ counterpunching skills. When he gets on a roll, expect him to launch a body punching attack. He can slow Ugas down, and he can take control.
If Ugas can slip and counter and work at the right distance out of harm’s way as he did against Pacquiao, he can stealthily win rounds with his jab and right to the head and body. He landed 32 body punches against Pacquaio, so Spence Jr. needs to be wary of this.
Against Pacquiao, trainer Ismael Salas designed the perfect game plan for Ugas, who didn’t let the moment’s pressure rattle him. He used his size and reach and the boxing skills honed in a fine amateur and Olympic career, with the lead double jab as the key.
Prediction: Spence Jr. by decision
If we were betting hard-earned money, Ugas is a three to one underdog, according to bookmakers. Those odds are too high, and that’s a bet worth taking. But we still give the edge to Spence Jr. to hoist all three belts at the end of 12 rounds by unanimous decision. Friendly Texas judges will make it hard for Ugas to win on the cards unless he wins eight rounds or more. Scores may be close, but they’ll set up the unification fight the boxing world has been begging for against Crawford,
PPV undercard: Cruz vs. Gamboa, Valenzuela vs Vargas
The pay-per-view telecast begins at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT. It features lightweight contender Isaac “Pitbull” Cruz of Mexico City (22-2-1, 15 KOs) following up his loss to Gervonta Davis against 40-year-old former world champion Yuriorkis Gamboa of Cuba (30-4.18 KOs) in a ten-round co-main. Gamboa can’t have a lot left in the tank, and Cruz is still a rising talent who looked as good in a loss against Davis as anyone. Unless Gamboa pulls an early rabbit out of the hat, it’s Cruz’s time to shine.
It’s almost the same story for undefeated prospect José “Reyo” Valenzuela of Sinaloa (11-0, 7 KOs), now training in San Diego, who steps up to fight another former world champion, Francisco “El Bandido” Vargas of Mexico (27-3-2, 19 KOs) in a 10-round lightweight fight. Vargas has been in more ring wars than a half dozen average fighters, including two Fights of the Year against Takashi Miura and Orlando Salido. Vargas should have called it a career after losing badly to Issac Cruz. At age 37, he’s 15 years older than Reyo, who’s been put on the fast track for a reason. Don’t expect Reyo to respect his elders.
Unbeaten Cody Crowley of Canada (20-0, 9 KOs) faces veteran contender Josesito López of Riverside, California (38-8, 21 KOs) in a 10-round welterweight duel. If any veteran gatekeeper has a chance to win, it’s the surprising “Riverside Rocky,” who nearly took out Keith Thurman and never looks bad even in a loss.
Butaev vs Stanionis promises an all-action appetizer
Preceding the pay-per-view will be a regular Showtime card headlined by WBA Welterweight Champion Radzhab Butaev of Russia (14-0, 11 KOs) and top contender Eimantas Stanionis of Lithuania (13-0, 9 KOs). The show begins live at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT and also features unbeaten rising star Brandun Lee of La Quinta, California (24-0, 22 KOs), taking on Zachary Ochoa of Brooklyn (21-2, KOs) in a super lightweight bout.
Based in San Diego, California, Gayle Lynn Falkenthal is a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Follow Gayle on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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