By: Hans Themistode
Errol Spence Jr. knew he was already a star. The jam-packed arenas, the hundreds of thousands in Pay-Per-View buys and the countless fans who recognize him and ask for his autograph, even as he wears a mask, told him so.
Stardom for Spence Jr. was already recognized years ago but he knew there was one more level he had to climb.
Normally stone-faced, the Dallas native cracked a smile as it was revealed that he would be taking on future first ballot Hall of Famer, Manny Pacquiao on August 21st, at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. The unified welterweight champion believed that a win wouldn’t simply represent the biggest of his career. No, there was something far more meaningful behind it.
“Floyd [Mayweather] didn’t pass the torch,” said Spence Jr. to Premier Boxing Champions during an interview. “It’ll be Pacquiao passing the torch. I’m becoming a Pay-Per-View star. I’m becoming that guy in the sport that is going to lead the sport.”
While Spence Jr. knew that beating Pacquiao would lift his career to new heights, so did both the media and boxing fans. His placement on the pound-for-pound list likely would’ve risen and so would his popularity. We could see the headlines from here:
“Errol Spence Jr. Retires Manny Pacquiao”
“Errol Spence Jr. Is The Next Big Thing”
“Errol Spence Jr. Has Officially Become A Star”
But while those headlines were being crafted, none have reared its head for Yordenis Ugas.
Once Spence Jr. was forced to withdraw from his showdown against Pacquiao due to a torn/detached retina, the Cuban native was given the call. Already in the midst of his own training camp, as he was scheduled to make an appearance on the card, Ugas took his moment in the sun without hesitation.
Even with the WBA welterweight title draped over his shoulder, a hot streak of 11 wins in 12 fights, and seemingly all of the determination in the world, most laughed when Ugas claimed he was going to “shock the world.” Many wondered whether or not Pacquiao would stick around to face Spence Jr. after he easily got rid of Ugas or would he hang up his gloves for good?
Before the opening bell rang, women in attendance began picking up their purses in an attempt to beat the rush out the door, while men didn’t even bother to purchase beer. What was the point? The match was going to be over before the first sip was taken.
But as the 35-year-old fought a competitive first round, an even second and clearly won the third, fans began getting comfortable in their seats.
Ugas not only lasted longer than many were expecting, but he was winning as well. The hands of Pacquiao still appeared fast. And judging by the reaction of Ugas, the power was still there as well. Yet, it never mattered how many times Pacquiao threw an eye-catching combination, Ugas had an answer for everything.
By the end of the 12th round, we all knew who won. Ugas was merely hoping that the judges knew it as well. Luckily for him, they did. Once his name was called and his hand was raised in the air, the boos began raining in.
Unaffected by their response, Ugas grabbed his WBA title and began repeating, “I’m the champion of the WBA, I’m the champion of the WBA.” Putting to bed the notion that he was some paper champion due to him originally being elevated to full titleholder several months ago.
With the win officially plastered to his resume, Ugas hasn’t received the customary “star” treatment that comes with defeating someone the caliber of Pacquiao.
When Timothy Bradley defeated Pacquiao via controversial split decision in 2012, most may have been incredulous to the results but there were others who believed Bradley solidified his placement as a future Hall of Famer. Jeff Horn would have a similar result, picking up a unanimous decision victory against Pacquiao in 2017. His stardom exploded and he fought in several high-profile fights against the likes of Terence Crawford and Tim Tszyu, losing both by knockout.
Regardless of the result, in some circles, Horn is considered a legend, mostly due to his “win” against Pacquiao. While Ugas may have elevated his status in the mind of many, he’ll be an overwhelming underdog against both Spence Jr. and Crawford should he take them on. Even against the likes of up and comers with a ton of potential in Vergil Ortiz Jr. and Jaron “Boots” Ennis, Ugas is still likely to be the underdog.
As the WBA titleholder continues to receive his pats on the back, becoming a Pay-Per-View star or a pound-for-pound stalwart doesn’t appear likely. At least, not to you.
Ugas won’t ask that you believe in him or sound the alarms for his coronation. While he’s perfectly fine working in the shadows and proving everyone wrong, his normally dim room is now lit with the torch Pacquiao reluctantly handed to him.
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