Sports

Yordenis Ugas’ win exactly what PBC needed to shake up welterweight division

Sometimes the best thing for a narrative is a little disruption.

On Saturday night in Las Vegas, one could argue that Yordenis Ugas didn’t just play a spoiler role. He provided an intervention.

Had the odds played out accordingly and Manny Pacquiao had beaten Ugas to regain the WBA “super” welterweight title, it would have placed the stable of 147-pounders fighting under the Premier Boxing Champions into a real predicament.

While Al Haymon has been successful siphoning off his well-promoted group of welterweights to other companies (such as Top Rank and Terence Crawford), it was clear that a gulf had formed between Errol Spence Jr. and the rest of his counterparts. But when Ugas stepped in to face Pacquiao after Spence pulled out with an eye injury and proceeded to beat Pacquiao in a resounding unanimous decision, it sparked newfound intrigue in a division with many familiar players.

What Ugas did was give PBC’s welterweight division a much-needed reset and create a slew of potentially intriguing matchups as Spence’s future remains unknown. Ugas went from a well-known commodity among boxing die-hards to a bona fide champion with his win over Pacquiao.

“I told you I am the champion of the WBA, and I showed it tonight,” Ugas said in his postfight interview.

Ugas (27-4, 12 KOs) certainly accomplished that in front of a crowd that was mostly there to see Pacquiao win in his 72nd and potentially final professional bout. Ugas used an imposing double jab and a big advantage in size, reach and youth to outpoint one of boxing’s most legendary fighters.

Since Haymon and the PBC have attempted to put a stranglehold on the division in which Haymon resembles an overzealous crossing guard trying to cross the street, the promotional outfit’s welterweights have blossomed into stars. Spence, Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia all became significant draws who demanded big paydays and created some legitimate intrigue as to who was the best among the group.

But eventually the aforementioned separation occurred. Spence ran through opponents to stay undefeated. Others traded wins and losses. And over time, it was clear that Spence and Crawford were in a class of their own in the division, with the cold war between them the most fascinating part of it all.

When the Spence-Pacquiao fight was announced, it felt similar to Pacquiao’s fight against Oscar De La Hoya in 2008. Pacquiao demolished De La Hoya and used it as a slingshot to become one of the biggest names in sports. Spence’s opportunity to do the same immediately came to a stop when he suffered a right eye injury that required emergency surgery and forced him to pull out of a megafight he has wanted for years.

Had Spence fought and won, the options for him and the PBC at welterweight would have been limited. But with Ugas, a good yet flawed fighter, Haymon can essentially start from scratch with Spence’s future unknown. For example, if Porter and Crawford fulfill the WBO’s mandate for a fight, no matter what happens Ugas can potentially face Porter in a rematch of their 2019 fight, which Porter won.

Crawford is also the major wild card in this situation. His deal with Top Rank is set to expire by the end of this year. If he joins PBC and gets the quality fights he’s lacked while being on the Top Rank roster, he could also be positioned to create a new round-robin of PBC’s fighters. Any combination of these scenarios could allow the PBC to continue its reign at 147 pounds for a little while longer.

Also of note, the two biggest up-and-coming fighters aren’t in PBC’s stable. Undefeated 23-year-old Vergil Ortiz, who has won all 18 fights by knockout, is signed to Golden Boy Promotions. Jaron “Boots” Ennis (27-0, 25 KOs) is signed to D&D Boxing.

Eventually, PBC’s welterweights will have to reckon with Ortiz and Ennis for as long as they’re making the weight limit. But after Ugas’ win, things on the PBC side of the street are shaping up to be as entertaining as they’ve been in years.

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