Coming into the week, Errol Spence was about a 5-to-1 favorite over Yordenis Ugas. They clash this Saturday night at AT@T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, with three belts on the line. Despite the odds, this is still an appealing match-up pitting Ring Magazine's second ranked welterweight in Spence (who comes in with the WBC and IBF titles) and Ugas who is rated third(and has the WBA belt).
(For the record, Ring's number one boxer at 147 is Terence Crawford, which I'm sure has certain content creators on YouTube coming up with more conspiracy theories than Oliver Stone)
There's good reason why Spence is the prohibitive favorite, here. He's long been considered among the elite in the sport, and on this particular weekend he gets to perform in his home region in Texas. The most cynical observers will tell you that he's already up 30-27 on the scorecards.
But Ugas should not be counted out. In fact, if you were a betting man, given the odds, the Cuban may be the best value on the board. We're not necessarily calling for the upset special here, but here's the case for Ugas in this fight...
- Ugas is solid. First and foremost, you have to have a guy that is good enough in there. Well, Ugas certainly fits the bill. After a rough start to his career(where he was released early on by Top Rank), starting in 2016 he has gone 12-1 in subsequent fights. And that one blemish is a highly controversial decision loss to Shawn Porter in 2019. (For the record, I had Ugas winning that fight 116-112 at 'the War Grounds' in Carson).
He's a good enough puncher from his orthodox stance, but what he's best known for are his sound boxing skills. Ugas has an educated left hand, and a good set of legs which allow him to glide around the ring. Like most Cuban prizefighters, he possesses a high boxing IQ.
Ryan Hafey/ PBC
- The Pacquiao victory. While facing Spence in Arlington/Dallas is certainly a daunting task, a guy who was able to face a legend like Manny Pacquiao on short notice, and perform the way he did, wont be overwhelmed by the surroundings this weekend. Yeah, you could argue that he's facing a much younger and fresher fighter this time around, but the point is that Ugas has big-fight experience coming into this bout.
If he was going to freeze, or get star-struck, it would've been last August.
- Ismael Salas. To me the mark of an elite trainer is one that can not just consistently win fights, but every once in awhile pull of an upset. Salas does that on the regular. He doesn't always get the accolades of some of his peers, but he is a highly respected figure in the sport. Generally his boxers are well-schooled and come in very well prepared technically and strategically.
There are a handful of trainers that when they are in a particular corner, you say to yourself, 'OK, that fighter has a chance to win." Well, Salas is one of those guys.
- Spence's inactivity. Consider this, since defeating Shawn Porter back in September of 2019, he has performed just once. After a horrific automobile accident shortly after that fight, he returned in December of 2020 where he decisioned Danny Garcia. Then as he was set to face Manny Pacquiao last summer, he was diagnosed with a detached retina.
The reality is that we really have no idea what version of Spence currently exists. There is a chance he may have died on the vine. Not only has the 32-year old been inactive, but he's also gone through some major physical trauma in recent years. Looking at training footage, Spence's exterior certainly looks pristine but who knows how his body will react once he has to actually get down to 147 pounds, and he starts to get hit.
This pay-per-view card is being distributed by Showtime, and it features Cody Crawley-Josesito Lopez, Isaac Cruz-Yuriorkis Gamboa and Jose Valenzuela-Francisco Vargas. Look for the younger guys to have their way with the aged veterans in these contests.
What's interesting is that the preview card on Showtime (which begins at 7 pm, ET/4 pm, PT) actually has two very compelling match-ups that I'm anticipating more.
Junior welterweight prospect, Brandun Lee, will face Zachary Ochoa in a scheduled 10 rounder. Lee, who scored a series of highlight reel KO's on ShoBox, got some much needed quality rounds back in December versus Juan Heraldez, who went seven rounds.
Then in what should be an absolute barn barner, Radzhab Butaev clashes with Eimantas Stanionis for a version of the WBA title. Both of these guys are rugged, hard-nosed bangers, who don't like to back up. This figures to be a truly violent affair. Butaev-Stanionis would actually be one of the better pay-per-view undercard fights of recent years, if it were on that portion of the card.
DAZN has a card from the UK on Saturday that is headlined rising welterweight, Conor Benn, who is paired with veteran Chris Van Heerden....Also on this bill is Alycia Baumgardner....Thompson Boxing has a card on Friday night in Ontario, CA, that features featherweight Ruben Villa.....So what will ultimately be the fallout for boxing as it relates to the sanctions on Daniel Kinahan by the US government?....I can't lie, I was about to give up on 'Billions' at the beginning of this past season, but it rebounded well....I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org....