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Manny Pacquiao doesn’t predict KO, but hints at retirement

Fighting Filipino Sen. Manny Pacquiao didn’t make any predictions Wednesday about how his bout against WBA welterweight champion Yordanis Ugas on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena would end.

With longtime trainer Freddie Roach by his side, there was no need for any pompous proclamations from the eight-division boxing champion.

“His work ethic today is as good as it was 20 years go,” Roach said. “He’s been unbelievable in training and sparring for this fight. I don’t know if it was a bigger confidence boost for me or Manny, but I’m expecting this fight to end in a knockout the way he’s been looking.”

Pacquiao was rather mum about his intentions during the promotion’s final news conference at the MGM Grand Garden. He simply said he wants to win back the WBA title that the sanctioning body stripped from him because of inactivity, the one Ugas was awarded without winning in the ring.

Decision or knockout, a win is a win for Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39 knockouts), who at age 42 is seeking a world title in a fourth decade and to break his own record by becoming the oldest welterweight champion. But Ugas is focused on retiring the man who began his professional career Jan. 22, 1995.

“I’m 100 percent certain that he cannot knock me out,” said Ugas (26-4, 12 KOs), who replaced unified welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. on 11 days notice. “I have prepared for 12 hard rounds. If this is Pacquiao’s final fight, then he’s going to be up against a guy who brought his best and who is a world-class fighter.”

A knockout would be quite the accomplishment for Pacquiao, who last fought Keith Thurman on July 20, 2019, and hinted Wednesday that his fight with Ugas could be his last. The 35-year-old Cuban Olympian turned professional in 2010 and never has been knocked out.

Ugas isn’t in Spence’s class, but poses a formidable challenge — especially on such short notice.

He’s a physical, ferocious puncher who isn’t afraid to exchange in the center of the ring. He thrives at closer ranges and won’t hesitate to pressure Pacquiao. He also utilizes an orthodox stance, and Pacquiao spent most of his training camp preparing for a southpaw in Spence.

“I’ve been fighting right-handed guys. It’s not hard for me,” said Pacquiao, seemingly unfazed by the idea of making an adjustment. “This time around, it’s good for me because I used to fight right-handers most of my career. Nothing to worry about.”

When speaking stylistically, Pacquiao presents a challenge unlike any that Ugas has experienced. He’s past his prime, but his hands and feet are still among the quickest in boxing.

Pacquiao spent the better part of his career peppering opponents with flurries and combinations, using his fleet feet to change ranges and attack from different angles. He still packs plenty of power, having knocked down Thurman in the first round.

“If there’s a chance for a knockout, then I’ll go for it because that’s what I want to give to the fans,” Pacquiao said. “I’m not underestimating Ugas, though. He has a lot of experience in boxing and fought in the Olympics.”

Contact reporter Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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