Updated August 22, 2021 - 11:24 am
It has to end at some point. After 26 years, championships in eight weight classes and some of the most memorable fights and iconic moments in boxing history.
And after a loss to Yordenis Ugás on Saturday night, Manny Pacquiao’s legendary boxing career may finally be over.
Pacquiao (62-8-2, 39 knockouts) dropped a 116-112, 116-112, 115-113 unanimous decision to WBA welterweight champion Yordenis Ugás (27-4, 12 KOs), falling victim to the Cuban’s superior size and length at T-Mobile Arena. A capacity crowd of 17,438 packed the venue, hoping to watch Pacquiao create more mystical memories in a city that he’s captivated for the last 20 years.
But Ugás fought a better fight on 11 days notice, upending the 42-year-old Filipino senator in what could be the final fight of his career. Pacquiao was mum about his future after the loss.
“I don’t know (if I’ll continue),” said Pacquiao, who is considering a presidential run in the Philippines. “Let me rest first and relax and make a decision if I continue to fight or not.”
Pacquiao hadn’t fought in more than two years, last defeating Keith Thurman on July 20, 2019, at MGM Grand Garden Arena. But in true Pacquiao fashion, he announced last month a return to the ring against WBC and IBF welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. — a man 11 years his junior regarded as one of the five best pound-for-pound fighters on the planet.
He spent the last several weeks preparing with longtime trainer Freddie Roach at the Wild Card Boxing Club in Los Angeles, hoping to score another signature victory over Spence. But Spence tore his retina earlier this month while training, paving the way for Ugás to replace him opposite Pacquiao in the most consequential fight of his career.
The 35-year-old Olympic bronze medalist hadn’t fought an opponent of Pacquiao’s caliber. Nor had he competed before a crowd as rabid as the one inside T-Mobile Arena on Saturday night.
Yet he remained unfazed by the hysteria and executed a brilliant game plan, using his reach advantage to pick apart Pacquiao over the course of 12 rounds.
“I am very excited,” Ugás said, “but most of all I want to thank Manny Pacquiao for giving me this moment in this ring today. I am the champion of the WBA and I showed that tonight.”
Pacquiao has long possessed some of the fastest hands in boxing history, a tool he used to rip through champion after champion during the prime of his career. But Ugás prevented Pacquiao from tapping into his speed by utilizing a stiff, snapping jab to keep him at a distance. He mixed in overhand and straight rights, peppering Pacquiao’s face and body with sturdy power shots.
And though they never hurt Pacquiao, they stopped him from getting inside and kept him at bay all night long.
By the end of the fight, Ugás had connected with 151 punches compared to 130 for Pacquiao. He also landed at a more efficient clip, connecting with 37 percent compared to Pacquiao’s 16 percent.
Pacquiao was gracious in defeat, complimenting Ugas before thanking the fans for their longtime support. His legacy remains secure, even after the loss — while Ugás’ continues to blossom.
“He’s a great competitor, but I came in here to show that I am the champion of the WBA,” Ugás said. “A lot of respect for him, but I won the fight.”