Updated August 17, 2021 - 8:52 pm
The usual fanfare and hoopla was missing, but the major fight feel was there as Manny Pacquiao and Yordenis Ugas made their grand arrivals for their welterweight title fight.
About 50 fans crowded around barriers set up outside the arena at Toshiba Plaza to see the fighters kick off fight week. The fight will headline a Fox pay-per-view card Saturday at T-Mobile Arena.
It’s the first fight at the arena since the pandemic. But with COVID-19 still surging in Las Vegas, the grand arrivals were held outside instead of inside a crowded MGM Grand as usual.
Ugas entered first, flanked by his trainer, Ismael Salas, and answered questions from the media.
“This is going to be a great fight between me and Manny Pacquiao,” he said through a translator. “I’m so honored to be fighting a legend, someone like Manny Pacquiao who has done so much. When I got the call, it was wonderful for me to have this opportunity, and now I am really looking forward to stepping inside the ring.”
Pacquiao followed, with the sparse crowd much more interested in his arrival. As he has for so much of Pacquiao’s career, Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach trailed just behind him. The fighters met face-to-face before Ugas departed and Pacquiao spoke.
“This is kind of a challenge and a good fight,” he said. “I know both of us, we’ve prepared for this fight. It’s going to be a good fight, and I would like to invite all the fans all over the world, especially the Filipino people, to watch this fight.”
Two weeks ago, Pacquiao was scheduled to face unbeaten Errol Spence Jr. in a fight that many fans had circled as one of the year’s best. But a prefight medical screening revealed that Spence had a torn retina, forcing him to withdraw.
In stepped Ugas (26-4, 12 knockouts), a Cuban who trains at Salas Boxing Academy in Las Vegas. The 35-year-old was scheduled to appear in the night’s co-feature, so he was already training.
Ugas isn’t a pushover — he’s the 147-pound titleholder. It’s without a doubt a career-defining opportunity for Ugas, a tricky technician whom many thought beat former titlist Shawn Porter in their 2019 title fight.
But Ugas suddenly will be thrust into the spotlight against Pacquiao, one of the greatest fighters of all time. The Filipino, 42, has not fought since July 2019, when he defeated then-undefeated Keith Thurman at the MGM Grand.
Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39 KOs) is boxing’s only eight-division champion and has been fighting as a professional for more than 26 years. After a disputed decision loss to Jeff Horn in 2017, Pacquiao has won three straight fights.
The fighters will meet again Wednesday at the final news conference, then Friday for the weigh-ins. Both events will be at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.