That was not the Manny Pacquiao we have been accustomed to know in the ring Saturday night in Las Vegas at the T-Mobile Arena. Two or three years younger, perhaps Pacquiao, the eight-division champ, regains the WBA welterweight title from 35-year old Yordenis Ugas that was lost by not meeting WBA protocols.
Unfortunately, boxing politics gave Ugas the unofficial WBA title as the 41-year old fighter went about the business of helping his people in the Philippines as Senator Manny Pacquiao. Saturday night, though, that wasn’t Manny Pacquiao who built a legacy.
Premier Boxing Champions, a promoter that owns a majority of elite welterweight champions, including Ugas and Pacquiao, also became winners as the division is wide open and the possibility of Pacquiao being out of the picture.
Ugas, instead, as it transpired, was the opponent who may have retired Pacquiao once and for all and can finally claim he owns the WBA title. Fortunately, the other champion, Errol Spence Jr. had to withdraw to and not face Pacquiao due to a torn retina.
Not that Spence, and to many, the superior champion at 147, would have lost his chance to unify some of this welterweight title picture. The Manny Pacquiao we saw would have been disposed of so much earlier if Spence was in the ring. Rather, he would have exposed Pacquiao more as that aged fighter that has to say goodbye, despite his passion to fight.
Instead, Ugas wears the WBA title and could be next in line when Spence is ready to return, or he can fight Shawn Porter, Terence Crawford, Danny Garcia, Micky Garcia, Vergel Ortiz Jr. and any of the other talented fighters that comprise the always talked about and competitive welterweights at 147.
Now, though, Yordenis Ugas, who dedicated this fight to his country and the freedom of their people, the underdog from Cuba is a talk of boxing.
Manny Pacquiao needs to end the speculation and hang up the gloves with his ambitions of becoming President of his country. There would be no shame for Pacquiao to say in the next few weeks that his passion for boxing and attempting to continue his legacy is over.
There is no shame here if Pacquiao goes out with a loss in what would be his final fight. He needs to be remembered as a boxing ambassador. Pacquiao needs to be put in the annals of the all-time greats and consider this loss as a win.
The win here was Manny Pacquiao’s legacy and attempting to continue it in a sport that is built on the young stars. Even at his age, Ugas has all the instincts of becoming that superstar with a WBA title.
Ugas is now the legitimate WBA Welterweight champion after a unanimous decision win. It was a career-defining fight and he claimed a victory for Cuba and the elite of this division will be coming for his title.
“I’m very excited but, most of all, I want to thank Manny Pacquiao for giving me this moment in the ring today,” Ugas said afterward. “I told you, I am the champion of the WBA and I showed it tonight.”
So there was Manny Pacquiao in defeat, a diplomat after 77 pro fights, facing reality about saying goodbye and moving on to the other passion of caring for his people in the Philippines
“Congratulations to Ugas and his team,” said Pacquiao. “Thank you to all of you. I want to thank all my fans and the media. For many decades, the press, media and boxing fans were always behind us, supporting us. That’s why we’re here, why we became popular and why we accomplished our dreams as a fighter.
“I am a fighter outside and inside the ring. I look forward to returning to the Philippines and helping them during this pandemic.”
At the post fight press conference, Pacquiao stood at the podium. The face showed defeat and sun glasses were draped over the eyes. He resembled and spoke like a politician. He spoke about moving on with his humanitarian efforts, an agenda to lead his country. Pacquiao also faced reality and commended the champion as he always has praised opponents that chased his titles in a two-decade career.
Reality, though, Manny Pacquiao was not going home to prepare for his next fight. Soon he will announce the inevitable about the conclusion, unless of course some promoter decides to put an overwhelming offer on the table. The skills have diminished as Ugas used his size, strength and length to keep Pacquiao guessing, slowly wearing him down.
That was enough to show that Manny Pacquiao has to face reality. He is no longer the youngster that made boxing history as the eight-division champion, an accomplishment that will be difficult to overtake because the sport has changed and Pacquiao was a different breed.
The third round was an indication of what was coming. Pacquiao hit Ugas with a short left but could not counter the power shots coming at him. Pacquiao said his legs were cramped, not uncommon for a fighter but too difficult for a legend to overcome at his age.
That was not the Manny Pacquiao who also had the counter punch and a powerful right that overwhelmed Miguel Cotto, led to two wins over Juan Manuel Marquez and Timothy Bradley Jr. and a quick first round ending that Ricky Hatton will never forget.
The Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight was a box office draw and established a pay-per-view record, long overdue, but Pacquiao, with his passion for boxing, wanted this for the fans despite the result not going his way. The debate can continue as to what fighter exceeded in popularity and if Pacquiao had not entered the fight with a torn rotator cuff there could have been a different outcome.
Pacquiao never got the rematch and Mayweather continued to fill his bank account, but the money never seemed to be an issue for Manny Pacquiao. Instead, it was the passion and a reason he left longtime Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum and jumped ship to the 147-pound rival PBC that has a hold on most of the champions.
Manny Pacquiao looked to continue to build a legacy, for his immense fan base in the Philippines and around the world.
“In my heart, I want to continue,” Pacquiao said . “But I have to consider my body.”
He needs to listen to his body. Manny Pacquiao needs to move on and continue his legacy out of the ring. Boxing was good to a youngster from the Philippines who had a mission and quest to become a legend with all the others.
Rich Mancuso: [email protected] Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso