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Manny Pacquiao’s age (42), a late change of opponents and the public’s relative unfamiliarity with new foe Yordenis Ugas presents a number of questions going into their pay-per-view fight on Saturday in Las Vegas.
Of course, many are disappointed that Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39 KOs) won’t be facing original opponent Errol Spence Jr., who had to pull out with an eye injury.
However, Ugas, the WBA welterweight titleholder, presents his own challenges for Pacquiao. The matchup isn’t as monumental as Pacquiao vs. Spence but it’s intriguing.
Here are five questions – and answers – going into the fight.
Will Pacquiao’s age play a role in the fight?
Manny Pacquiao will turn 43 in December. AP Photo / John Locher
Maybe. Sometimes an older fighter who has performed at a high level suddenly shows his age. Pacquaio has shown only subtle signs of decline. For example, he can’t throw as many punches as he once did; he must pace himself. That hasn’t held him back to a significant degree. He did enough in spurts to upset then-unbeaten Keith Thurman by a split decision and win the WBA 147-pound title in his most-recent fight, in July 2019. Then there’s the question of the two-year layoff. That’s a long period between fights even if you spend a lot time in the gym. There are no guarantees that Pacquiao will be able to pick up against Ugas where he left off against Thurman, especially at 42 years old.
How is Pacquiao able to fight at an elite level at 42?
Pacquiao continues to put in the work. Ryan Hafey / Premier Boxing Champions
Hard work. Pacquiao is blessed to have retained his aforementioned speed and reflexes, at least to a large degree. That is the result of good genes and hard work, for which he might not get enough credit. He loves being in the gym. Plus, he’s a physically active person in general in spite of his busy scheduled as an athlete, family man and politician in the Philippines. He reportedly plays basketball almost every day. And even if he has lost something on his fastball, his in-and-out, punch-from-all-angles style still confounds opponents. Add to that his ring acumen, which has been honed for a quarter of a century, and you get a fighter who can still compete at the highest level into his 40s.
Is Ugas a legitimate threat to Pacquiao?
Yordenis Ugas (right) has been highly successful as both an amateur and a pro.
Absolutely. Ugas doesn’t pose the same threat as Errol Spence Jr., who is one of the top fighters in the world pound for pound. However, Ugas, weened in the Cuban system, was an accomplished amateur who has made a successful transition into the professional ranks. He can box, he’s a good athlete, he’s durable and he’s experienced. He has victories over Jamal James, Thomas Dulorme and Abel Ramos but his loss to the highly respected Shawn Porter in 2019 might’ve been his best performance. Many believe he deserved to have his hand raised in that fight. Make no mistake: Ugas is an elite fighter. He is capable of defeating Manny Pacquiao, perhaps ending his career.
Will it be difficult for Pacquiao to adjust to a new opponent?
Pacquiao has fought 19 consecutive righthanders, including Keith Thurman. AP Photo / John Locher
No. Pacquiao had been scheduled to face Spence, who fights from a southpaw stance. Thus, he was preparing for a lefthander throughout training camp. He then had to adjust on 11 days notice to an opponent who fights from an orthodox stance, Ugas. No problem. Pacquiao, a southpaw himself, hadn’t faced a lefthander since David Diaz in 2008. That means his last 19 opponents were righthanders. A veteran like Pacquiao will have had no problem whatsoever making the adjustment. What about a difference in styles? Same thing applies. Pacquiao has seen it all in 71 professional fights. A week and a half is enough time for him to switch gears.
Could this be Pacquiao’s last fight?
Pacquiao has said his fight against Ugas might be his last. AP Photo / John Locher
Possibly. Of course, many accomplished fighters say a particular fight will be – or could be – their last. They might be serious or they might be trying to sell the fight. I think Pacquiao is serious when he says this could be his swan song. He’ll be 43 in December. The time is coming. He’s a busy man. The sitting senator reportedly is set to make a run at the presidency of the Philippines. Clearly, he won’t be fighting much longer. At the same time, if he demonstrates on Saturday that he can still fight, it will be difficult for him to walk away. And, naturally, money is another factor. How can he pass up the millions of dollars that remain on the table? If he wins Saturday, don’t be surprised if he fights Spence early next year. [listicle id=22412]