Manny Pacquiao's next fight vs. Yordenis Ugas is filled with intrigue: Could it be legend's last?

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When Freddie Roach asks Manny Pacquiao what the plan is, he is not referring to an upcoming fight, such as the legendary boxer’s bout with Yordenis Ugas on Saturday in Las Vegas.

Roach, the veteran trainer who has worked with Pacquiao over the past 20 years, is referring to the big-picture plan: Will Pacquiao, one of 12 Senators in the Philippines, run for the presidency in the May 2022 general election?

Because running for president likely would mean Pacquiao's next fight will be the last of his career, during which he’s become boxing’s only eight-division world champion and amassed a record of 62-7-2 with 39 knockouts.

“We try to talk about it sometimes and he just smiles at me," Roach said.

Sure enough, Pacquaio flashed a smile earlier this week when asked about his plans.

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“We don’t know," he told USA TODAY Sports. “My plan today is one at a time. I’m turning 43 years old this coming December, so that’s my consideration also. But because of my being passionate for this sport, I’m still here to keep on going, to keep on fighting."

Manny Pacquiao poses for media at Wild Card Boxing Club on August 04, 2021 in Los Angeles, California ahead of his fight.
Manny Pacquiao poses for media at Wild Card Boxing Club on August 04, 2021 in Los Angeles, California ahead of his fight.

This was not the original script.

On Saturday night, Pacquiao was supposed to be fighting Errol Spence Jr., who is ranked by BoxRec as the fourth-best active pound-for-pound fighter and the best active welterweight. But Aug. 10, less than two weeks before the much-anticipated fight, Spence announced he had suffered a torn retina in his left eye and pulled out of the fight.

After undergoing surgery, Spence said, “I’ll be back in no time." But Roach said he has heard the injury is worse than reported, casting doubt on a future bout between Spence and Pacquiao and stripping Pacquiao of some incentive to continue boxing.

Unlike Pacquiao, Roach is willing to talk about the particulars. Presidents in the Philippines are limited to a single term of six years. So Pacquiao could wait until he’s 49 to run for the presidency.

But if he continues boxing, who’s left to fight? On Saturday, it’ll be a stand-in, Ugas, a 35-year-old Cuban who is 26-4 with 12 knockouts. The bout will be available on FOX PPV for $74.99.

“I’ve watched all the tape I can on this guy so far and he has a big overhand right and he’s a little bit slow of foot, but he’s aggressive," Roach said. “It’s not going to be easy by any means. But I think it’s a very winnable fight if Manny boxes the way I want him to and uses his foot speed and his hand speed.’’

Ugas doesn’t seem concerned that he’s a heavy underdog.

“I’m here to shock the world, to pull off a huge upset," he told USA TODAY earlier this week. “I don’t care what the odds are with the sports books. I’m here to win and pull off a huge victory."

Is there any reason to believe Ugas might be able to shock the world?

“I don’t think so," Pacquiao said. “I hear that language many times."

But those who think Ugas has a chance point the following evidence: In 2019, he fought Shawn Porter, the former two-time welterweight world champion. Though Ugas lost by split decision, the judges drew scrutiny.

“I thought he won that fight," Teddy Atlas, the boxing analyst, told USA TODAY Sports. “Ugas is a counterpuncher. He’s conservative and he’s patient. He’s not a relentless, pressure guy. He’s a guy who looks to take advantage in spots. But he’s a guy that can be outhustled. That’s the good news for Manny.

“The danger would be (Pacquiao) getting caught coming in with a counter. He’s a pretty good body puncher, Ugas. But I favor Manny to win this fight."

There’s another reason Atlas said he’s interested in the fight.

“Who doesn’t want to see Willie Mays in his last game?" Atlas said. “Or Mickey Mantle in his last game? Or Babe Ruth in his last game?

“Because if that’s the case, you want to say goodbye. You want to say, ‘Thank you, Manny.’ ”

But Roach is not planning a retirement party for Pacquiao.

“It could be his last fight, but I don’t think so," Roach said. “He still knows what he does best and what he does best is box."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Manny Pacquiao-Yordenis Urgas fight: Could it be legend's last?