By Robert Brizel
Sometimes a boxer can achieve a moral and personal victory in the eye of the general public and the boxing world symbolically, even in the graceful humility of defeat. Yordenis Ugas achieved something special in losing in the tenth round of his welterweight titular unification bout with Errol Spence Jr.
At age 35, Ugas, 27-5 with 12 knockouts, Miami, Florida by way of Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, remains ranked as the fourth best welterweight boxer in the world on BoxRec, only two places behind Spence even in defeat. That’s pretty good. Ugas, who has held the WBA regular and super world welterweight titles, is still up there.
For one, nobody figured Ugas, a late substitute for the then left eye injured Spence, could beat and retire the legendary Manny Pacquiao in Las Vegas, Nevada, at T-Mobile Arena in August 2021. Ugas did win, however, setting up the titular unification match with Spence for all of the world title belts out there (except for Terence Crawford’s WBO belt).
A 2008 Beijing Olympic Games Bronze medalist, Ugas seems an unlikely candidate to become a world champion, but eventually, he did just that. If Spence versus Crawford does not come to pass, for financial, contractual disputes, or otherwise, Ugas, who has lost a split close split decision to Shawn Porter, might just get Crawford next if he can put together a win or two.
Ugas is currently hospitalized John Peter Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas, with a fractured right orbital bone in his right eye, which was swollen shut against Spence but hopefully will eventually heal. According to Ugas on Instagram, “I have a fracture in my eye, and in the next few days, the doctors will say how they will treat it. I spent all morning in the hospital, and I write these words with only one eye (my left eye).The other one (my right eye) is still closed.”
Ugas was compromised by a left uppercut in Round seven which did the right orbital damage, and his right eye instantly swelled. Fighting on heart and courage alone, Ugas fought on for three more rounds before the ringside doctor, observing Ugas could not see out of his right eye, which was swollen shut, advised the referee to stop the bout during Round 10. “The referee stopped the fight but I wanted to keep going to the end,” Ugas said through an interpreter. Indeed, Ugas had Spence in serious trouble in the sixth round, but was unable to capitalize on the moment.
Losing the main event at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Virginia, on Saturday, April 16, 2022 was small in comparison to the heart and courage Ugas showed. It depends on what situation the eye was in. Ugas wanted to continue, but he was down six points on two scorecards, and five points on the third scorecard, and the tenth round was lost. Ugas was not quite Carmen Basilio fighting Sugar Ray Robinson, as Basilio was able to finish his bout. Ugas needed a knockout to win at the point of the stoppage, and there was nothing to prove.
Courage, determination and heart Ugas has. Few can match the talent of Spence and Crawford, so it is only natural those two will eventually fight each other for the dollars and sense. Ugas has nothing to prove, but proved it anyway. Ugas quite a big heart with a red badge of courage. To find victory in defeat is art. Ugas will be back with a vengeance before the end of the year.