Yordenis Ugas (right) has doubts about the ability of Manny Pacquiao to score a knockout during their duel. —AFP
True, Yordenis Ugas hasn’t yet unlocked the levels in boxing that Manny Pacquiao has blitzed through with panache. But it’s fool-hardy to write him off right away, let alone expect him to get knocked out.
Ismael Salas, the Cuban champ’s trainer, called out those who predicted a KO win for Pacquiao just because of the glaring odds against his ward.
“To fight Manny Pacquiao is an honor,” said Salas, during Wednesday’s final press conference held in one corner of the MGM Grand Arena. “To me, he is a legend. And he’s a guy who’s an inspiration to a new generation of boxers.
“But look back, he’s talking about knockout, he’s long never KO’d anyone. He’s been dropping people, but never KO for a long time.”
The last time Pacquiao brought somebody to dreamland was actually as recent as 2018 when he stopped Lucas Matthysse of Argentina in the seventh round of their title bout in Kuala Lumpur.
But the KO buzz persisted as Ugas was fielding questions about staying on his feet far more often than he did about his chances of winning their World Boxing Council welterweight super title encounter on Saturday.
“I’m 100 percent [sure] he can’t knock me out,” he told the packed room. “For all the work, for all the preparation over these past six years, I have been hitting my stride. I don’t think Manny Pacquiao can knock me out.”
That was contradictory to the way Buboy Fernandez sees things: “May tumbahan dito (there’s gonna be a knockout here).”
“This is the first time we have an opponent who doesn’t run,” said Fernandez in Filipino. “We just have to watch out for the haymakers; he (Ugas) loves to throw that. But his straights are predictable.”
Fernandez, Pacquiao’s chief trainer and best friend, feels that Pacquiao must press on right from the opening bell—a strategy the eight-division champ hardly employs.
Hitting the ground running makes sense because that’s what Pacquiao used against Keith Thurman in 2019. The erstwhile unbeaten American hit the deck in the first round and no amount of assault in the latter rounds could reverse the outcome.
But a strong opening could backfire big time especially against a younger, stronger and hungrier opponent like Ugas.
“I have come to prepare for 12 hard rounds,” said Ugas via a translator. “And if this is the final fight the legend Manny Pacquiao has, then this guy will bring his best.”
Pacquiao, then 40 years old, was almost running on fumes against Thurman, who appeared to get stronger as the fight progressed.
Shawn Porter, who once beat Ugas and sparred with Pacquiao, noted that the Cuban brings heavy doses of “high energy” atop the ring.