Manny Pacquiao has become accustomed to the unexpected in his record-breaking boxing career but even he is not used to a last-ditch change of opponent.
On Tuesday, boxing was hit by another high-profile fight falling through when Pacquiao’s highly-anticipated August 21 clash with Errol Spence in Las Vegas hit the rocks after it was discovered that the WBC and IBF welterweight champion had suffered a torn retina in his left eye.
Fortunately, WBA ‘Super’ champion Yordenis Ugas, previously upgraded by the under-fire sanctioning body to that status at the expense of ‘Champion in Recess’ Pacquiao, was on the undercard and able to step in. But now the great Filipino must make late adjustments to face an orthodox fighter, having prepared for six weeks for southpaw Spence.
Incredibly, it is the first time eight-division champion Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39 KOs) has ever seen a scheduled title bout postponed before a fight night. Yet the serving Filipino Senator is taking it all in his stride.
“I am a politician. I am used to dealing with changing stances,” joked Pacquiao after a three-hour workout at the celebrated Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles. “For the first 30 seconds things looked a little odd in sparring, but I adjusted quickly, and it was business as usual.
“Naturally, I am disappointed in the situation but thank God the tear in Errol’s retina was discovered before it could be damaged further. I join his family, friends, and fans and pray that he has a full and complete recovery.
“As for Ugas, I am happy that he stepped up to replace Errol Spence. Ugas is a champion with a strong Cuban boxing background. This is a big fight, and we will give the fans an exciting show. He was given my title belt earlier in the year [by the WBA] but now we get to fight for it inside the ring. That is the proper way to become a world champion.”
Trainer Freddie Roach quickly employed three southpaw sparring partners as the Pacquiao training camp changed tack and tactics for Ugas (26-4, 21 KOs).
“Training camp injuries are part of the territory in boxing, though you hate to see a severe injury like the one Errol suffered happen,” said Roach. “In the 20 years Manny and I have worked together, he has never had an injury that postponed or cancelled a fight. That is amazing and a testament to Manny’s skills and conditioning. I have had to deal with opponent changes before but never this close to a fight. We still have two more sparring sessions remaining and though I am concerned, I’m not too concerned. Manny adjusts to any situation. He looked great in sparring on Tuesday.
“I had Ugas winning his fight with Shawn Porter. Ugas goes for the kill right away. He likes to go for the home run when he throws his punches. He would rather win a fight by knockout than on points. There will be a lot of fireworks in this one. It’s a fight, that’s for sure and the fact that Manny had the world title belt he earned by beating Keith Thurman given to Ugas without any warning or due process has given Manny a big incentive to really perform on August 21. I think he’s really pissed at this guy!”
Main image: Ryan Hafey/Premier Boxing Champions.