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Weekend betting angle – Pacquiao vs Ugas

IBHOF inductee and boxing gambling expert Graham Houston seeks the betting value in tonight’s WBA Super 147lbs title fight between ring legend Manny Pacquiao and reigning champion Yordenis Ugas.

It doesn’t bring the same sense of anticipation as the aborted bout between Manny Pacquiao and Errol Spence Jr, but tonight’s welterweight title fight between the Filipino living legend and Cuban Yordenis Ugas in Las Vegas is nonetheless a solid matchup.

Pacquiao, a world champion at eight weights, from 112lbs all the way up to 154, is a 1/3 (-300) favourite at Betfred and on paper he looks the likely winner. He’s much faster and simply more gifted than Ugas.

The wild card is Pacquiao’s age. At 42, Manny is an elder statesman of the ring. And he hasn’t boxed in two years. If you think Ugas can pull off the upset (perhaps with a little help from Father Time) you get a price of 13/5 (+260).

Ugas, 35, was training for a fight on the Las Vegas show, and he looked in excellent shape at Friday’s weigh-in, coming in right on the welterweight limit of 147 pounds. He’s bigger than Pacquiao, of course, although Manny has easily handled much bigger men than himself in the past (Antonio Margarito, Joshua Clottey, for instance). 

Some folks on Twitter are jumping on the idea that Ugas’ left biceps might be compromised based on weigh-in images. It’s nothing unusual, of course, for rumours and even conspiracy theories to gain traction on social media. But for sporting types who are considering a financial investment in a fight’s outcome, such rumblings can be unwelcome, even if emanating from sources with little if any medical knowledge.

Leaving aside “injury” guesses in the Twittersphere, Ugas is a fighter to be respected. He was an Olympic bronze medallist on the Cuban squad and deserves credit for turning his career around after consecutive losses to Emanuel Robles and Amir Imam seven years ago. His only defeat in the last five years was on a very close decision against Shawn Porter.

Pacquiao’s fights lately have been going the distance. Eleven of his last 12 wins have been by 12-round decision, although he has scored knockdowns in several of these bouts. If you think the trend continues, Betfred offers odds of 6/5 (+120) for Pacquiao to win by decision. Pacquiao to win by KO TKO DQ is offered at 7/4 (+175).

There might be some value in the Pacquiao KO prop. Ugas wasn’t impressive in his last fight when he won a split decision over Abel Ramos, who wobbled him with the left hook in both the third and 12th rounds. Ramos is an excellent fighter but he’s no Manny Pacquiao.

To beat Pacquiao, even an ageing Manny, one feels that Ugas is going to have to find a new level and to produce, in effect, the performance of his life.

Ugas does have good fighting qualities. He has an effective jab, he can bang a bit with the right hand and he’s shown himself to be a good body puncher. Ugas is an honest workman. But Pacquiao is a phenomenon, and the Philippines senator hardly seemed to have lost a step when he dropped and outpointed Keith Thurman in his last fight.

And this is the problem for those contemplating a wager on Ugas. Yes, Pacquiao is 42, and, yes, that’s old for a fighter, but normal standards don’t seem to apply where Manny is concerned. And the odds for a Ugas upset aren’t particularly generous. 

Pacquiao to win by decision seems the likeliest outcome. Too obvious a result, maybe? Odds on the fight going the distance are 4/7 (-175) while distance “no” is offered at 11/8 (+138). All things considered, nothing really appeals to me.

The play I do like for the weekend is Mexico’s Julio Ceja to spring the surprise against unbeaten Mark Magsayo of the Philippines. The two meet in a featherweight title eliminator on the Pacquiao vs Ugas undercard. There was some doubt as to whether Ceja vs Magsayo would be 12 or 10 rounds but it was announced as a 12-rounder at Friday’s weigh-in. I think the extra two rounds helps Ceja — always assuming there isn’t a sudden ending.

Magsayo, 26, is an exciting boxer-puncher with 22 wins in a row (15 KOs). He trains alongside Manny Pacquiao under the direction of Freddie Roach at the Wild Card gym in Los Angeles. However, Magsayo wasn’t impressive in his last fight when winning a split 10-round decision over Rigoberto Hermosillo last October, although Hermosillo’s southpaw stance might have had something to do with that. 

Hermosillo throws a lot of punches but isn’t considered a seriously hard hitter, yet he seemed to hurt Magsayo with a left to the body in the seventh round. And Chris Avalos dropped Magsayo with a left hook in their 2016 fight in the Philippines although to his credit Magsayo fought through the crisis and came on to win in the sixth round.

So, while Magsayo can fight and has a big left hook, there is some vulnerability there.

Ceja, 28, has also shown vulnerability. Hugo Ruiz knocked him out in 55 seconds and Guillermo Rigondeaux stopped him in the eighth. But I believe Ceja simply got caught cold against Ruiz, while Rigondeaux is, of course, always dangerous with the left-hand counter.

Although Ceja lost in four rounds against the Venezuelan Franklin Manzanilla in 2018 it was in some ways an unlucky defeat due to a damaged nose.

In his last fight, Ceja fought a tough 12-round draw with the relentless Brandon Figueroa. Ceja came in overweight for a fight made at 122lbs so had an unfair advantage, but nevertheless he stood up to some fierce punching from Figueroa. 

Magsayo is the faster, more explosive and flashier of the two boxers. Ceja is more of the steady, consistent grinder. It’s a fight where either man can hurt the other. I can visualise Magsayo starting fast and Ceja coming on with pressure. To me, it’s a 50-50 type of fight so I see value in the Betfred odds of 13/5 (+260) for the Ceja upset.