Has the Welterweight Division Been Blown Up?

Yordenis Ugas scored the biggest victory of his career this past Saturday night in defeating the legend Manny Pacquiao.  This victory came at a price for boxing fans who lost out on the chance to see Errol Spence Jr ascend in his climb to the top of the division and get a major torch passing fight.  With the torn retina Spence is unlikely to fight until Spring or Summer of 2022 which would make just one fight in a two and a half year span!  The Pacquiao-Spence fight has been completely killed off now as Ugas ate Spence’s lunch and this also only delays and takes some sheen off of the much discussed Terrence Crawford fight.

Can Ugas Carry the Division?

I will preface this by saying I am an Ugas fan but cannot say for certain that this victory has convinced fans he is elite or will have raised his popularity.  The PPV numbers are not in yet so it is difficult to first say how many fans watched the fight but reactions online are mostly praise of Pacquaio and his career accomplishments versus an ascension for Ugas.  Will Ugas be a high risk low reward fighter or will he be viewed as a must fight opponent for fighters looking to be the man of the division?  It is unlikely that Ugas will bring in the Pacquiao dollars for a fighter facing him like Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather did after beating Oscar De La Hoya and taking his mantle.  Most will still see Spence and Crawford as the man to beat but will Ugas get those fights or be the man on the outside looking in.  Interestingly enough Yordenis Ugas vs Abe Ramos for the WBA belt was the highest rated COVID era fight according to Nielsen at the time that it happened as it reached over one million viewers.  His fight with Shawn Porter in 2019 averaged over two million viewers and he out drew Porter and Thomas Dulorme in subsequent fights.  This can be taken two different ways: Ugas came away from the Porter fight even more popular given many felt he won and PBC gave him a good push or Ugas drew eyeballs to those fighters and they failed to get ratings due to poor opposition.  Either way Ugas is now an even more known commodity though his upside is not Pacquiao level.  I will say I think I would make him the favorite against Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter and with Spence’s injuries and layoffs you never really know as Errol is on the other side of thirty.

Did the Parade Pass Spence By?

Errol Spence lost out on a career high payday and a chance to claim a big scalp in Manny Pacquiao.  Now any leverage he hoped to gain in negotiating with rival Terrence Crawford and any chance to gain momentum after the car crash in 2019 has dissipated.  When Spence does come back in mid 2022 will he be the same fighter?  If someone else beats Terrence Crawford the other biggest legacy fight for him will come off the table.  With young talent like Vergil Ortiz and Jaron Ennis moving into the picture and guys like Pacquiao and Thurman getting older and more inactive it seems like Spence may have to start taking bigger risks for less pay offs.  If Porter defeats Crawford in a fight that is approaching a purse bid in early September he will be left with Porter whom he already defeated and Ugas.  Those are far cry fights from Crawford and Pacquiao in terms of legacy let alone dollars.  When Spence was in the car wreck back in 2019 it looked to be a massive blow to his budding career but he shook it off by easily beating Danny Garcia.  A retina injury used to be a death sentence for boxers and it nearly killed Ray Leonard’s career and a big fight with Marvin Hagler.   Even recently, exciting heavyweight title hold Lamon Brewster was never the same after his retina injury against Sergey Liakhovich.

Keith Thurman on a Milk Carton

Remember when Keith Thurman headlined the inaugural PBC card, that was in 2015!  Thurman has fought just four times since 2015 and has been inactive since 2019.  In 2019 he fought twice after being out in all of 2018 and was nearly knocked out by Josesito Lopez before being defeated by Manny Pacquiao.  When Thurman defeated Shawn Porter in a war and Danny Garcia back to back he was the man in the division for a brief point.  Errol Spence was still on the rise and calling Thurman out rigorously and Keith was not too excited to get in with him.  Spence eventually got his title shot against Kell Brook and over the span of 2018 and 2019 overtook Thurman through victories over Mikey Garcia and Shawn Porter in title fights.  Thurman alludes to comebacks and taking over the division but has not made any fights since Pacquiao.  Now he won five  rounds off of Manny and fought a pretty good fight but nothing indicates he is a major player in the division anymore outside of having a name.  He only wants title fights and the guys with titles are trying to face each other.  Spence who Thurman seemed to want no part of when the fight made sense is now telling Thurman to take a hike as the roles have been reversed.  Maybe this fight will finally happen with both needing to end their inactive streak and Spence can use him as a tune up.

Shawn Porter vs Terrence Crawford?

Negotiations for this fight have been attempted and collapsed in the past.  In the first week of September the pair will enter a WBO purse bid to hash out the terms of a title fight.  Crawford has not been able to lure the big names of the division into the ring with him and politics has been a barrier.  Now that Porter has been mandated to face Crawford we may get to see “Bud” get his shot at a big name in the division.  Say what you will about Porter and his style but he takes big fights and always brings it.  Crawford has had it easy for a little while now beating guys with some name value who are over the hill and has not had an elite win in a while.  Porter is a risky fight for Crawford but will it happen?  With Ugas beating Pacquiao and Porter having a win on paper against Ugas might Porter go and try to beat Ugas again for a belt rather than face Crawford?  PBC may want that fight with Spence on the shelf and Pacquiao being defeated. 

At the time of my typing this post Pacquiao told the Athletic that he would be interested in a rematch with Ugas in Januray.

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