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Friday, October 7, 2022

Three titles are just a portion of the prize money on the line for Spence and Ugas

Errol Spence first dismissed the dot that emerged in the peripheral vision of his left eye in August 2021, believing it to be a coincidence. The prospect of facing Manny Pacquiao for the welterweight championship overshadowed this unexplained new ailment for him.

And when a pre-fight eye test showed that Spence had a ruptured retina — an ailment that may kill a boxing career — he claimed he volunteered to sign a disclaimer acknowledging that he was aware of the danger and that he still intended to participate.

A victory against Pacquiao might have propelled Spence, who was born on Long Island and reared in Dallas, from being well-known among boxing enthusiasts to being well known in general. A key distinction in a sport in which the competitors’ salary is determined by the size of the audience that attends the competitions.

Unfortunately, Nevada commission authorities did not provide their approval for Spence’s participation, and he was replaced by Yordenis Ugas, who overwhelmed Pacquiao and won the fight by unanimous decision. Spence was on his way to surgery and the second extended layoff of his professional career. Ugas was awarded the World Boxing Association championship, as well as the accolades that comes with defeating a great like Pacquiao.

These story twists culminate in the fight on Saturday night between Spence (27-0, 21 knockouts), who is the current World Boxing Council and International Boxing Federation champion, and Ugas (27-4, 12 knockouts). A contest between Spence and Terence Crawford, who is also unbeaten in the welterweight division, is the fight that boxing fans have been waiting for. While there are four major championships up for grabs, the winner of Saturday night’s fight at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, will emerge with three of them and a real claim to being the greatest fighter in a very competitive category.

Despite the fact that both boxers hold titles, Spence arrives as the undisputed A-side. Errol Spence Day will be celebrated on Saturday in the suburbs of Dallas, where Mayor Eric Johnson named the day “Errol Spence Day.” There will be more than 40,000 people in attendance, the most of them will be Spence supporters anxious to see him overcome the last hurdle before facing Crawford in a megafight. That prospective duo is still the most fascinating in the division, according to many experts.

Spence, on the other hand, was sidelined by eye surgery last year, and he has not fought since his decision victory against Danny Garcia in December 2020. And the Garcia fight was a return in and of itself, since it was Spence’s first fight since a terrible car accident in October of last year, which left him hospitalised for a week.

Nonetheless, the lengthy absences have slowed the progression of a boxer who, after his victory over Shawn Porter in September 2019, looked to be on the verge of achieving a new level of celebrity. Now that Spence is 32 years old, there are concerns about his ability to recover from a second significant medical condition. After passing up the opportunity to fight a peripheral contender, Spence chose to take on Ugas, whose fame and confidence have increased since his knockout of Manny Pacquiao last year.

There are several parallels. It doesn’t matter if the fight is a tactical duel or a close-quarters brawl; both fighters are competent and aggressive, devastating body punchers who are equally at ease in any situation. In addition, both have dealt with professional setbacks. When Ugas suffered consecutive defeats in 2014, he took a two-year hiatus from boxing before relocating from New Jersey to Las Vegas and meeting his current trainer, Ismael Salas, a fellow Cuban émigré.

Olympic gold medalists such as Yuriorkis Gamboa and Guillermo Rigondeaux, as well as previous world champions now in their early 40s, are among the elder generation who are still competing but no longer considered top. Rigondeaux has lost his last two fights and is now recuperating from a domestic accident that almost resulted in his loss of vision. Gamboa, who has also lost his last two fights, will fight on the undercard against Isaac Cruz on Saturday.

The younger generation includes recent defectors such as Robeisy Ramirez as well as Olympians such as Andy Cruz, who won a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics and is a member of a group that the Cuban government, which banned professional sports in 1961, has permitted to participate as professionals.

As a result of his victory against Pacquiao, Ugas became the first Cuban-born welterweight champion since Jose Napoles, who held the championship for two years between 1969 and 1975. Ugas predicted that a victory against Spence would be felt across the Cuban community throughout the globe.

The most notable of them is Crawford, whose promotional contract with Top Rank terminated in November and who filed a lawsuit against his former promoter the following month. In the past, stalemates between promoters and television partners have stopped important bouts from taking place, but Espinoza believes Crawford’s free agency has eliminated that impediment.

Dan O'Brien
I am a journalist for The National Era with an emphasis in sports.
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