YORDENIS Ugas was supposed to be just part of the supporting cast.
Then in a flick of a finger, he suddenly found himself one of the main attractions.
The 35-year-old Cuban fighter stakes his WBA (World Boxing Association) welterweight title in the biggest fight of his pro career, facing boxing legend Manny Pacquiao on August 21 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Ugas initially was to defend his 147-pound belt against Fabian Maidana in the undercard of Pacquiao’s own welterweight battle against two-belt title holder Errol Spence.
The unbeaten Spence was found unfit to go to war at the last minute after being found with a detached retina in his left eye after undergoing a physical test on Thursday (Manila time).
And as if the stars were aligned, Maidana, younger brother of two-division world champion Marcus Maidana, suffered a cut in sparring and won’t be available to fight Ugas two weeks from now.
The sudden turn of events led PBC (Premier Boxing Championship) to pit Pacquiao and Ugas instead.
So who is Yordenis Ugas?
Like any Cuban fighter before him, the Santiago de Cuba-born Ugas was an accomplished amateur who won a gold medal in the 2005 AIBA World Championship in China and the 2007 Pan American Games as a lightweight.
His stint with the Cuban national team culminated with a bronze medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics after being upset by Daouda Sow of France in the semifinals, 15-8.
A year after, he moved to the U.S and began his professional career.
Describes by Cubanet.org as a ‘sharp, technically accomplished fighter, but with a suspect jaw,’ Ugas won his first 11 bouts in a two-year span before suffering a split decision loss to Johnny Garcia in an eight-rounder held in Tucson, Arizona in 2012.
In the 30 fights he had in his resume, including four losses and 26 wins by knockout, the Cuban hadn’t faced a marquee name except Shawn Porter, a former sparring partner of Pacquiao, to whom Ugas lost by a controversial split decision in their 2019 fight for Porter’s WBC (World Boxing Council) welterweight crown.
He wouldn’t win his first world championship until September of last year when he claimed the regular WBA welterweight crown following a split decision win against Abel Ramos at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.
In January of this year, the Cuban was elevated by the WBA as its super champion – or primary champion - at 147 after the boxing body stripped Pacquiao of the same title he won from Keith Thurman in 2019 due to inactivity.
Pacquiao trying to reclaim the title which many perceives belongs to him is certainly an added subplot to Ugas’ biggest moment on top of the ring.