Spence’s 2nd road to recovery yields title bout against Ugás

Apr 14, 2022, 12:00 PM | Updated: Apr 15, 2022, 12:02 am
FILE - Yordenis Ugás, of Cuba, hits Manny Pacquiao, of the Philippines, in a welterweight champion...

FILE - Yordenis Ugás, of Cuba, hits Manny Pacquiao, of the Philippines, in a welterweight championship boxing bout Aug. 21, 2021, in Las Vegas. Ugás faces Errol Spence Jr. in a unification bout Saturday, April 16. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

(AP Photo/John Locher, File)

              FILE - Errol Spence Jr. celebrates after defeating Danny Garcia by unanimous decision in a welterweight boxing bout in Arlington, Texas, Dec. 5, 2020. Spence returns to the ring in a unification bout Saturday, April 16, against Yordenis Ugás. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade, File)
              FILE - Yordenis Ugás, of Cuba, hits Manny Pacquiao, of the Philippines, in a welterweight championship boxing bout Aug. 21, 2021, in Las Vegas. Ugás faces Errol Spence Jr. in a unification bout Saturday, April 16. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Errol Spence Jr. returns to the ring in a unification bout against Yordenis Ugás, his replacement in a Manny Pacquiao fight the two-division welterweight champion had to skip because of a torn retina.

Ugás’ breakthrough victory against the Filipino star last summer in Las Vegas was supposed to be the second fight for Spence since the WBC and IBF champ escaped serious injury when he wrecked his Ferrari in a high-speed crash.

Now Spence says his left eye has healed, similarly to how he said he was grateful to resume his career against Danny Garcia in December 2020, more than a year after flipping his car in Dallas and getting charged with drunken driving.

The undefeated Spence (27-0, 21 knockouts) won a unanimous decision over Garcia at AT&T Stadium, the site of Saturday night’s fight against WBA champ Ugás.

“This layoff was easier for me after the injury than the one after the accident because it was a lot less stress on my body,” Spence said. “Mentally I was also prepared for what I was going to go through. I had been back in training before camp started for this fight, so I’m ready.”

Ugás (27-4) had just 11 days’ notice before taking a unanimous decision over Pacquiao last August, retaining the WBA belt he inherited when the organization took it away from Pacquiao. The loss to Ugás sent Pacquiao into retirement at 42.

“I was ready for Pacquiao, and I’m going to be ready for Spence,” Ugás said through a translator. “I’m so excited for this fight to be able to show people what I’m worth. I can promise you that I’m going to be ready to show what I’m worth.”

Spence is preparing for his fourth defense in his hometown, and third at the home of the Dallas Cowboys, the NFL team that adopted the 2012 U.S. Olympian and rising star in the 147-pound class.

A month before the wreck, Spence earned his most notable victory with a thrilling split decision over Shawn Porter in Los Angeles to add the WBC title to the IBF crown he has had since 2017. Now he’s fighting for just the second time in 31 months since that win.

Spence decided to face a former champion in his first fight after the crash. Now it’s a current champion in his return from the eye injury.

“I can’t sit back and fight a tune-up fight right now,” the 32-year-old Spence said. “I want to go straight in with the sharks. Ugás is going to push me to another level and that’s what I want. I knew that if I was fighting a tune-up, I could sneak snacks in at night and stuff like that.”

Next for the winner could be a bout against undefeated WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford (38-0, 29 knockouts).

Speaking of snacks, Spence said he added a nutritionist he hopes will make a difference. Spence said he struggled to make weight in recent fights, and has gone three bouts without a knockout, the longest stretch of his career.

“I was struggling to make weight and I think that’s the reason that I haven’t gotten a stoppage in my last few fights,” Spence said. “This is the first camp in a while that I haven’t put the sauna suit on.”

Ugás was booked for a bout on the Spence-Pacquiao undercard when Spence’s torn retina was discovered during a pre-fight physical. Now the 35-year-old Cuban with an up-and-down career has a shot at holding three belts.

“You know how long I’ve been calling for this fight and how long I’ve wanted this fight? Four years,” Ugás said. “I have wanted this for so long. Spence is one of the best in the world.”


More AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Qatar hires coach Carlos Queiroz through the 2026 World Cup

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Former Portugal and Iran coach Carlos Queiroz has worked at the last four World Cups and was hired on Monday by Qatar to aim for a fifth straight at the next edition hosted in North America. The Qatar Football Association hired former Real Madrid coach Queiroz until 2026 to take charge […]
2 days ago
Utah Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen (23) and Charlotte Hornets guard Dennis Smith Jr. (8) battle for ...
Associated Press

Jazz owner aims to showcase Utah with NBA All-Star Game

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — When the NBA All-Star Game returns to Salt Lake City for the first time in three decades, Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith anticipates the event will help build Utah into a destination for other major sporting events. “All the lights will be on us, but I think it is one […]
2 days ago
FILE - In this Sept. 8, 2019, file photo, former NFL official Mike Pereira walks across the field b...
Associated Press

Fox’s Pereira knows pressure Super Bowl officials are facing

Mike Pereira knows the pressure Carl Cheffers and his officiating crew will be under during Super Bowl 57 between the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles. That’s because he either hired or promoted most of them. As the NFL’s vice president of officiating in 2008, Pereira promoted Cheffers from side judge to referee. After 14 […]
2 days ago
FILE - Chelsea's Pedro, left, and Newcastle United's Christian Atsu vie for the ball during the Eng...
Associated Press

Former Chelsea forward Atsu missing after Turkey earthquake

Former Chelsea and Newcastle forward Christian Atsu is missing and believed to be trapped under rubble following the powerful earthquake that struck Turkey on Monday and left more than 2,500 people dead. The Ghana international, who plays for Turkish club Hatayspor, is thought to be in a building that was destroyed, Hatayspor spokesman Mustafa Özat […]
2 days ago
FILE - Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, right, walks back to the bench as head coach Darvin...
Associated Press

LeBron’s Los Angeles era, as told by coach Darvin Ham

(Editors’ Note: Darvin Ham is in his first season as coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. He was a longtime NBA assistant coach and as a player helped the Detroit Pistons win the NBA title in 2004.) When I got hired to coach the Los Angeles Lakers, one of the first things that I saw […]
2 days ago
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady stands on the field before an NFL football game against ...
Associated Press

Brady will not move into Fox announcing booth until 2024

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Tom Brady will not go immediately from the playing field to the broadcast booth. Brady told Colin Cowherd during Monday’s episode of “The Herd” on FS1 and Fox Sports Radio that he will not start his broadcasting career with Fox until the 2024 season. The seven-time Super Bowl champion — who […]
2 days ago
Spence’s 2nd road to recovery yields title bout against Ugás