Boxing experts make their picks for Manny Pacquiao vs. Yordenis Ugás

Manny Pacquiao, shown in training in 2019 in a gym with a wall-size Philippines flag
Manny Pacquiao, shown in training under the Phillipines flag at Wild Card Boxing Club in Los Angeles, will be fighting for the first time in two years.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

Ahead of Saturday night’s Manny Pacquiao-Yordenis Ugás fight, the Los Angeles Times canvassed a nationwide group of boxing experts for their analysis of the welterweight bout, which is expected to begin around 8:30 PT.

You can follow The Times’ coverage throughout the evening on its live blog.

How the experts see it:

“Here’s the thing about when fighters turn old: You never know when it’s going to happen. Just because Manny Pacquiao hasn’t looked ancient in any of his previous 71 fights doesn’t mean it won’t happen on Saturday night. He is 42 after all. And, really, that’s what this fight will come down to, whether Pacquiao has slowed just enough to where he can no longer exploit the openings offered to him by Yordenis Ugás. And there will be openings. Ugás won a bronze medal at the 2008 Olympics but doesn’t have the style for which products of Cuba’s vaunted amateur program are known. Ugás loops his right hand. He exposes his chin, both when he throws his jab and leans back to avoid punches.

“Ugás has an interesting backstory, telling me earlier this week about how he was disillusioned after failing to win gold at the Beijing Games and decided soon after that he would escape from Cuba. He spent two days at sea on a motorboat, reaching Mexico, then traveling to the United States. He didn’t see his mother for nine years, reuniting with her on a visit to his home country, then again in Panama. One of his best friends is New York Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman, with whom he traveled for international competitions. My guess is his fairy tale ends here, with Pacquiao ambushing him early, and either stopping him or scoring a comfortable decision. Pacquiao by seventh-round knockout.”


— Dylan Hernandez, Times sports columnist

Manny Pacquiao caught a break when Errol Spence Jr. went down with an eye injury and must close his boxing career against Yordenis Ugás or risk ending his career being beaten into submission.

Aug. 21, 2021

“Boxing needs Manny Pacquiao to win more than Pacquiao needs to. Boxing has Terence Crawford, who doesn’t fight enough; Canelo Alverez, who doesn’t fight enough; a couple of heavyweights who occasionally stir the pot because they are heavyweights; and Floyd Mayweather Jr., who fights people who can’t fight and makes a mockery of that which made him millions. Pacquiao, at 42, is still a very good fighter and a very big star. He will win, probably by decision, because he’s still fast and unpredictable and, even something as distasteful as boxing deserves his help to survive.”

— Bill Dwyre, former Times sports editor

Manny Pacquiao will soon fight in his 82nd pro bout. Many think it is to boost his popularity before the upcoming Philippines presidential election.

Aug. 16, 2021

“I consider Manny Pacquiao the best boxer I’ve seen in my lifetime, and at 42, he still looks like he can grab another world title. Yordenis Ugás is a solid and strong fighter, who puts pressure, is a great counterpuncher and likes to go to the body, But he’s not at the level of Errol Spence Jr. or Keith Thurman. Ugás has good defense but stays in front of his opponent, which is exactly what Pacquiao likes. Pacquiao is faster, unpredictable, and his punches are more powerful. The only question that I have is the two-year break that Pacquiao took, which might affect him in the late rounds. Pacquiao wins by unanimous decision.”


— Eduard Cauich, L.A. Times en Español sports editor

Yordenis Ugás, left, lands a punch against Omar Figueroa Jr. during a July 2019 welterweight fight in Las Vegas.
Yordenis Ugás, left, lands a punch against Omar Figueroa Jr. during a welterweight fight on July 20, 2019, in Las Vegas.
(John Locher / Associated Press)

“Even after a two-year layoff, Manny Pacquiao will prove that he can keep a fast and striking pace against a 35-year-old whose technical defensive abilities are his hopeful weapon to handle the arsenal of the Filipino senator. The Cuban has the size advantage and can match the firepower, but even that won’t be enough. Pacquiao has seen many types of boxing styles and will quickly adapt to Ugás’ right hand. Don’t expect a knockout, though. Pacquiao will win by unanimous decision.”

— Jad El Reda, L.A. Times en Español sports editor

Yordenis Ugás patiently wore down Manny Pacquiao on Saturday night in Las Vegas, denying the aging boxer a triumphant win before he is expected to run for president of the Philippines.

Aug. 21, 2021

“I think that people are underestimating Yordenis Ugás. He’s a solid fighter who seems to be a level below elite. There’s a lot to like about his footwork and his technical proficiency. That said, I don’t like his chances against Manny Pacquiao. That said, Pacquiao has had some of his worst career performances (see: Horn, Jeff) after long layoffs. That said, Pacquiao summoned some of his old magic against Keith Thurman last time out. That said, this is what boxing does to us — it makes us consider illogical outcomes when the most logical one is right there. That said, Pacquiao by unanimous decision.”

— Greg Bishop, Sports Illustrated senior writer

“Yordenis Ugás is tall and his physicality and volume punching can cause Manny Pacquiao trouble. Pacquiao must stay off the ropes and if he does, he should pull out a hard-fought win. Pacquiao by decision.”

— Kevin Iole, Yahoo! Sports combat sports writer

“Just like Manny Pacquiao did to Oscar De La Hoya, I base this less on strategy than sentiment. It’s getting near the end for Manny; he’ll be missed. Manny in ninth-round TKO.”

— Mark Kriegel, ESPN writer and commentator, author of “The Good Son: The Life of Ray Boom Boom Mancini”

“Yordenis Ugás is 3-0 against southpaws since he moved up to welterweight in 2016. The well-schooled Cuban isn’t as strong as Errol Spence Jr., but the tall right-hander will pressure Pacquiao, has underrated power and a proven chin, and will test what figures to be a rusty foe. The Filipino legend is 42, hasn’t fought in more than two years and spent most of this camp preparing for the left-handed Spence. He still possesses enough speed and athleticism to overcome those unfavorable numbers and should beat Ugás comfortably on points. Pacquiao by unanimous decision.”

— Keith Idec, senior writer and columnist

“There are elements to this matchup that favor Ugás, particularly his counterpunching skills, which is one of the few ways to disrupt even a middle-aged Pacquiao. It’s going to take his most disciplined performance and to get off to a fast start in order to claim the win. I don’t discount that possibility, but the sense is that Pacquiao’s speed and power will be a touch too much for Ugás, especially at moments where a given round is on the table. Pacquiao by decision.”

— Jake Donovan, senior writer

“Manny Pacquiao should have a little too much speed, movement and experience for Yordenis Ugás but the Cuban standout has activity, youth, size and a stellar amateur background on his side. I think it will be tit for tat in the early rounds, with Pacquiao taking the lead on the official scorecards only because the pro-Manny crowd (which will explode any time Ugás covers up or backs away from a Pac salvo) will influence the judges. But Ugás will open up more by the middle rounds and score with his jab, counter rights and body punches. Ugás will outwork Pacquiao down the stretch, but I expect some old Manny Magic — perhaps he buzzes or wobbles Ugás a couple times — to allow the living legend to take a close decision in a hotly contested fight. Pacquiao by majority decision.”

— Doug Fischer, Ring Magazine editor in chief

“My view is that it will take Manny Pacquiao a couple of rounds to get going. He’s never been a very fast starter, but once he figures out his distance and gets his hands moving, he will start to tag Yordenis Ugás from a variety of angles. Ugás is going to stand his ground and try to fight back but will have a hard time keeping up with Pacquiao’s speed and punch variety. While Ugás may have some competitive rounds, in the end it will be all Pacquiao. I’m picking Pacquiao by a clear unanimous decision.”

— Dan Rafael, Fight Freaks Unite

“This is a matchup of legitimate world-class welterweights. But even at his relatively advanced age, Manny Pacquiao is an elite fighter, while Yordenis Ugás is a very good one. If Pac-Man hasn’t gotten old overnight — after all, it’s been more than two years since he last performed — then he’s still a cut above Ugás. The Cuban has some physical advantages in length and reach, but nothing out of the ordinary in terms of what Pacquiao has seen before. In what may be his last fight, Pacquiao will eventually breach Ugás’ air space, and eventually break him down. Pacquiao by 10th-round TKO.”

— Steve Kim, 3 Knockdown Rule

“Manny Pacquiao could lose to several welterweights, but not one who is 35 years old. He’s well-rested, looks great and brings speed and angles that you can’t replicate in sparring. His activity should allow him to bank some rounds and put Ugás in a hole. Some fighters would overlook Ugás after the disappointment of losing the shot at Errol Spence Jr., but Pacquiao isn’t built that way, and he feels Ugás took his belt unfairly. Pacquiao by unanimous decision.”

— Mark Whicker, Southern California News Group columnist

“It’s hard to pick against Manny Pacquiao. Perhaps foolish. His resume is history. It checks every box. Titles in eight weight classes. A good guy in a bad business. But history is also about time and its ever-corrosive process. He’s 42, within a few months of 43. Nobody beats time, not even a fighter with a timeless record. Look for Ugás to play a waiting game behind a long jab. He’ll wait on time to erode Pacquiao’s power and the energy in his legs. It’ll be close, maybe controversial. In the end, however, Ugás will do what time does to everyone. He’ll beat Pacquiao. Yordenis Ugás by unanimous decision.”

— Norm Frauenheim, Ring magazine and

“This could be the swan song for one of the great stars of this era. Manny Pacquiao may not be able to finish, but all he has to do is keep it close and he should get the nod from the judges in a sentimental spot. Pacquiao by decision.”

— Adam Hill, Las Vegas Review-Journal writer