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Errol Spence vs. Yordenis Ugas preview: Three welterweight titles at stake in unification bout

‘The Truth’ is back on April 16th at AT&T Stadium in Dallas.

WBC and IBF welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr.
WBC and IBF welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr.
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

On Saturday, April 16th the home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys will serve as host to the three-belt welterweight unification bout between Texas’ own Errol Spence Jr (27-0, 21 KOs) and Cuba’s Yordenis Ugas (27-4, 12 KOs). Spence holds the WBC and IBF championships, whereas Ugas picked up the WBA title last year in an unexpected late call-up.

Last year, Spence was supposed to unify his titles with Manny Pacquiao, who had the WBA belt at the time. When Spence withdrew due to a retinal tear, that paved the way for Ugas, who was scheduled for that event’s undercard, to take the title away from Pacquiao and send the Filipino legend into retirement.

With surgery well in the past for Spence, it’s the moment of truth for ‘The Truth’ after another lengthy layoff, and it’s also the biggest fight of Ugas’ career since uh... his last one! Let’s take a look at the main event and the PPV event as a whole.

Main Event Preview

There’s no doubt that Errol Spence Jr is one of the top boxers in the world pound-for-pound. Unfortunately, a lot of the momentum he picked up after his thrilling title unification win over Shawn Porter in September 2019 has stalled out. Originally lined up to face Danny Garcia in early 2020, Spence suffered serious injuries in a single-vehicle accident that could’ve been much worse than it actually was. After he healed up, he finally returned to the ring in December 2020 and did get a decision victory over Danny Garcia, but obviously missed all of 2021 with the aforementioned retinal tear that cancelled the Pacquiao fight.

Ugas has been a mainstay of the welterweight division for several years and was perhaps unlucky not to be champion sooner than he actually was. With notable wins over Jamal James, Bryant Perrella, Thomas Dulorme, and Ray Robinson (no relation to Sugar Ray Robinson), Ugas finally got a major title shot against Shawn Porter in March 2019. In a hard-fought, tightly contested battle, Porter took a split decision. It was back to the drawing board for Ugas, who rattled off three straight wins and thoroughly outclassed Omar Figueroa and Mike Dallas Jr along the way. The Pacquiao opportunity arose, and he was far too elusive defensively and sharp offensively to get a clear decision in his favor.

Spence is a comfortable but not comically large favorite over the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist. Errol is known for his punishing body work and ability to do considerable damage to his opponents with precision punching on the inside. Ugas prefers to counterpunch and is usually difficult to hit, making him an awkward style for many. His lack of power means Spence will surely not be deterred from looking to pressure Ugas and put him on the backfoot. Ugas shouldn’t have issues prepping for a southpaw given he just fought Pacquiao, but there’s definitely a more measured approach to Spence’s offensive attacks than really any version of the Pac-man.

This might not be the most scintillating matchup out there but it may be compelling enough in the sense that Spence could have more difficulties than expected against a very good foe.

Prediction: Errol Spence Jr by unanimous decision

Undercard highlights

  • Lightweight Isaac Cruz (22-2-1, 15 KOs) gave Gervonta Davis a bit of a scare in his short notice main event opportunity. Cruz not only didn’t get dropped by the vaunted power puncher, but he roughhoused with Davis and took him to a close decision. The aggressive Mexican pressure fighter will take on former featherweight champion Yuriorkis Gamboa (30-4, 18 KOs), who is 40 years old and hasn’t fought in almost two years. I shouldn’t have put this under “undercard highlights” because Gamboa is highly likely to look washed in there. Cruz is destined to send him out in brutal fashion.
  • Speaking of washed, it’s very clear that ex-WBC super featherweight champion Francisco Vargas (27-3-2, 19 KOs) is well past his best. He’ll be matched up against lightweight prospect Jose Valenzuela (11-0, 7 KOs), whose last performance was a demolition job of Austin Dulay. Valenzuela is just 22 and could be a contender in the near future, whereas Vargas is 37 and without a win since 2019. His two brutal fights with Miguel Berchelt surely took the prime out of ‘El Bandido’ and he’s coming off an ugly loss to Isaac Cruz. I expect Valenzuela to dominate here.
  • The best PPV undercard bout pits Canadian welterweight Cody Crowley (20-0, 9 KOs) against veteran Josesito Lopez (38-8-1 NC, 21 KOs) in a ten-rounder. Lopez is a throwback type of fighter with a very difficult strength of schedule — he fought (and lost to) Canelo Alvarez and Marcos Maidana back-to-back — and a tendency to be in slugfests where his workrate and durability often prove problematic for lesser opposition. Crowley is a contender on the rise after getting off the deck to beat Kudratillo Abdukakhorov. He’s the comfortable favorite here but Lopez has proven time and time again that he can play spoiler. This will definitely have a lot of action that will please the fans.
  • In the same way that the UFC has prelims leading into the pay-per-view, Showtime is doing something similar with two fights on the main channel (plus streaming for free on YouTube) before launching into the four-fight PPV card. These are technically being treated as separate events but I’m not going to insult your intelligence. The featured “prelim” is a WBA secondary title fight between Lithuania’s Eimantas Stanionis (13-0-1 NC, 9 KOs) and Russia’s Radzhab Butaev (14-0-1 NC, 11 KOs). Stanionis stepped aside from his status as mandatory challenger to Ugas in order for this Spence fight to materialize. Unfortunately his no contest was his last bout against Luis Collazo, who couldn’t continue after a clash of heads. Butaev stopped Jamal James in nine rounds to win the WBA “regular” title. This is a 50-50 fight between two active boxer-punchers that’s hard to definitively call either way.
  • The opening bout on the Showtime prelims features Brandun Lee (24-0, 22 KOs), one of boxing’s best young up-and-comers at just 22 years of age. He gets a bit of a showcase fight against Puerto Rico’s Zachary Ochoa (21-2, 7 KOs). Honestly this is a disappointing opponent given Lee’s stoppage of Juan Heraldez in his most recent bout and the fact that Ochoa has no notable wins and his two losses were against his only real steps up in competition. Still, Lee’s power is for real and you’ll want to watch him in there.

The Stanionis vs. Butaev broadcast streams and airs live on Showtime at 7 PM ET/4 PM PT. The pay-per-view kicks off at 9 PM ET/6 PM PT and will cost you $74.99.