Initially, Errol Spence ignored the point of his left peripheral vision in August 2021. The next welterweight bout against Manny Pacquiao overcame this mysterious new problem.
And when pre-fight eye exams revealed a torn retina – an injury that could end his boxing career – Spence said he offered to sign a waiver that he accepted the risk and still intended to compete.
“At that moment, you want to fight,” he said.
If Pacquiao wins, Spence, who was born on Long Island and grew up in Dallas, could jump from being famous among boxing fans to being famous. A distinction is critical in a sport that depends on the size of the audience that pays the athletes.
Nevada commission officials reportedly refused to allow Spence to compete, and he was replaced by Yordenis Ugas to win a decision that overtook Pacquiao. Spence went into surgery and the second length of his career release. Ugas won the title of World Boxing Association, and the applause that comes with overcoming a legend like Pacquiao.
This series of plot twists sets Saturday night’s match against Spence (27-0, 21 playoffs), which holds World Boxing Council and International Boxing Federation titles, and Ugas (27-4, 12 playoffs). It’s not what boxers crave the most; It would be a match between Spence and Terence Crawford, another undefeated welterweight. But the winner will emerge on Saturday night at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, with three of the top four titles and a legitimate claim to be the best fighter in a highly competitive division.
“Spence and Crawford are one and two,” Ugas said, adding that he is the third best welterweight welter in the world. “The person who wins this fight is the best welterweight.”
While both fighters have championships, Spence enters as a clear A-side. The fight will be on the outskirts of Dallas, where Mayor Eric Johnson declared Saturday “Roll Spence Day.” Organizers expect more than 40,000 spectators, most of them eager to see Spence’s party overcome a final hurdle between him and a mega-fight with Crawford. This potential couple remains the most intriguing part of the split.
“The Westerweight section has always been a glamorous series, from Sugar Ray Leonard to Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather,” said Stephen Espinoza, president of Showtime Sports, a paid ticket partner for the fight on Saturday. “It simply came to our notice then. You match elite fighters, and you usually get fireworks. ”
But last year’s eye surgery sidelined Spence, and he hasn’t competed since he decided to win Danny Garcia in December 2020. And Garcia’s fight in itself was a comeback, Spence’s first fight after a car accident in October 2019 after he left the hospital. a week.
For his part, Spence says accidents, surgeries and resulting layoffs have not diminished his skills.
“It helped me train more,” Spence said. “It’s not like I had another job or 9 to 5. I spent most of my time with my family and my children. ”
However, long absences have leveled the trajectory of a fighter who seemed to reach a new level of fame after defeating Shawn Porter in September 2019. Now the question remains how Spence, 32, can bounce back from a second major medical problem. Instead of fighting a competing leadership, Spence chose to face Ugasi, whose profile and confidence have grown since Pacquiao was ousted last year.
There are many similarities. Both boxers are skilled and aggressive, and they punish bodybuilders equally comfortably in a tactical match or in a close-knit brawl. And they’ve both navigated career delays. After losing in a row in 2014, Ugas quit boxing for more than two years before moving from New Jersey to Las Vegas and connecting with his current coach, Ismael Salas, to a Cuban emigrant.
Ugas, 35, is home to two generations of professional Cuban boxers.
The oldest cohort includes Olympic gold medals such as Yuriorkis Gamboa and Guillermo Rigondeaux, former world champions before the age of 40 who are still active but no longer elite. Rigondeaux has lost two consecutive measurements and is recovering from a near-blind home accident. Gamboa, who also lost two in a row, will face Isaac Cruz on Saturday.
The youngest team is like the last deserts and Olympians like Robeisy Ramirez Andy CruzHe won a gold medal in Tokyo as part of a team authorized by the Cuban government to outlaw professional sports in 1961.
After defeating Pacquiao, Ugas became the first Cuban-born welterweight champion after Jose Napoles, who won two titles between 1969 and 1975. The victory over Spence, Ugas said, would resonate with Cuban communities around the world.
“It’s a historic night for Cuban boxing,” Ugas said. “It’s a big stage. A lot of people are proud of me. ”
Saturday’s winner will have a high chance of betting for the next fight.
Most notable is Crawford, whose promotion contract with Top Rank expired last November and sued his former promoter in January. While the stalemate between developers and broadcast partners has hindered major struggles in the past, Espinoza said Crawford’s free agency removed that hurdle.
“We have a better chance of fighting Crawford after this fight than we’ve had in a long time,” Espinoza said.