With Recent WBA Ruling on Pacquiao, Crawford – Ugas is the Fight to Make
By Michael Malaszczyk: In the four-belt era, undisputed champions are incredibly rare. Multiple weight division champions are now more common than they once were due to how relatively easy it is to move up (or down) in weight and become a belt-holder since there are four different opportunities to become a world champion in each division.
To stay in one division and become the undisputed champion is difficult for a fighter to achieve, not only because they must face the best of the best opposition at that weight but also because of politics; with mandatory challengers, sanctioning fees, elevation to “Franchise” or “Emeritus” champion, undisputed fights are hard to make.
Look no further than the lightweight division for this; Teofimo Lopez should be the undisputed champion at 135, but because the WBC gave Vasiliy Lomachenko the meaningless “Franchise” title prior to his unification clash with Lopez, Lopez is not considered undisputed.
Josh Taylor, Oleksandr Usyk, Terence Crawford, Bernard Hopkins, and Jermain Taylor are the only five fighters who have the unique distinction of being undisputed world champions in a weight class. These fighters’ names will all be mentioned in the history of the sport of boxing because of their difficult achievement in the four-belt era.
To give four fighters the opportunity to add (or re-add) their names to that list, the fight that needs to be made right now is Terence Crawford vs. Yordenis Ugas.
In January of 2021, the World Boxing Association stripped Manny Pacquiao (62-7-2) of its “Super” world title and elevated its “Regular” champion, Cuban professional boxer Yordenis Ugas (26-4), to Pacquiao’s former title. One cannot blame the WBA for this decision in real-time; while Pacquiao had won the WBA title back in July of 2019 against Keith Thurman, he had been inactive for over a year and had no legitimate fights on the horizon.
At the time, Pacquiao was rumored to face either MMA fighter Conor McGregor (0-1 in boxing) or Ryan Garcia (21-0). To have McGregor challenge Pacquiao for a world title in boxing would be unacceptable, and the fight with Garcia was bizarrely being pitched as an exhibition.
Neither fight came to fruition, but those were the fights seemingly on Pacquiao’s radar when the decision was made. However, in May of 2021, Pacquiao signed the contract to fight unified IBF and WBC champ Errol Spence Jr. (27-0). This prompted the WBA to rethink their decision to strip Pacquiao of the title. They just ruled that they will stand by their original decision and will not reinstate Pacquiao as their champion.
Whether or not you feel this was the right decision for them to make is a matter of personal opinion. While it definitely seemed like a fair thing to do back in January, had they chosen to wait four more months, we would be seeing a welterweight unification bout in August when Pacquiao and Spence fight. However, the politics of the WBA is a whole different discussion. What boxing fans should definitely be able to agree on is that Crawford and Ugas now must face off.
Crawford holds the WBO title. If Crawford and Ugas fought, with Pacquiao and Spence already scheduled to fight, we are one fight away from having an undisputed welterweight champion. This has never occurred in the division in the four-belt era and is an extremely exciting prospect for boxing.
For Crawford, he would be the first fighter to become an undisputed four-belt champion in two divisions since he already held that distinction at 140. This would enhance the legacy he already has from his previous achievement and likely would make him an instant Hall of Famer.
For Spence and Ugas, they would both have the opportunity to add their names to the list of fighters mentioned above as undisputed champions in the highly political four-belt era. Both would have an immediate claim to greatness with this achievement.
Manny Pacquiao is already in the conversation of all-time greatness, since he is boxing’s only eight-division world champion. Some would place him as high as within the top 10 greatest boxers of all time, with most others placing him no lower than the top 30 or so. For him to add undisputed champion to his long list of accomplishments at the age of 42 pushes him even further into that conversation.
Of course, this fight doesn’t appear close to happening, with Crawford rumored to fight a tuneup in October before facing Josh Taylor next year. And even if it were to happen, there’s no telling what boxing politics would come into play to stop a fight between the Crawford-Ugas and Pacquiao-Spence winners from being an undisputed clash. But we can dream, can’t we?
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