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Scourge of late replacements


PhilBoxing.com




LAS VEGAS. Manny Pacquiao became the latest victim of the infamous scourge of the late replacements when as a 4-1 favorite, he lost to defending WBA welterweight super champion Yordenis Ugas who took the fight on less than two weeks’ notice (11 days to be exact). Ugas retained his title by a unanimous 12-round decision at the T-Mobile Arena here Saturday night.

Pacquiao was witness to the scourge when as a 7-1 underdog, he agreed to face IBF superbantamweight titlist Lehlo Ledwaba at the MGM Grand Garden Arena here in 2001. Ledwaba’s original challenger Enrique Sanchez pulled out because of a training injury and Pacquiao was signed to take the Mexican’s place with less than two weeks advice. Pacquiao was training at the Wild Card Gym with Freddie Roach when the call came to make his US debut sooner than expected. Ledwaba was rated among the world’s top 10 pound-for-pound fighters and Pacquiao was the only contender willing to take the risk of facing the South African at short notice. As it turned out, Pacquiao defied the odds and dethroned Ledwaba on a sixth round stoppage.

In 1986, WBA featherweight champion Barry McGuigan was a 6-1 favorite when he staked his throne against Stevie Cruz, a replacement for challenger Fernando Sosa who was diagnosed with two detached retinas in a medical examination. The fight was held at Caesars Palace here and Cruz decked McGuigan thrice enroute to wresting the crown on a unanimous decision.

In 2019, unheralded Mexican Andy Ruiz had six weeks to prepare for a crack at the WBA/IBF/WBO heavyweight titles held by Anthony Joshua at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The flabby 270-pounder was a substitute for Jarrell Miller who failed three drug tests to open the door for the unexpected challenge. The outcome of the fight was even more unexpected as Ruiz, a 25-1 underdog, stopped Joshua in the seventh round.

If Pacquiao decides to hang up his gloves, the loss to Ugas will go down in history as his farewell bout but it wouldn’t tarnish his reputation as one of the greatest fighters of all time. He’s a Hall of Fame shoo-in and legend in his own time as the only boxer to capture world titles in eight different divisions. Muhammad Ali ended his career with back-to-back defeats to Larry Holmes and Trevor Berbick but is still considered a ring hero. Ali’s swan song was a loss to Berbick by decision in 1981 at the age of 39. The venerable Sugar Ray Robinson closed out his 25-year storybook journey with a loss on points to Joey Archer in 1965 at the age of 44. Ali and Robinson are recognized among the world's top five greatest boxers ever. So ending his career with a loss wouldn’t diminish Pacquiao’s iconic status.

Whether Pacquiao will continue to fight or not is his decision. Before the Ugas fight, MP Promotions head Sean Gibbons said it wouldn’t be a bad idea to stage one more outing for a final curtain call as a treat to his fans. Pacquiao himself had said he preferred to bow out before his countrymen, perhaps at the Philippine Arena in December or January, if the pandemic allowed. Gibbons even mentioned Mikey Garcia, Danny Garcia and Amir Khan as candidates for a last opponent. But with the loss to Ugas, everything is now on hold.


Click here to view a list of other articles written by Joaquin Henson.


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