Been there, done that, avoiding this…


LOS ANGELES, California—The date was June 23, 2001. The venue was the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Manny Pacquiao, still a nobody from the Philippines and making his US debut, stunned Lehlo Ledwaba via a sixth round technical knockout victory, ending the South African’s string of five successful defense and snatching his International Boxing Federation super bantamweight title.

Fast forward to the present day.

Pacquiao, now a boxing icon and a Hall of Fame shoo-in, fights Yordenis Ugás on Sunday at the T-Mobile Arena also in Las Vegas, hoping to regain the welterweight belt the World Boxing Association gave to the Cuban, stripping the sitting Filipino senator of the title for inactivity for more than two years.

Pacquiao sees a semblance of who he was 20 years ago and who he is now—and who Ugás could become.

“I am not taking him for granted. In fact I am taking him as seriously as I took Errol Spence,” Pacquiao, 42 and an eight-division world champion, said. “I will not make the same mistake [Lehlo] Ledwaba did when he fought me.”

Ledwaba wasn’t the same again after that loss to Pacquiao and retired in 2006. He died in June from Covid-19 complications.

“[Yordenis] Ugás in a similar situation,” said Pacquiao, who owns a 62-7-2 win-loss-draw record with 39 knockouts

Pacquiao said he vividly remembered that he was a “very hungry” boxer for a world title when he faced Ledwaba as a replacement fighter, the same situation Ugás found himself in.

“He is ready to make the most of this opportunity,” Pacquiao said. “I know what Ugás’s feeling because 20 years ago, I was Ugás.”

Ugás was called in as a replacement for International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Council welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. who needed surgery to repair a torn retina in his right eye.

But what’s going Pacquiao’s favor is his work ethic that has not changed since.

“I still have the same hunger to win.  I live for it,” he said. “I have had a great training camp and I am well prepared.”

“I want to prove to everyone, especially Yordenis Ugás, that I am still here,” said Pacquiao, who’s seven years younger.

One of Pacquiao’s weapons would be his stamina.

“Speaking of stamina, we’re not only good for 12 rounds but also for 20 rounds,” Pacquiao said. “What we are doing is 20, 28 or 30 rounds of [various] training,” he said.

Pacquiao’s hunger for Ugas’s title emanates from the WBA’s decision to strip him of the belt and gift Ugas of the crown.

“My title was given to Ugás [on a silver platter].  That’s not how you become a champion,” he said. “You earn it by winning it inside the ring.  We will fight for the title.  That is the proper way a champion is crowned.”

Image courtesy of Wendell Alinea

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