Errol Spence Jr. has done what he needed to do, defeating Yordenis Ugas via 10th-round TKO on Sunday afternoon.
Now comes the wait for the fight the entire boxing world has wanted for years.
By getting his hands raised on Sunday, Spence Jr’s is now the holder of the WBA welterweight world title along with his WBC and IBF championships.
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The only missing piece? Terence Crawford’s WBO title. And now the two undefeated American welterweights appear destined to finally face off in the ring.
“That’s the fight I want. That’s the fight everybody else wants,” Spence Jr said post-fight.
“Terence, I’m coming for that motherf***ing belt.”
“Everybody knows who I want next. I want Terrence Crawford next. I’m going to take his s*** too.”
Finally getting the two together will be much easier too now that Crawford has left promoter Bob Arum.
It will be Spence Jr’s greatest test yet but the 32-year-old already had plenty to prove on Sunday, fighting for the first time since undergoing surgery to repair a detached retina suffered in training.
“When people say I can’t do this or I can’t do that, I prove them wrong every time,” Spence Jr said in the lead-up to the fight.
“I am the same guy I was before the accident and the injury. I feel like I’m better than that guy that fought Shawn Porter or Danny García.”
And that is not even mentioning the horror car crash that saw Spence Jr hospitalised for days and sidelined for months, again leaving many questioning whether he would make it back to the top.
But now Spence Jr is here, with another belt around his waist, proving that he is that same guy.
“He is just as good as he was before the car accident, before the detached retina, he showed us he was exactly that same calibre,” Al Bernstein said in commentary.
“I thought this performance was better than the one against Garcia. He did everything right.”
Spence finished the fight landing 216 of 784 shots compared to just 96 of 541 from Ugas.
Both fighters were patient early, with Spence Jr working to establish the jab while Ugas kept his high guard, limiting the opportunities for his younger rival to land anything significant.
Ugas was more accurate with his punching but Spence continued to increase his activity, leaving Bernstein wondering whether the 35-year-old Cuban was doing enough.
“One of the questions for Ugas… he’s been very economic but can you win the rounds being this economic with your punches?” Bernstein asked.
Ugas answered that question late in the third round, connecting with a counter right and then following with a three-punch combination before finishing it off with a right hand.
Rounds four and five though were dominated by Spence, who became far more aggressive and while Ugas was able to rally on occasion, he was well and truly starting to lose the fight at that point.
“The lack of a jab for Ugas is a big issue right now,” Bernstein said.
“On the inside, Errol Spence has been just excellent, throwing a variety of punches – the uppercut, the right hook – and he works the body effectively.
“When Ugas lets his hands go, he can land some shots… he just hasn’t been letting his hands go enough. Spence has thrown over 100 more punches.”
But Ugas unexpectedly came to life early in the sixth, with two shots that sent Spence Jr to the ropes after his mouthpiece was knocked out, giving him extra time to recover.
“A momentary lapse in judgement,” Mauro Ranallo said in commentary.
“The ropes could have very well saved him. Drama from Ugas and the first time we have since Spence in that kind of adversity in a long time.”
Replays showed a right uppercut knock Spence Jr’s mouthpiece out and as he looked to the referee, Ugas struck with a brutal right hand to take full advantage.
Spence Jr though was able to respond in epic fashion in the seventh, causing serious damage to Ugas’ right eye and finishing the round with 39 punches.
“He’s target practice right now for Spence,” Ranallo said.
The fight was then paused as the ringside doctor examined Ugas’ right eye, which was closed shut, ultimately deciding to continue the fight to go into the eighth.
Spence Jr. continued to maintain total control of the fight as it went deep into the 10th, leaving Ugas in a dire position, needing to find something major to swing the fight his way.
He could not find that, with the fight eventually stopped in the 10th round as Spence Jr was crowned the winner.
FULL CARD RESULTS
Errol Spence Jr. (c) def. Yordenis Ugas (c) via 10th-round TKO — welterweight unification
Isaac Cruz def. Yuriokis Gamboa via fifth-round TKO — lightweight
Jose Valenzuela def. Francisco Vargas via first-round KO — lightweight
Cody Crowley def. Josesito Lopez via unanimous decision (98-91, 98-91, 99-90) — welterweight
Eimantas Stanionis def. Radzhab Butaev by split decision (113-114, 116-111, 117-110) – welterweight
Brandun Lee def. Zachary Ochoa by unanimous decision (98-92, 99-91, 99-91) — super lightweight
‘THUNDEROUS’ FIRST-ROUND KNOCKOUT STUNS
The unbeaten Jose Valenzuela vowed that Sunday would mark the day that he would make the leap from a boxing prospect to genuine contender and eventually world champion.
And if his first-round knockout of former WBC junior lightweight title holder Francisco Vargas is anything to by, Valenzuela is well on his way.
The 22-year-old won all five of his fights in 2021, including four by stoppage and once again scored the knockout on Sunday to improve his record to 12-0.
It was a left cross that did all the damage for Valenzuela, who had initially missed a jab because getting around the guard of Vargas and landing the finishing blow.
“Great win for Jose,” Brian Custer said in Showtime’s coverage of the fight.
“This is a young man who said: ‘I want to look spectacular and put my name on the map of this division’ and he did it in thunderous fashion. Good win for this young man as he gets the victory.”
Valenzuela was not sure at first that he had scored the decisive knockout, expecting Vargas to get back up before soon realising his opponent was in deep trouble.
“I was expecting him to come forward, throw a lot of punches, move forward aggressively,” Valenzuela told Showtime’s Jim Gray post-fight.
“But, you know, I stayed patient and was using my jab and going to the body, and waited for an opening.
“I was expecting him to get up but I took another look back and he was still down. It was a good punch.”
As for his plans after another statement victory, Valenzuela was relatively grounded in not aiming too high and just keeping it simple.
“Just keep fighting good fighters, like him, a rugged fighter,” Valenzuela said.
“Whatever they have planned, I’m willing to do.”
REF STEPS IN AFTER BRUTAL CRUZ BEATING
Elsewhere, Isaac Cruz made the statement he was hoping for as the referee was forced to step in and stop his fight with Yuriorkis Gamboa.
Cruz made an immediate impact in the ring, hurting Gamboa with a big hook and was in trouble again later in the round after a big right hand.
The blows kept coming for Gamboa, who was dropped by Cruz early in the third and again in the fourth off a big left hook.
It was incredible that Gamboa lasted as long as he did before the referee stepped in after a two-punch combination from Cruz in the fifth, which sent his opponent into the ropes.