MANNY PACQUIAO was beaten on his boxing return by late substitute Yordenis Ugas – leaving his future in the sport in doubt.
The legendary and iconic Filipino was due to challenge unbeaten American Errol Spence Jr for the unified WBC and IBF titles.
Manny Pacquiao was beaten on his boxing return against Yordenis UgasCredit: AP
Yordenis Ugas celebrates the winCredit: EPA
But after the welterweight champion pulled out, Cuban Ugas stepped in and took the opportunity of a lifetime with both hands.
Pacquiao lost by unanimous decision and in doing so faced questions on his fighting future.
But, the potential 2022 presidential candidate gave an ever-diplomatic answer when quizzed on retirement.
Pacquiao, 42, said: “I don’t know. Let me rest first and relax and make a decision if I continue to fight or not.”
The eight-division champion, returning for the first time since beating Keith Thurman in July 2019, wasted no time in coming out quick.
Pacquiao looked to have picked up where he left off in the first three minutes, letting his hands go and pressing forward.
But amongst the electric start from PacMan, drawing an even greater response from the crowd, Ugas began to land the jab.
And it proved to be a pivotal part in what will later be remembered as a life-changing night.
Ugas for the next three rounds kept Pacquiao at bay with an expert lead left hand, which expertly threw over the top of the opposing southpaw guard.
The cracks were beginning to show for PacMan, who was half way into his 72nd fight when he upped his product in round five with more combinations.
But as the fight entered the second half, Ugas was able to slow down the tempo and again work behind his jab.
Pacquiao, realising the tide was turning ever more against him, even started to look out of sorts, at one point made to miss with a looping right hook.
In round eight, Ugas found home to two perfect sweeping right hooks as he judged the distance perfectly.
Pacquiao did pick it up again in the ninth, but the champion was smart to cover up and avoid and barrage of punches coming his way.
Hope for PacMan came in round ten when he landed a good left hand, but Ugas responded with a right of his own, right on the chin.
Heading into the final six minutes, Pacquiao had a good 11th and landed a trademark four-punch combination, flashes of his vintage self.
But Ugas spoiled the momentum in the 12th and final round, landing combinations and a couple of clean right hands.
It really stamped his authority and signed off on what was a coming of age win in the professional career of Yordenis Ugas.
After the closing bell, the body language of both was telling, with Pacquiao appearing to have accepted defeat before the result was announced.
It proved utter jubilation for Ugas, who only accepted the fight on less than two week’s notice.
He said after the win: “I’m very excited, but most of all I want to thank Manny Pacquiao for giving me this moment in this ring today.
“I told you I am the champion of the WBA and I showed you tonight.”
Pacquiao was stripped of the WBA titles he won against Thurman, 32, due to inactive, despite being unable to return amid the coronavirus pandemic.
It saw Ugas elevated from secondary ‘Regular’ champion to the full belt – but there was no questioning his status tonight.
He said: “He’s a tough, great competitor, but I came in here to show that I am the champion of the WBA and a lot of respect for him, but I won the fight.”