Yordenis Ugas vs Cesar Barrionuevo: A Title Eliminator Pitting Class Against Crash

Winner of tomorrow's 147-pound showdown on Showtime could very likely be next in line for a title shot against Danny Garcia-Shawn Porter winner.

Right below the elite of the welterweight division, there’s a jam-packed group of talent just itching for their chance at breaking through to the next level. Count Yordenis Ugas and Cesar Barrionuevo among this pack of high-end fighters with dreams of world conquest.

This Saturday, these two top 147-pound contenders battle in a WBC title eliminator as part of a Premier Boxing Champions tripleheader, headlined by Danny Garcia vs Shawn Porter, live on SHOWTIME (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT) from Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. The winner could very likely be next in line for a shot at the Garcia-Porter winner.

Cuba’s Ugas (22-3, 11 KOs), a 2008 Olympic bronze medalist, defected to the United States in 2010 and has been making his name in the pro ranks as a skilled boxer with more than a touch of battler in him.

Three losses at junior welterweight prompted Ugas to take some time away from the sport, regroup, rebuild, and begin anew at welterweight.

Since his 147-pound rebirth, the former amateur standout is 7-0 with 4 knockouts, holding victories over fellow contenders such as Jamal James, Levan Ghvamichava, Thomas Dulorme, and Ray Robinson.

The 32-year-old, who now resides in Miami, is smart, well-schooled, and adaptive in the ring. He works the body well and diligently. He has a tendency to throw wide shots, but superb positioning and good reflexes help keep him out of trouble from possible counters.

Like most well-schooled fighters, he likes an orderly, structured contest and will pick opponents apart if allowed his preferred distance and pace.

Ugas can be outworked, though, and has shown moments of difficulty with opposition hand speed and movement. An opponent would also be greatly served by working to muck things up and throw Ugas off his rhythm. It remains to be seen whether he can fight effectively in an ugly in-the-trenches war.

But the native of Santiago de Cuba knows that his strength lies in his world stage experience and he expects that to be a deciding factor in this upcoming bout.

“Everyone who knows boxing knows I’m the more experienced fighter,” Ugas said. “This is one of his first times he’s fighting outside Argentina. I know he’s a big deal there, but he’s never seen a stage like this, with all the bright lights. I’m going to be prepared for the best Argentine fighter that shows up that night.”

Barrionuevo (34-3-2, 24 KOs), meanwhile, is a fighter who counts on his one-punch power and mental toughness to trump anything and everything an opponent may have going for him.

The 29-year-old southpaw from Salta, Argentina has a legitimately heavy left hand and, throughout his career thus far, it has been his primary weapon. Whether it comes in the form of a hook, uppercut, or overhand blast, when Barrionuevo’s left hand connects, it causes real damage.

The problem may be that, with such a potent one-shot weapon, he really hasn’t had to develop much else as he rose to prominence in his home country.

Barrionuevo flicks out a meaningless jab that is more range finder than weapon and he has bouncy, on-his-toes footwork that has become less prominent in recent fights. His right hand is there and there is some pop to it, but “La Joya (The Jewel)” is all about that left. All things considered, it would be fair to say that Argentina’s welterweight champ is pretty much a one-armed fighter.

This will only be his second fight outside of his home country and his first in the United States, but the heavy-handed battler is working on a 5-year, 10-fight win streak and is eager to reestablish Argentina’s presence on the world stage. Ideally, he’d like to pick up where countrymen like Sergio Martinez, Marcos Maidana, and Lucas Matthysse left off.

“I’m not coming to Brooklyn as a tourist,” Barrionuevo asserted. “I’m coming to fight and get the victory in spectacular fashion and to put Argentina back on the map in the sport of boxing. The objective is to look good and win and to leave a good impression fighting on Showtime and for everyone watching.”

Ugas-Barrionuevo will come down to the classic boxing questions posed by class vs. crash contests. Will Ugas, the classier fighter with the more refined style and world-class experience be able to execute his game plan against an unorthodox southpaw with a gigantic left hand who is looking to, first and foremost, inflict damage? Can Barrionuevo box well enough to keep the fight close so that one shot, out of the blue, is not his only hope for victory?

Conventional wisdom could lead one to believe that Ugas has the greater chance of emerging victorious this coming Saturday. But the Cuban is not exactly a paragon of defensive excellence at all times. He does get hit and he gets hit flush too often for a fighter reared in the Cuban amateur system. It’ll only take one Ugas slip-up for Barrionuevo to touch him with that big left hand. And, as his resume indicates, what Barrionuevo can touch, he can hurt.

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