Spence's stirring victory over Ugas to unify three welterweight world titles stands out as the finest of 2022.
Errol Spence Jr. came into the April 16, 2022 welterweight title unification fight following 17 months out of the ring, and just a few years after miraculously surviving a horrific car crash.
His opponent, Cuban defector Yordenis Ugás, was flying high after a stunning upset of future Hall of Famer Manny Pacquiao, taking the Filipino legend’s WBA welterweight title in the process.
Ironically, Ugás, who came in having won 12 of his last 13 contests – the only blemish being a controversial split-decision loss to Shawn Porter in 2019 – accepted the Pacquiao fight on 11 days’ notice after Spence pulled out because of a torn retina, yet another setback for the Texan, but not enough to stop the boxer known as “The Truth.”
Spence and Ugás proceeded to throw down before nearly 40,000 raucous, pro-Spence fans at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys.
Spence’s sparkling 10th-round technical knockout victory, the 28th of his career without a loss and 22nd stoppage – marking the first time the 35-year-old Ugas (27-5, 12 KOs) had been stopped – earned “The Truth” the Premier Boxing Champions’ 2022 Performance of the Year.
But the 12th title unification bout in welterweight history was anything but a cakewalk for the crafty and powerful 32-year-old southpaw.
A crushing overhand right by Ugás in the sixth round sent Spence’s mouthpiece flying and Spence, erroneously thinking the fight had been paused, went to retrieve it. But Ugás alertly blasted Spence with a left and a right, knocking the Texan backwards into the ropes, which prevented Spence from hitting the canvas, likely preserving his record of never having been knocked down as a pro.
“I felt a little off with my timing, but I knew I was going to catch on later in the rounds,” Spence explained. “I just kept working. I kept throwing punches and then sometimes I was being over-patient. I was throwing punches instead of picking my shots. I had a long layoff and I was super excited to get back in the ring. I was trying to push the pace more than I needed to.”
Spence, who now holds three of the four welterweight title belts, stormed back in the second half of the scheduled 12-rounder with a relentless barrage of left hands and combinations, attacking Ugás to the head and body.
By the 10th round, Ugás’ right eye was swollen completely shut, leading referee Laurence Cole to stop the fight for a second time to allow the ringside physician to inspect the damage. This time Cole took the doc’s advice and ended the bout at 1:44.
“I feel sad,” Ugás said. “I trained really hard for this fight. All my respect to Errol Spence. He’s a great champion. I’m just sad about what happened tonight. The referee stopped the fight, but I wanted to keep going to the end.”
Two of the judges scored the eighth round 10-8 for Spence, despite no knockdowns, and he was ahead on all three scorecards at the time of the stoppage: 88-82 twice and 88-83. Overall, Spence outlanded Ugás 216-96.
“I seen his face starting to get messed up,” Spence said afterward. “I was like, ‘yeah, I got him now, it’s pretty much over.’
“It was a good fight, very entertaining, from the feedback I got from family and friends.”
The Texan, who admits he cheated death in his 2019 accident, then changed his lifestyle by purchasing a sixty-acre horse ranch in DeSoto, Texas, addressed the hardships he’s endured over the past few years and during the fight itself.
“I believe that you’re going to go through trials and tribulations,” Spence explained. “I went through a lot of trials. I got tested and I passed the tests due to my upbringing. My mother and my father always telling me not to quit and not to give up and just believing in myself and my family . . . I knew that I could come back. Why would I quit now?”
He didn’t quit, of course, a big reason why he was rewarded with the PBC Performance of the Year.
Other nominees for Performance of the Year:
Jermell Charlo vs. Brian Castano 2: Charlo, another Texan, handed Castano his first career loss with a 10th-round KO to become the first ever undisputed 154-pound World Champion in the four-belt era.
Stephen Fulton vs. Daniel Roman: WBC and WBO 122-pound World Champion Fulton dominated on his way to a unanimous decision over former unified champion Roman.
Danny Garcia vs. Jose Benavidez Jr: Garcia made a successful debut at 154 pounds, outclassing Benavidez to win a majority decision.
For a closer look at Errol Spence Jr, check out his fighter page.
- Errol Spence Jr.