Predictions: Spence vs Ugas, four more fights

Who wins Saturday, Errol Spence Jr or Yordenis Ugas? | Amanda Westcott/SHOWTIME

Errol Spence Jr and Yordenis Ugas meet in a three-belt welterweight unification. Who gets their hand raised?

Another week in boxing, some more picks! Our focus this week is on Saturday’s Showtime pay-per-view main event between Errol Spence Jr and Yordenis Ugas, two welterweight titleholders looking to unify three of the four world titles in the division, but we’ve also got picks for four more fights under that.

Who wins Saturday, Spence or Ugas?

Scott Christ (11-8)

I think Ugas makes this competitive but just not competitive enough to win or get all that many rounds. He’s a good, well-rounded fighter, but the things he does well, so does Spence, and Spence is a better puncher.

The chief concern on the Spence side is whether he’s got issues lingering from his eye surgery. My guess is it’s not a major issue, or he wouldn’t be back with his same trainer and all that, the people who see him working every day don’t appear to have any apprehension about his return. So then the next concern is rust, since he hasn’t fought in 16 months. But I figure if 14 months between Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia didn’t get him too badly, this break alone shouldn’t either.

Ugas can win this fight because he’s very good, has great career momentum, a lot of confidence. But if it’s closer round-to-round than I think it’ll be, then I have a hard time seeing the less-valuable B-side getting many of the rounds. Spence is not on his way out of the sport like Pacquiao was. Everyone has designs on making a lot more money with Errol Spence going forward. So if this is a 7-5, 6-6 sort of fight to an outsider watching on TV, I’m looking for 9-3, 10-2 type Spence cards. Boxing is a dumb sport to predict, and I don’t just say that because I so often go with bad gut feelings. Spence UD-12

Wil Esco (14-5)

There’s been plenty of speculation as to what Errol Spence is going to look like post retina tear and I’m not really going to dive too deep into that as I can’t really know for certain. I’m just going to anticipate that Spence, who has been looking really solid in the training footage I’ve seen from him, is going to be well prepared to fight to the best of his ability. And the thing is, if he does fight to the best of his ability it’s just a clear tier above what I think Yordenis Ugas has to offer.

I think Ugas is a really genuinely good guy with good skills but I don’t think he has anything special to him. I don’t want to rain on his Pacquiao parade, but I was one of those who thought a lot of that was due to how much Pacquiao had faded more than anything spectacular that Ugas was doing. But against Spence he’s going to be up against a much physically larger fighter than Pacquiao who has the ability to both box on the outside just as well as he can bang on the inside. That kind of versatility puts Spence over the top for me in this fight. Spence UD-12

John Hansen (15-4)

This one is going to the cards. And that means it’s almost certainly going Errol Spence’s way.

Ugas is less of a power threat than Shawn Porter or Danny Garcia, and Errol Spence took or avoided punches from both of those guys for 24 combined rounds. A Ugas knockout win seems vanishingly improbable. A Spence knockout isn’t inconceivable, but it’s also quite unlikely. First, Ugas has excellent coverup defense. He almost never gets knocked down, and he’s never been knocked out. Second, Spence is smart and strategic enough not to sell out or push for the stoppage against a top level opponent. He hasn’t landed a knockout in two and a half years. And that most recent one was the windshield of his own car, not an in-ring opponent.

So, it’s going to the cards. And those cards will be scored and submitted in Texas. You can interpret that however you like given the well-earned reputation for combat sports judging in the state. All I mean by it is that the crowd will be selling and sweetening every punch that hometown hero Spence lands cleanly. And that sort of atmosphere can, and does, influence round-by-round scoring.

I can see either man winning this fight by a round or two. And whichever way that goes, the scoring is likely to favor Spence. So, stretch out your elbows and warm up your voices in anticipation of fist-shaking and shouting. Whether Spence earns it and gets wider scores than expected, or Ugas succeeds but loses on narrow cards, I expect. Spence UD-12

Patrick Stumberg (14-5)

Yordenis Ugas could not have crafted a more favorable run through the welterweight gauntlet. First Manny Pacquiao on the heels of two-year layoff and now an inactive Errol Spence Jr. with a freshly repaired eye. None of this is meant to diminish his accomplishments, only to point out that he’s gotten a golden opportunity that he’s thus far made the most of.

Which makes it all the more tragic that he’ll fall short.

Spence and Pacquiao are in no way analogous outside out being fast, aggressive southpaws, but a lot of the things that gave Ugas issues against “Pac-Man” are present here. Spence has a clear edge in speed and one-shot power, and unlike Pacquiao, his weapons aren’t shackled to 42-year-old legs. He seemingly has an answer for all of Ugas’ best tools as well, sporting both a strong jab and some brutal infighting, and can even match the sheer meanness Ugas displays when he knuckles down in close-quarters exchanges.

This’ll be one of those fights that’s far more competitive than the lopsided cards suggest. I just don’t see anything in Ugas’ arsenal that can carry him past a younger, faster, more powerful, and higher-volume fighter with comparable technical skills. Spence UD-12

Quick Picks!

We’re going to try out a new thing where with other fights, we’ll just make a pick, no explanation; this will give us a chance to expand into more fights where getting even a paragraph out of the pick isn’t going to be that interesting, but the fights are in the mix now.

Conor Benn vs Chris van Heerden

Scott: Benn TKO-6

Wil: Benn TKO-6

John: Benn KO-7

Patrick: Benn TKO-8

Radzhab Butaev vs Eimantas Stanionis

Scott: Stanionis UD-12

Wil: Butaev TKO-9

John: Stanionis KO-9

Patrick: Butaev UD-12

Cody Crowley vs Josesito Lopez

Scott: Lopez SD-10

Wil: Crowley UD-10

John: Crowley KO-6

Patrick: Crowley UD-10

Isaac Cruz vs Yuriorkis Gamboa

Scott: Cruz UD-10

Wil: Cruz UD-10

John: Cruz UD-10

Patrick: Cruz UD-10

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