Best Of The Rest: Keith Thurman And Yordenis Ugas Jockey For Position

The pair are negotiating an August fight
08:00, 05 Jul 2023

Keith Thurman and Yordenis Ugas are in talks for a WBC interim welterweight championship fight this coming August. The two former world champions arguably represent the best of the rest at 147lb, while the world awaits Terence Crawford vs Errol Spence Jr. That undisputed championship collision will take place on 29th July in Las Vegas. The victor may just find themselves in the ring with Thurman or Ugas in their next fight.

While there has been a lot of talk of either Spence or Crawford moving up to light middleweight in the wake of their undisputed title victory, Thurman or Ugas will be at the front of the queue if they stay put. It is a worthy match-up for picking a next opponent for the divisional ruler, given the credentials of the men involved.


Thurman is a former WBA champion and at one time looked set to pick up the baton from the Floyd Mayweather/Manny Pacquiao era of welterweight boxing. Thurman was reigning champion when Mayweather walked away from the sport for good in 2017, but ‘Pac-man’ wasn’t quite ready to give up his throne. Pacquiao became the first and only man to defeat Thurman in 2019, when he won a split decision to take the WBA strap from ‘One Time’.

A hurtful defeat, physically and emotionally, Thurman would not resurface in a prize ring until last year. The 34-year-old beat former super lightweight champion Mario Barrios by unanimous decision, but has remained inactive since. Having fought just three times since 2017, Thurman’s biggest barrier to further success is his lack of activity. One feels ring rust and a lack of sharpness will come back to bite him at some point, particularly as his body begins to age.

This is unlikely to be the fight in which that happens though. Ugas himself has been out of the ring since a tenth-round TKO loss to Spence in April 2022. Both men have been out of the ring for the same amount of time, meaning the marginal gain of a ring rusty opponent is unlikely to be a factor.


What may be a factor is a psychological edge Ugas can boast over Thurman. While the latter fluffed his lines against the modern legend, Ugas holds a win over Pacquiao. The Cuban was actually the icon’s next opponent after Thurman, albeit there were two years between the contests. One could argue Pacquiao was a little shopworn by the time Ugas got to him, but few were picking ‘54 Milagros’ to prevail before the bout. Then, as now, Ugas was the underdog.

He hasn’t won since, with his only other fight being that Spence reverse. But he can put himself back in the hat to fight his conqueror with a win here. Ugas has proven himself a tough, awkward proposition for his opponents. He ran Shawn Porter close in a 2019 split decision defeat. The likes of Mike Dallas Jr and Omar Figueroa Jr couldn’t work him out. Abel Ramos fell in a 2020 battle for the vacant WBA title. Ugas is an accomplished fighter and a live underdog in this one.

The prize on offer here extends beyond the WBC interim title on the line. No matter what the Spence-Crawford winner does next, either Thurman or Ugas can benefit. If the victor moves up in weight, their championship will be upgraded to become the full WBC welterweight championship. If Spence or Crawford stick around, the WBC would likely order a unification fight. Thurman and Ugas really are one fight away from a genuine world championship, possibly even the undisputed crown. 

Boxing has got two of its bigger non-champion names into a ring. Imagine that? Hopefully the fight will live up to the billing and these fighters will make a real case for progression. Spence vs Crawford is the real welterweight banger we’ll all be glued to this summer. But Thurman and Ugas just might provide us with an exciting epilogue. A 147-pound post-credit scene that hints at an intriguing future for those involved.

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