Stanionis steps aside, way clear for Ugas-Spence

Boxing

Yordenis Ugas will receive his shot at Errol Spence Jr. after all.

Ugas (27-4, 12 KOs) protested when the WBA mandated that he next defend his welterweight title against Eimantas Stanionis, but the latter has now agreed to step aside, WBA president Gilberto Mendoza told ESPN on Sunday, paving the way for Ugas to fight Spence.

Spence and Ugas, who are both aligned with Al Haymon’s PBC, are in the process of finalizing a deal for a welterweight title unification fight that will take place in March or April on pay-per-view at a location to be determined, a source told ESPN.

Spence’s WBC and IBF titles will be on the line, while Ugas will put up his WBA belt at 147 pounds. The other division title, the WBO strap, is held by Terence Crawford.

Stanionis, meanwhile, has agreed to fight Radzhab Butaev, and the plan calls for that bout to land on the Spence-Ugas PPV, Stanionis’ promoter, Probellum president Richard Schaefer, told ESPN.

“Thanks to the WBA for doing the right thing,” Ugas tweeted. “It is an award for my dedication, and for being a brave man in and out of the ring. I will be fighting one of the best [pound-for-pound]. I’m a warrior. First Cuban fighting [for] three belts [in] one night. Thanks [to] all the fans who asked for this fight.”

Spence (27-0, 21 KOs) was slated to fight Manny Pacquiao in August but withdrew after he suffered a detached retina in training. Ugas stepped in on 11 days’ notice and scored the upset of the future Hall of Famer, sending Pacquiao into retirement with a loss.

Ugas, 35, was in talks to fight Spence before Pacquiao accepted the assignment, and he hoped to reschedule the bout after the biggest win of his career (Spence was cleared to resume training on Nov. 1.) But the WBA planned to stick to its four-man box-off in an attempt to create only one champion at 147 pounds.

In one of those bouts, Butaev (14-0, 11 KOs) scored a ninth-round stoppage of Jamal James in October. Ugas and Stanionis (13-0, 9 KOs) were meant to fight each other in the other bout. Now, Butaev, a 28-year-old Russian, will meet Stanionis for the right to face the winner of Spence-Ugas after the WBA “agreed to modify the tournament from its original decision,” Mendoza said.

“Eimantas is looking forward to beating Butaev on the Spence vs. Ugas card and then fight the winner,” Schaefer said. “He is ready for anyone in the welterweight division.”

Stanionis, a 27-year-old Lithuanian, fought Luis Collazo in August, but the bout resulted in a no decision after a clash of heads resulted in a deep cut for Collazo.

Meanwhile, Spence, one of the biggest attractions in boxing, prepares for yet another comeback without a tuneup bout. The 31-year-old from DeSoto, Texas, was hospitalized with serious injuries in a single-car accident in October 2019.

He returned in December 2020 with a victory over Danny Garcia but hasn’t competed since.

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