Mario Barrios won an important welterweight title eliminator, shellacking Yordenis Ugas through the championship rounds on his way to a wide decision win at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Ugas was down in the second round from a jab and again in the 12th from a scything left hook, surviving a torrid final third of the fight to last the course, including at least three doctor’s inspections for worsening damage around his right eye.
Ugas, however, grimly and defiantly held on to hear the final bell, even though his face was a mess by the end.
“Unbelievable,” said San Antonio’s Barrios, who won by margins of 117-08 and two cards of 118-107. “All the work I put in paid off. I’m super-excited to be in this position. I knew this wasn’t going to be an easy fight but I had a great camp and we were prepared.”
The victor admitted he had been steadied by a liver shot early in the fight, but that he came through that and was able to pick up the pace as the contest progressed.
The first session was cagey, with Miami-based Ugas – who drops to 27-6 – fencing jabs to head and body and Barrios trying to time right hands over the top, with minimal success.
The second was slow going until the clackers to mark the end of the round and then, as Ugas fell into attack, Barrios timed him with a jab and Ugas was dropped onto the seat of his trunks for a count.
Stitch Duran went to work on Ugas’s face in the corner to keep any swelling down, and the Cuban came out firing to the body and landed a right over the top in the next.
Barrios planted his feet and fired back as the T-Mobile crowd gradually became more invested, as they prepared for the Canelo-Charlo main event, and Ugas had joy with his body attacks near the end of the third with Barrios starting to look uncomfortable.
There were plenty of feisty exchanges in an entertaining fourth, the fight was threatening to catch fire. Ugas clipped Barrios with several overhand rights, but Barrios was not being over-run.
Ugas was continuously trying to prise his way in, behind jabs and by aiming downstairs, but Barrios was very much playing his part and it was the same through the sixth. I felt Ugas did the better work in the seventh, although he was occasionally guilty of winding up his right hand and making it take too long and go too far from A to B while Barrios was busier with straighter shots through the middle and to the body.
Ugas survived his first doctor’s inspection on swelling around his right eye to start the ninth round, it was the same eye that had been damaged in his last fight, when he suffered a fractured eye socket in a losing effort against Errol Spence 14 months ago.
Barrios, by now, was looking fresher, although he copped a clear right hand near the bell to end the round.
The doctor again checked Ugas was good to go at the start of the penultimate session. Ugas’s face was growing ever bloodier and more disfigured. Barrios was busy with both hands, and certainly looking far fresher. Ugas also picked up a verbal warning to keep his shots higher having strayed low but, worse than that, was Ugas was starting to take more and more punishment.
The doctor allowed Ugas out for the final round, to the delight of the crowd, and he tried to hang tough but he walked onto a chopping left hook and Ugas went down again. His mouthpiece came out while underfire shortly after and it was getting rough for the Cuban veteran, who lost his mouthpiece a second time and was warned for it.
Ugas was running on courage and experience through the last 90 seconds and a display of grit and heart saw him hear the final bell but it was not an easy watch, by this point.
Barrios is now 28-2 (18) with his two defeats coming to Gervonta Davis and Keith Thurman.