By Jose Corpas
Like fellow Cuban Kid Chocolate, Ugas is considered one of the best-dressed boxers in the world. But as he prepares to face Omar Figueroa Jr. in a welterweight showdown this Saturday on FOX Sports PPV, there is one accessory he’s looking to add: A belt.
As his exposure grows, and more and more people get to see the sharp-looking shirts and slick suits that Yordenis Ugas (23-4, 11 KOs) wears to his press conferences, a growing number of people online have dubbed him, The Best Dressed Man in Boxing.
“If this is true, I am honored because I put a lot into my appearance,” says the welterweight. “I’ve always felt it was important to dress nice, especially if you’re in the entertainment business.”
Ashley Weston, who keeps Hollywood’s leading men looking stylish, says there are 16 accessories all well-dressed men should have. Ugas has the grey suit, the black or brown shoes, and almost all the items she recommends. The one thing he’s missing from her list, he hopes to add soon.
Back when “Mom-and-Pop’s” could afford the rent, there was a tiny shoe repair store near a Manhattan gym that was run by a Polish immigrant everyone called “Ziggy the Russian.” Despite what the faded sign in front read, he fixed most things leather, including a pair of boxing gloves trainer Whitey Bimstein brought in decades before but never picked up.
Right next to those dingy mitts was an old advertisement that said something along the lines of – suspenders hold up your pants but a belt ties everything together. Ziggy fixed belts along with shoes because, like Hollywood stylists, he felt shoes and belts should go together. Ugas wants a belt.
Ugas returns this Saturday, July 20, at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand, as the chief support to the Manny Pacquiao-Keith Thurman welterweight title against Omar Figueroa Jr., (28-0-1,19 KOs), live on FOX Sports PPV (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT). Both are hard-nosed types, two fighters who earned every break they got and, to get another one, they have some more breaking to do.
“On July 20, you’re going to see me put on a spectacular performance for everyone watching,” Ugas insisted. “Order the PPV now and enjoy the fights.”
Should Ugas defeat Figueroa and go on to win a belt, which he is confident he will, he would be following in the faded footsteps of another fighter from Cuba’s past. A fighter who lost a controversial decision in his first title shot. A fighter who never gave up. And, a fighter who was also considered boxing’s best dressed by those who paid attention to those things.
Barefoot and young, every day, back and forth on streets that let off steam whenever it rained, Kid Chocolate sold newspapers and polished dusty shoes. Bullies and thieves thought he was an easy mark. Chocolate, half their ages but twice as good, fought off all the thieves and all the bullies that loitered the corners near the Bocoy Rum factory. He went undefeated as an amateur and was soon filling baseball stadiums in the United States for his title fights.
Like Ugas, Kid Chocolate, who inspired Ezzard Charles and Henry Armstrong to become fighters, was known for his clothes. He owned over 350 suits – one for each day of the year, he used to say. In 1930, the Afro-American reported that he and Panama Al Brown, “Set Harlem Styles for Men.” During those years when Harlem was amid its Renaissance, when even the gangsters dressed in style, Kid Chocolate was a trendsetter.
“ I’ve always felt it was important to dress nice, especially if you’re in the entertainment business. ”Welterweight contender – Yordenis Ugas
“He was the best dressed man on the planet,” Ugas agreed.
Ugas knows all about Kid Chocolate, who, along with Sugar Ray Leonard and Teofilo Stevenson, is one of his favorite fighters. Ugas comes from the other side of Cuba – a city nicknamed “The Hot Land.” With daily temperatures approaching 100 degrees, Santiago de Cuba is a place where the dogs wait until the evenings to chase the cats. It’s also considered to be the birthplace of
“Son,” one of the progenitors of Salsa music.
Ugas, who modestly says that he dances “a bit,” prefers Salsa, though he recently posted a short training clip of him breaking out into some Hip Hop moves to Future’s “Stick Talk.” Despite the oppressive heat, or the constant tumbao rhythms of the congas that he heard everywhere as a youth, he knew what he wanted to do since the first time he watched a boxing match.
“I’ve always loved the sport of boxing since day one,” Ugas said. “Inside and out.”
That love for the game has shaped an attitude that remains positive even when the chips are down.
“I’m always adding new things to my game,” Ugas revealed. “Most likely you’ll see me more aggressive this fight.” He feels he was robbed against Shawn Porter (Ugas lost a 12-round split decision to the WBC welterweight champ last March) and he is, “going to take it out on Figueroa.”
If he keeps winning, and dressing, like he has been, he’ll be more than just Boxing’s Best Dressed fighter. Too modest to name his brands or show off the price tags, Ugas simply states that he’s appreciative of any attention he gets. “I’m grateful to all the fans who have been following my career.”
If he keeps winning, he’ll be a champion. And maybe, just maybe, that status, along with his style, will resurrect the legend of the great Kid Chocolate.
Just before the 2008 Olympics, Ugas carried the flag and led the Cuban national team into the arena while they faced off against France. The fights took place in La Sala Kid Chocolate in Havana. Earlier this year, that arena was closed in favor of a hotel, the red-lettered marquee that bore the old fighter’s name lay shattered on the street amid other debris.
Even in Cuba, fewer and fewer people know about Kid Chocolate. But if they tune in on July 20, they’ll get a glimpse of a fighter who’s cut from a similar cloth. An aggressive fighter who already dresses the part.
All he needs is a belt and it doesn’t matter which one – he already has the shoes to match.
Article courtesy of PBC