Jose Uzcategui headlines the first major show of the year at the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles – live on Fox stateside and ITV in the UK – defending his IBF super-middleweight championship against undefeated American challenger Caleb Plant.

The Venezuelan-born Mexican is a powerful and athletic pressure fighter who in 2018 made a statement with a dominant victory in his rematch with Andre Dirrell, after their first fight ended in controversial circumstances.

Last March in Brooklyn, ‘Bolivita’ captured the interim title IBF in style, emphatically exacting vengeance on Flint native Dirrell, a seasoned veteran who had only previously lost close points decisions to James DeGale and Carl Froch. With a brutal display of surgical combination punching, Uzcategui capitalised on his chance to showcase his considerable skillset in front of the thousands of fans assembled inside the Barclays Center, who were at that point anticipating an explosive encounter between Deontay Wilder and Luis Ortiz.

Indeed, Uzcategui clearly demonstrated that night he was also capable of producing fireworks to rival the two heavyweight attractions in the main event – something which was, you could argue, momentarily forgotten – as he systematically dismantled the favourite with accurate straight right hands coupled with some devastating shots to the body. Even with the venerable Virgil Hunter in his corner, Dirrell was powerless to withstand the onslaught, as he ultimately succumbed to Uzcategui’s relentless pressure in round nine.

The seemingly effortless nature of Uzcategui’s win certainly put the rest of the division on notice, and having asserted his position as mandatory challenger with the relevant organisation, Uzcategui would have no doubt been relishing the opportunity to secure a signature career win over IBF champion James DeGale – who scrapped his way back into championship relevance with a hard-fought decision over Caleb Truax. Instead, Uzcategui – along with many Stateside observers – were left somewhat bemused following Degale’s decision in July to vacate his title in pursuit of decidedly more lucrative opportunities against bitter domestic rivals George Groves and Chris Eubank Jr.

Nevertheless, Uzcategui – who at this stage was elevated to full champion – remained profoundly unperturbed by all of this – issuing a short statement acknowledging DegGle’s merits as a fighter and congratulating him on his reign – before setting his sights on a unification fight with the prodigiously talented WBC champion David Benavidez. However, Uzcategui was once again left frustrated as Benavidez tested positive for cocaine in September, and returned to action outpointing Ezequel Maderna in a light-heavyweight tune-up.

Now Uzcategui will no doubt be seeking to legitimise his status of champion with a win over a highly-regarded contender for starters, en route to potentially asserting his position as the number one super middleweight in the world.

Article by: Navi Singh

Follow Navi on Twitter at: @DarkMan________