IBF World super middleweight champion Jose Uzcategui (28-2, 26 KO’s) returns to the ring this Sunday in Los Angeles as he makes the first defence of his crown against American Caleb Plant (17-0, 10 KO’s) at Microsoft Theater.
Uzcategui, 28, was elevated to full champion by the IBF in July of 2018, following two-time champion James DeGale’s decision to vacate his title after a narrow unanimous decision victory over Caleb Truax in April.
DeGale, now scheduled to face compatriot Chris Eubank Jr. in a domestic showdown on February 23rd, made the decision to relinquish his title in the wake of Uzcategui’s resounding eighth round beatdown of two-time World title challenger Andre Dirrell to claim the interim strap.
Now holding the full version of the title, Uzcategui faces off against number two ranked contender Plant in a clash of undefeated 168lb’ers.
With the spotlight in the division elsewhere following WBA & ‘Ring Magazine’ champion Callum Smith’s stunning seventh round TKO of previous-consensus number one George Groves in the final of the WBSS, Uzcategui enters this weekend’s bout with Plant in a bid to establish himself among the super middleweight elite.
An awkward, rangy stylist with deceptive punching power, Uzcategui remained largely avoided by the marquee names in the division, boasting a modest record of 26-1 (22 KO’s) entering his first bout with former amateur standout Dirrell in May 2017.
Leading the fight going into the second half of the contest, Uzcategui would be controversially disqualified for being adjudged to have struck Dirrell after the bell to end round eighth, leaving the American unable to continue in the process.
The bout itself is perhaps more memorable due to the ensuing fracas between Uzcategui and Dirrell’s uncle and trainer Leon Lawson Jr., with Lawson delivering a disgraceful sucker-punch Uzcategui during the post-fight announcement. Lawson would face felony charges for the unprovoked assault, receiving an indefinite ban from the WBC.
Nevertheless, the rematch would be decidedly less controversial, with Uzcategui administering a brutal, one-sided beating on the increasingly shopworn-looking Dirrell en route to claiming the interim title.
With potentially lucrative unification bouts with WBO titlist Gilberto ‘Zurdo’ Ramirez and the aforementioned Smith, Uzcategui will look to put the rest of the division on notice with a similarly dominant performance this weekend against Plant.
Plant, himself unbeaten seventeen, enters the bout as a sizeable underdog, with the only opponent of note on his ledger coming in the shape of former DeGale challenger Rogelio ‘Porky’ Medina in a unanimous decision victory last time out.