Premier Boxing Champions’ 2019 kicks off this Sunday night (Monday morning UK time) at the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles. The promotional outfit aims to also make waves in the UK this year, with ITV now on board, promotionally, and with broadcasting rights. ITV4 is the place to see the action unfold in LA in the UK, while Fox are the host broadcaster in the USA.
Kicking things off is Mexican based Venezuelan, Jose Uzcategui, who defends his IBF Super Middleweight Title for the first time since being upgraded to full Champion status. He was interim Champion, but following James DeGale’s vacation of the Title, Uzcategui was installed as the full Champion with the governing body. His opponent this weekend is the unbeaten, but untested American, Caleb Plant. Here is my preview.
Jose Uzcategui (28-2, KO23) v Caleb Plant (17-0, KO10) – 12 Rounds, IBF Super Middleweight Title
When James DeGale regained the IBF Super Middleweight Title in April last year, avenging a shock defeat to Caleb Truax, Venezuelan Jose Uzcategui was the next cab off the rank in line for a shot at the belt. Rather than risk his Title for little money or reward against a dangerous opponent, “Chunky” decided to relinquish in pursuit of a big payday. He now meets Chris Eubank Junior in London next month for the lightly regarded IBO Title.
His loss has become Uzcategui’s gain, and following a pair of intriguing battles with Andre Dirrell, he now stands as full IBF Champion, upgraded following DeGale’s abdication.
A professional since March 2011, Uzcategui enjoyed 21 straight wins in his adopted country of Mexico, before crossing the border in roder to step up in class in July 2014. He travelled to Omaha, Nebraska to take on fellow unbeaten, Matt Korobov in a challenge for the WBO Intercontinental Title at Middleweight. Uzcategui was floored twice in the seventh round, and was comfortably outscored by the Russian to hand him a first career defeat.
He moved up in weight, and scored four knockout wins to earn a shot at the interim IBF Title at Super Middleweight. Andre Dirrell was the opposition, and, with Uzcategui ahead in the fight, right on the bell at the end of the eighth, he let go of a three punch combination, with the third punch landing while the bell was ringing to end the session.
Dirrell fell face first to the canvas, and Uzcategui was subsequently disqualified, with mayhem then ensuing, Dirrell’s uncle and trainer Leon Lawson Junior, infamously then sucker punched Uzcategui in the face while he was standing in his corner, leading to an indefinite suspension from the Maryland commission as well as various sanctioning organizations, Lawson then fled police and was later hit with an assault charge in Maryland’s Prince George’s County.
A rematch was naturally ordered, and Uzcategui left no doubt this time, ruthlessly forcing Dirrell’s corner to pull their charge out at the end of the eighth round.
As James DeGale gave up the IBF Title in July, the governing body immediately installed Uzcategui as full Champion. He had a non-Title match in September, widely outpointing Ezequiel Osvaldo Maderna over ten in Mexico, and makes a first defence against the untried Caleb Plant this weekend.
A 2011 Golden Gloves winner, Al Haymon managed Plant has been a pro since May 2014, and it’s hard to argue how his shot at the World Title is merited with wins over fighters nowhere near World Title level. His best win was against a faded former World Title challenger in Rogelio Medina in February last year, dominating over twelve rounds. That was Plant’s last outing, and he steps up in level to challenge for world glory in Los Angeles this weekend.
Both men are tall, rangy fighters, and this may turn into a messy fight as a result. For me, Uzcategui is going from strength to strength, and I see him landing the cleaner and more eye catching shots, and comfortably pounding out a deserved points win in his maiden defence.