By Lem Satterfield
IBF champion Jose Uzecategui has ambitious desires for what he hopes to be his first four 168-pound world title defenses.
The 27-year-old Uzecategui (28-2, 23 KOs) expects to face IBF-ordered mandatory Caleb Plant (17-0, 10 KOs) sometime in early 2019 as a follow-up to his title-winning ninth-round stoppage of Andre Dirrell in a March rematch of Dirrell’s disqualification victory from May 2017.
Should he get beyond Plant, a 26-year-old unanimous decision winner against one-time title challenger Rogelio Medina in February, Uzecategui craves all-Mexican battles against WBO king Gilberto Ramirez (38-0, 25 KOs) and former champion David Benavidez (20-0, 17 KOs) followed by WBA titleholder Callum Smith (25-0,18 KOs) of Britain.
Coming last month’s non-title, 172 ½-pound unanimous decision over Ezequiel Osvaldo Maderna, the Venezuelan-born Uzecategui believes he can “give Caleb Plant the beating of his life” and dominate Ramirez and Benavidez in three - and five - or less rounds.
After being floored twice during a unanimous decision loss to then-unbeaten Matt Korobov in his final 160-pound bout in June 2014, Uzecategui rose to 168 pounds to score four straight stoppage victories in three or less rounds.
The run, ended by the loss to Dirrell, included a three-knockdown, second-round TKO of John Jackson, who entered their October 2015 bout at 19-0 with 15 KOs.
BoxingScene.com spoke to Uzecategui about his goal to vanquish all of the above.
BoxingScene.com: How do you recall your first loss by two-knockdown, unanimous decision to Matt Korobov and rebounding with four straight knockouts?
Uzcategui: I was at 160 for the last time for the Korobov fight, and we were still working without things that were not yet incorporated like a strength and conditioning coach.
The day before the weigh-ins, I was so drained and tired. As a result, I felt really weak in the fight. That led to a bad performance.
But that was a different team than the one I have, now, and so moving up in weight was a lot better for me and you could see that in the skills, power and endurance of my next few performances.
BoxingScene.com: How big was the second-round TKO over previously unbeaten Julius Jackson, whom you floored three times in the first round and once more in the second?
Uzcategui: That was a very important win, being my second straight knockout after a major loss in the public eye, and coming against an undefeated fighter on national television.
I felt like I had at lot to prove, and I was given the opportunity to display my real talents and skills. By destroying Julius Jackson, I demonstrated that I was ready for the bigger fights.
BoxingScene.com: Did you hear the round-ending bell in the Dirrell fight, and, what are your thoughts on the way the first fight ended with the disqualification for hitting after the bell?
Uzcategui: I was winning in a fair fight and continuing to do my job. So, no, I didn’t mean to connect after the bell. When it rang, I was in the midst of throwing a combination and already in motion.
I believe that Dirrell was hurt when he went down, but I also believe that he really played it up in the fight. You could see that he signaled to the referee that he was okay and was about to get up.
But then, all of a sudden, it’s like his corner tells him to stay down, so it’s like he was acting more hurt than he really was. In retrospect, I know he chose the easy way out and wanted no more parts of me that night.
BoxingScene.com: Can you explain what transpired prior to Dirrell’s trainer throwing and hitting you with the left hook and partially the right hand after the fight?
Uzcategui: Well, his trainer was actually speaking to my trainer, and they were talking about the fact that I didn’t intentionally hit Dirrell after the bell. When I turned around from looking at my trainer, he threw the punch.
Did he hurt me? No. I never really felt the punch. Looking back, though, it was nothing major. If anything, thanks to that punch, I’m a lot more famous from the exposure than I would have been, otherwise.
BoxingScene.com: How incentivized were you being rewarded the rematch, and was your motivation a factor in your dominance toward earning the knockout in the return bout?
Uzcategui: There was so much emotion in training camp leading up to the second fight knowing that I was being given an opportunity to prove that my dominance in first fight wasn’t a fluke.
I knew that, just like in the first fight, we were on the way to stopping him or knocking him out, cold, and in the second fight, I was determined that Dirrell was going to pay for the way the first fight ended.
I respect the other guys in the division, but I believe that the way I dominated Dirrell in two fights goes a long way toward proving that I’m the best super middleweight in the world.
BoxingScene.com: How special is being a Venezuelan-born 168-pound titleholder along with Mexico-based Gilberto Ramirez?
Uzcategui: As a child, I always dreamed of being a world champion. Isn’t that every boxer’s dream? So I am honored to be a Venezuelan champion, and, hopefully, an inspiration to a country where, obviously, things are pretty bad right now.
Mexico has become like my second home, so it’s an honor to be considered one of the three Mexicans who are at the top of the division. Hopefully, I’ll be able to land a unification fight with Ramirez, beat him, Benavidez and Smith, and become the No. 1 guy.
BoxingScene.com: How beneficial were your sparring sessions with David Benavidez in advance of facing Dirrell the first time?
Uzcategui: We just happened to both be in Big Bear, California, at the same time, and sparring with Benavidez was a byproduct of that.
We didn’t take too much away from it, but just from that, I know that if we fought, it would be a war. So for that reason, Benavidez is a guy I would truly like to fight.
BoxingScene.com: Can you break down what happens in fights against Ramirez, Benavidez and Smith?
Uzcategui: Ramirez would be a dream fight for me. I have been wanting to fight Ramirez for a long while, and if that fight actually happens, that would be a much easier fight for me than Benavidez.
Ramirez’s style of fighting doesn’t compare favorably to mine, and I promise you that I have more power than he does. That fight would last less than three rounds before I knock him out.
That fight with Benavidez would go no more than five rounds before I knock him out, but I would definitely put him to sleep also.
Callum Smith would bring the biggest challenge in the 168 pound division. He is a very good puncher and he’s tall and rangy. But I love that fight.
I want to fight the best at 168 pounds, and Smith just won the World Series of boxing and The Ring Magazine belt, so I welcome that fight anytime.
BoxingScene.com: What are your thoughts on what Caleb Plant does well, his last performance against Rogelio “Porky” Medina, and how you will defeat him?
Uzcategui: Caleb Plant earned this shot by beating a Porky Medina that no one cares about anymore, and now he’s getting into the ring with me, and I’m for real.
Caleb’s done a lot of trash talking, and I’ve taken it personally. I truly do not like this guy, but now, we’ll see if he can back it up.
I don’t want to simply stop him or knock him out. That would be too easy. I am planning to make it a long night for Caleb Plant. I want to give Caleb Plant the beating of his life throughout the whole fight.