By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – Jose Uzcategui is sure he hurt Andre Dirrell several times during their first fight.
If he hadn’t been disqualified, it was just a matter of time, according to the hard-hitting contender, before he would’ve knocked out Dirrell. Venezuela’s Uzcategui promised to finish what he started May 20 when he faces Dirrell again Saturday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
“It’s gonna be better,” Uzcategui told BoxingScene.com through a translator. “I’m gonna knock him out within three rounds.”
The 34-year-old Dirrell (26-2, 16 KOs) has not been knocked out during his 13-year pro career. The talented southpaw has lost only on points to two former champions – a split decision to Carl Froch in October 2009 and a unanimous decision to James DeGale in May 2015.
The 27-year-old Uzcategui (26-2, 22 KOs) was winning their first fight on two of the three scorecards through eight rounds. Referee Bill Clancy disqualified him, though, because Uzcategui hit Dirrell after the bell sounded to end the eighth round.
The situation worsened when Leon Lawson Jr., Dirrell’s uncle and former trainer, sucker-punched Uzcategui in the ring following the fight. Felonious assault charges against Lawson were downgraded to a misdemeanor assault charge, but Uzcategui’s handlers plan to pursue punitive damages once Lawson’s criminal case is resolved.
This week, however, Uzcategui and Dirrell mostly have opted to discuss their 12-round rematch.
“In the first fight, I could tell that I hurt him on several occasions,” Uzcategui said. “This fight, I’m definitely gonna showcase my power.”
Dirrell realizes he must be smart and box well to neutralize Uzcategui’s power if the Flint, Michigan, native is to retain the IBF interim super middleweight title he won in their first fight. Dirrell will fight for the first time with new trainer Virgil Hunter, who replaced Lawson, in his corner.
“Uzcategui is a great fighter,” Dirrell said. “He’s a stronger fighter, he’s hungry, he’s strong-minded and he’s gonna bring the fight. So with that, Andre Dirrell has to be every bit the boxer that he is.”
Dirrell thinks he’ll fight to “60 percent” of his capabilities in this bout because it’ll take another training camp with Hunter for them to jell. The 2004 Olympic bronze medalist still is confident he can perform much better than he did in their first fight.
Dirrell also thinks he had figured out Uzcategui in the several rounds leading up to the controversial conclusion. He credits Uzcategui with winning the first three rounds, but believes he began taking control late in the fourth round.
“He’s long, he’s strong, most definitely, and he’s determined,” Dirrell said. “I would imagine he’ll be a lot more determined to get on the inside and work with me than he was the first fight. He has a lot more to prove now. It was a C-minus performance from me, a C-plus at best. I didn’t like my performance at all. But still, I started to win the rounds from the end of the fourth, on. So I believe I’ll take it and continue right where I left off.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.