The undefeated Caleb Plant scored a huge victory this Sunday night, surviving a late charge from IBF super middleweight Champion Jose Uzcategui to win his first world title in the first major televised boxing card of the year from the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles, California.
FS1 broadcasted a fight that was much better than expected, with Plant establishing a strong lead early, outboxing the more experienced champion for much of the fight. The Mexico-based Venezuelan Uzcategui did his best to rally late but was unable to score the knockout in a fight that he sorely needed one.
Tennessee’s Plant (18-0, 10 KOs) had never gone twelve rounds before in a fight, and his opposition was very light compared to that of Uzcategui (28-3, 23 KOs). But that turned out not to matter much, as Plant fought a spirited fight early on, using excellent movement and fast combinations to the head and body. Plant’s fast hands were especially effective as Uzcategui spent most of the fight plodding forward, not using any feints or an active jab to set up his attack.
The normally light hitting Plant twice dropped Uzcategui, the first being a flash knockdown to start the second. The second one, also off a left hook, was a much more solid shot that came just as Uzcategui was throwing his own big hook. The knockdowns help establish a huge lead for Plant and had to help with his confidence late in the fight.
Uzcategui did manage to open a pair of cuts on Plant, one over the right eye in the fourth and one on the side of the nose in the eighth. But the champion was simply unable to put together the kind of sustained attacks that led him to dominate his two fights against Andre Dirrell. Even when Plant began to slow down in the later rounds, Uzcategui lacked sharpness and seemed listless. On commentary, former lightweight champion Ray Mancini noted that Uzcategui came in almost three pounds under the 168 pound limit and speculated that Uzcategui may have overtrained. Whatever the reason, Uzcategui was nowhere near his best.
Plant showed plenty of grit in the later rounds, as Uzcategui did hurt him briefly in the ninth round with some short right hands. Plant chose to stay on the inside for much of the last three rounds and was even warned for holding in the 12th. But the lead he opened early, combined with Uzcategui’s inability to put together any sustained rally meant Plant just had to stay on his feet, which he did.
The scores were 116-110, 116-110, and 115-111, all for Plant. Fightbooth had it 114-112, also for Plant. While Plant was the slight betting favorite coming into the fight, it is the kind of performance that he has not turned in his pro career, against by far the best fighter that he has ever faced. Plant dedicated the fight to the memory of his late daughter, who transitioned before her second birthday. It was an emotional outpouring for Caleb as the decision was read.
It was a highly disappointing decision for Uzcategui who was won his title in dominant fashion, stopping Andre Dirrell last March. It also ruined what could have been a lucrative fight against Andre’s younger brother Anthony, who was on the commentary team for this fight.
For Plant, this is a chance for him to make some serious money. 168 pounds is a division with a lot of potential and with his relative inexperience and his lack of punching power (as well as his pigmentation), Plant will be seen a lucrative and beatable opponent for many top fighters at 160 and 168. But he proved tonight that he will be no easy out for anybody.
Also on this card:
Fighting for the first time in fourteen months, former two-time Olympic Gold Medalist and 122 pound titlist Guillermo Rigondeaux (18-1, 12 KOs) demolished an overmatched Giovanni Delgado (16-8, 9 KOs) stopping him with an overhand right hand at the very end of Round 1. It’s his first fight since quitting on his stool against Vasyl Lomachenko in December 2017.