“Sweethands” lived up to his moniker, not only winning a 168-pound title—but turning in a star-making performance in Los Angeles.
His nickname is “Sweethands,” and now the boxing world knows why.
Caleb Plant’s fists were sweeter than sugar on Sunday night. In his first shot at a world title, Plant put on a brilliant display of boxing against power-punching champion Jose Uzcategui, winning a unanimous decision and his first world title in the main event of PBC on FS1 at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.
Plant, not known for his punching power, knocked Uzcategui down twice, in the second and fourth rounds, with lightning-quick left hooks each time.
The 26-year-old will take his newly minted IBF super middleweight title and still perfect record (18-0, 10 KOs) back to Tennessee.
Judges Max DeLuca and Zachary Young both scored the fight 116-110, while Lou Moret scored it 115-111. Plant had said this week that all he wanted to hear was “And the new . . .” and that’s exactly what he heard when ring announcer Ray Flores read the decision.
Upon hearing those words, Plant, blood dripping from a cut outside his right eye that occurred in the third round, dropped to his knees, his lifelong dream finally realized.
“I’ve worked my whole lifetime for this, 17 years straight,” Plant said, tears flowing. “I buried my daughter in the process of trying to get this belt. I promised her that I would become world champion and bring her this title, and that’s exactly what I’m going to go back to Tennessee and do.
“Nashville, stand up,” he shouted in reference to his hometown.
Plant lost his 19-month-old daughter, Alia, in 2015 to a rare disease. He has been fighting for her ever since. Uzcategui, 28, also lost a 3-year-old daughter several years ago from a heart defect. Both fighters have drawn inspiration from their misfortune.
This fight was originally scheduled for last August, but Plant broke his left hand during training camp, pushing the date back. He showed no ill-effects on this night.
Plant moved beautifully early on, beating Uzcategui to the punch and scoring with a strong jab. Uzcategui missed often, as Plant ducked and feinted and slipped punches while landing to the head and body—looking almost Floyd Mayweather-like in the process. It’s no coincidence that Plant, who now resides in Las Vegas, has spent much time at the Mayweather Boxing Club.
A counter left hook in the middle of an exchange dropped an off-balance Uzcategui down in the second—only the third time in his career. He rose, seemingly unhurt, and continued to stalk the challenger, who peppered him in the process.
Early in the fourth, a bad cut opened over Plant’s right eye. The American showed grit, fighting through it although it times it appeared to impair his vision. Energized by seeing blood, Uzcategui began letting his hands go.
Midway through the stanza, they traded hooks. Both landed; Plant’s punch was significantly harder, driving Uzcategui across the ring and to the mat. This time, when he rose, his legs appeared unsteady. However, Plant didn’t press his advantage, sticking to his game plan of a smart, outside fight.
Plant continued to pile up the points as the fight progressed. He landed an assortment of shots to the head and body, leading and countering—almost at will. And his defense was sublime.
Uzcategui was game but flummoxed. He rebounded in the ninth, rocking Plant with a short right uppercut on the inside. The challenger wisely clinched to survive the follow-up onslaught.
After losing the tenth, Plant bounced back in the eleventh, showing skill in close quarters and beating Uzcategui to the punch at a distance.
After the final bell, Plant jumped on the ropes, raising both arms in history. He had finally realized his dream.
Brandon Figueroa passes tough test, stopping Moises Flores in three rounds
Brandon Figueroa made a bold statement Sunday night, punishing Moises Flores with a flurry of body shots, as the 22-year-old Texan remained undefeated and moved closer to a title shot with a third-round knockout of Moises Flores, a former title challenger.
Figueroa (18-0, 13 KOs), “The Heartbreaker,” came out aggressively and never gave Flores much of a chance to even fight back, pounding away at the Mexican’s body with powerful shots that made him wince. Flores went down twice, the second time on a left hook that took whatever steam he had left out of him. Referee Jack Reiss had seen enough and stopped it at 1:25 of the third round of the scheduled 12-round junior featherweight bout.
Asked what his message would be to WBA junior featherweight champion Daniel Roman, he said, “I am really strong. I came in at 110 percent and did my job. I am most definitely ready for a title shot. I’m going to go back home and start training and I’m ready for it.”
Figueroa is the younger brother of former champion Omar Figueroa Jr.
Joey Spencer keeps KO streak perfect
Sensational teenage prospect Joey Spencer sent 39-year-old challenger Brandon Harder down to one knee three times en route to a second-round TKO. This was his sixth win in as many fights. All have ended in knockouts.
Spencer, 18, the Premier Boxing Champions’ 2018 Prospect of the Year, countered the awkward style of Harder, a former cop and fireman, by essentially standing in the middle of the ring and pot-shotting his opponent, who spent most of his less than two rounds keeping his distance from Spencer. After Harder took a knee for the third time, and second time in the second round, referee Jack Reiss stopped it at 1:27 of the round.
Spencer is ready to step up the competition.
“The goal is to move to six rounds next, that’s in the plans and I think that’s going to happen. I look forward to it.”
Guillermo Rigondeaux KOs Giovanni Delgado in PBC debut
Former champion and pound-for-pound contender Guillermo Rigondeaux, fighting for the first time in 13 months and for the first time with Ronnie Shields as his trainer, wasted little time in handling Giovanni Delgado. Rigondeaux dropped the Mexican with a powerful overhand left at the end of the first round and that was all she wrote. Referee Jack Reiss counted Delgado out at the bell.
Rigondeaux, a Cuban and former super bantamweight champion coming off his only career loss in December 2017 to Vasily Lomachenko, found Delgado a much easier target. He improved to 18-1 with 12 KOs, hardly breaking a sweat in stopping Delgado, who has lost his last four fights by knockout. His record fell to 16-9.
Pure. Domination.— FOX Sports: PBC (@PBConFOX) January 14, 2019
Ahmed Elbiali puts on a show and gets the 3rd Round KO. pic.twitter.com/PwqWLIID1z
Ahmed Elbiali knocks veteran Allen Green down three times en route to TKO victory
Ahmed Elbiali’s power punches were too much for veteran Allen Green, as the Egyptian-born light-heavyweight fighting out of Miami pummeled Green for nearly three rounds, finally stopping the 39-year-old, who had little stomach to continue the punishment Albiali was dishing out.
Green (33-6) went down in the first round as Albiali attacked the body and took a knee in the second round. By the third round, Green was holding on for dear life, before an overhand right finished him at 1:43 of the round.
“I was easier than I thought it was going to be,” said Elbiali. “Losing to Pascal the way I did, it messes with you mentally. I was trying to stay on my A-game. Stay focused and thankfully it showed. My game plan clicked really well. I have been sparring with Caleb (Plant) and other great guys. That keeps you sharp and alert. I would love to win a world title and be the first Egyptian win a world championship.”
For a complete look at Uzcategui vs Plant, check out our fight page.