The elements of confidence and hunger are what make tomorrow night's IBF 168-pound title fight on FS1 a potential early candidate for Fight of the Year.
Hunger manifests itself in any number of ways.
In the case of defending IBF super middleweight champion Jose Uzcategui (28-2, 23 KOs), it fuels him to impose his will on opponents and deliver fight-ending punishment.
That hunger in first-time world title challenger Caleb Plant (17-0, 10 KOs), however, is revealed through the hours spent fine-tuning an intelligent, timing-based style designed to win rounds and befuddle opposition.
Tomorrow night the two hungry opposites will be pitted against one another in a Premier Boxing Champions primetime showdown on FS1 and FOX Deportes, live at Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT).
Uzcategui holds an edge in experience over his upcoming rival, benefitting from a vast amateur background in his native Venezuela, as well as lessons learned in the rough gyms of his adopted hometown of Tijuana, Mexico. A pro since 2011, “El Bolivita” has been in the ring with names such as Matt Korobov, Rogelio Medina, David Lopez, Julius Jackson, and Andre Dirrell (twice).
In his second bout with Dirrell—a ninth-round corner stoppage in 2018 to avenge a controversial disqualification loss 10 months prior—Uzcategui, 28, won his first world title.
The two Dirrell fights, which saw him grind down and batter the talented American, would affirm Uzcategui’s world class standing and confirm he was more than just a come-forward brute.
The champion can freely switch from orthodox to southpaw and is a smart pressure fighter whose natural aggression is enhanced by solid fundamentals, good balance, and a veteran’s composure. A heavy right hand is his biggest weapon, but there’s pop and bad intent in just about everything he throws.
Uzcategui’s biggest assets, though, may be his supreme self-confidence and a Roberto Duran-like primal disdain for his opposition.
“It is an honor to defend my IBF title for the first time on FOX Sports,” Uzcategui said. “About the only thing I can say about my fight is that I don’t respect Caleb Plant. He has talked too much and I will punish him, beat him up and then knock him out.”
The 26-year-old Caleb Plant, meanwhile, is more ice than fire in the ring, preferring a cold, calculated approach over Uzcategui’s hot hostility.
An unapologetic boxing stylist, “Sweethands” likes to pick and prod, shifting angles to not only land scoring shots, but to throw his opponents off-kilter.
With a hint of the tilted shoulder, give-‘em-the-side-of-your-body positioning à la classic James Toney, the Nashville native has good balance and fluidity to go along with his growing ring experience.
Still, in less than five years as a professional, Plant has yet to face opposition above the journeyman level. However, in February 2018, a one-sided decision over well-traveled former world title challenger Rogelio Medina in an IBF super middleweight eliminator showed the young prospect’s potential.
Plant is fueled by dreams of world title glory and a dedication to the memory of his 19-month old daughter, Alia, who suffered from a rare medical condition and passed away in 2015. He couldn’t be more motivated for this opportunity.
“I’m going to bring excitement,” Plant said. “Everyone who has watched me sees my boxing skill, the speed, the footwork, but we have some new additions that we’ll throw in there for this fight. Everyone needs to tune in January 13 to see what it looks like...I really think that with our styles, this is going to be fireworks. I believe that on January 13 you will hear, ‘And the new!’”
Uzcategui-Plant is an intriguing matchup. The outcome may depend on Plant’s main stage readiness.
If Plant is to win this world title contest, he must be sharp and focused. He’ll need to use Uzcategui’s aggression against him, keeping him off-balance and then letting his hands go—something which has been a bit of an issue with him in the past—in order to not only score, but gain respect.
In a firefight, one would have to favor Uzcategui over Plant, but Plant’s goal is not all-out war as much as it is a campaign of precision strikes.
If Plant’s drive pulls him off his game plan, he will lose. If Uzcategui gets sloppy and careless in his pursuit of Plant, he will falter.
Poise and execution in this high-pressure, high-stakes moment in time will be key. The outcome of Sunday’s bout will be determined by hunger and, more importantly, by how that hunger manifests itself.
For a closer look at Uzcategui vs Plant, check out our fight page.