SAN DIEGO, Calif., January 13, 2019 – Caleb Plant of Nashville heard the words every boxing challenger dreams about hearing all their lives on Sunday in Los Angeles: and the new.
Plant (18-0, 10 KOs) became the IBF super middleweight world champion with a dominating unanimous decision victory over Jose Uzcategui of Venezuela (28-3, 23 KOs). Judges scored it 116-110 on two cards, and 115-111 on the third.
Plant came storming out of his corner at the opening bell, showing more speed and power than his opponent expected. Uzcategui had trouble adjusting his thinking, and his feet. At the start of the second round, Plant knocked Uzcategui down with a left hook. He scored another knockdown with a second left hook a minute into the fourth round. The first time, Uzcategui was caught off balance. The second time, Plant drilled the champion into the ground.
Despite a cut outside his right eye suffered early in the fight, Plant continued to be the aggressor early, dominating the first half of the fight by scoring to the body, then tagging Uzcategui to the head when he tried to avoid more body shots. Credit to Plant’s cutman Dan House, among the best in boxing.
Speed kills in boxing
Plant played it smart, working brilliantly at distance and using his superior speed to make himself an elusive target for the frustrated Uzcategui. Trying to change the narrative of the fight, Uzcategui tried swinging for the fences and missing. He seemed to be running out of ideas.
As the second half of the bout began, Plant began trading with Uzcategui at closer range, something Plant’s trainer didn’t want him to do. Easily up on the cards, there was little need for Plant to stand in front of the champion and trade shots. It allowed Uzcategui a glimmer of hope that he might work his way back in the fight.
But it wasn’t going to happen. Both men were starting to show fatigue, and in the champion’s case his ebbing strength left him unable to rescue the outcome with the knockout he needed to win. After the eighth round, Uzcategui’s corner asked, “are you sure you’re feeling OK? These rounds, you really have to work it … You know what you came for.”
Uzcategui scored with one nasty upper cut punch as Plant buckled in the ninth round briefly, but he slipped the worst of it. It was the second round the champion won, and he continued to win rounds through the end of the fight on the scorecards. But it wasn’t enough. Uzcategui needed to through caution to the wind, and Plant needed to make a mistake. Plant’s trainer told him before the final round, “You want to be world champion? Give me one more good round. Be smart, Caleb.” He was. Thanks to the two early knockdowns, and the smart game plan executed by Plant, the outcome was clear at the closing bell.
Fight dedicated to Plant’s daughter
An emotional Plant said after the fight, “I’ve worked my whole entire life for this, 17 years straight. I buried my daughter in the process of trying to get this. I promised her I’d become a world champion and bring her this title, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.” Plant’s daughter Alia died in 2015 shy of her second birthday due to a brain abnormality present since birth.
Later, Plant discussed execution of his fight plan, saying even when he hurt Uzcategui he took his time. “I stayed relaxed, I stuck to the game plan and got it done just like I said I would. This is overwhelming. I am a kid who came from nothing. I believed in myself and now I’ve been crowned king.”
Plant now joins WBO champion Gilberto Ramirez and WBA champion Callum Smith. Don’t forget Canelo Alvarez holds the “regular” WBA super middleweight title as well. Before Plant gets there, a rematch may be in order with Uzcategui. For now though, he should enjoy every moment of his success.
Brandon Figueroa delivers the fight he promised
Junior featherweight prospect Brandon Figueroa of Welasco, Texas (18-0, 13 KOs) maintained his perfect record and proved he’s ready for a title fight opportunity with his third round stoppage of veteran Moises “Chucky” Flores of Mexico (25-2, 17 KOs).
Figueroa came at Flores from the opening bell, scoring with body shots right on the money. Flores managed to withstand the worst of it for two plus rounds, but eventually the damage accumulated. Referee Jack Reiss waved off the contest at 1:35 of Round 3. It was the first time Flores had been stopped as a pro.
Figueroa focuses on body work, something more young fighters need to do. “You break ‘em down and you finish ‘em. It was exactly how I expected it to go … I did what I did, and I knocked him out,” said Figueroa.
Figueroa becomes the mandatory challenger for world champion Daniel Roman with his win. “I’m going to go back home, start training. I’m ready for it,” promises Figueroa. Roman will require the 22-year-old Figueroa to deliver a pitch perfect performance to have a chance at upsetting the champion. It’s sure to be fun to watch.
Joey Spencer wins in televised debut
Super welterweight prospect Joey Spencer of Michigan (6-0 6 KOs) did his job delivering a second round knockout over former MMA fighter and ex-first responder Brandon Harder (2-1). The outcome was never much in doubt. Still, Spencer did his job.
“I give my all every time I get in the ring. I work hard, and I want to put on a show for the fans,” said the 18-year-old Spencer, now living in the San Francisco area.
Spencer promised, “You’ll get more and more tests in my career as I go, and I believe I’ll rise to the level of my competition. The goal is to move to six rounds next, that’s in the plan and I’m looking forward to it.” The super welterweight division has one young champion at the top in Jaime Munguia (age 22), but by the time other men in the top 20 start aging out, Spencer has a real chance to make his mark.
Guillermo Rigondeaux back in the ring with a bang
Two time Olympic gold medalist and former junior featherweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux of Cuba made a statement in his return to the ring after a year long absence. Now working with trainer Ronnie Shields, Rigondeaux (18-1, 12 KOs) delivered a one round knockout win courtesy of a perfect left hook to the head of Giovanni Delgado of Mexico (16-8, 9 KOS) right at the bell. Referee Jack Reiss counted Delgado out, as California rules don’t allow a fighter to be saved by the bell.
Rigondeaux was in good spirits after his win, saying “I haven’t shown everything of myself yet. I’m willing to fight with anyone.” Admittedly Delgado was a made to order opponent, having lost seven of his last eight fights including this one. Rigondeaux did what he needed to and then some. If he can keep up an aggressive look under the guidance of Shields, he may have the kind of exciting career in his late years fans always hoped to see.
Ahmed Elbiali back in the win column by knockout
Light heavyweight Ahmed Elbiali of Miami (18-1, 14 KOs) got 2019 off to a great start with a knockout win over Allan Green of Tulsa (33-6). The 39-year-old Green offered little resistance other than his veteran toughness as Elbiali blasted away with punches. Elbiali knocked Green down in each of the first two rounds, and his corner should have stopped the fight there and then. But Green came out for one more go, and Elbiali mixed in wicked upper cuts and some body shots to end the bout. Elbiali would be smart to focus on working up close on his opponents instead of winging wild shots from a distance.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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