LOS ANGELES — For weeks and even months ahead of his world title fight vs. Jose Uzcategui, the unbeaten Caleb Plant told anyone who would listen the only words he wanted to hear at the end of the match were, “And the new … !”
“I’ve worked my whole entire life for this,” said Plant after his title-winning performance. “Boxing seventeen hard years. I buried my daughter in the process of trying to get this belt. I promised I would bring her this title and that is what I am going to do.”
While Uzcategui was the Vegas favorite, Plant entered the ring with a determination unseen in his previous fights against lesser opponents. In his first title shot, Plant handled the move up in competition with ease and won via unanimous decision after twelve intense rounds.
The judges scored the fight 116-110 twice and 115-111 for Plant after the 26-year-old Tennessean dropped Uzcategui twice in the early rounds en route to the IBF super middleweight title.
Plant, who hadn’t faced an opponent of Uzcategui’s caliber in his 17 fight professional career, clearly stepped up his game to deliver the stunning upset.
Uzcategui, born in Venezuela but fighting out of Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico, entered the ring the clear crowd favorite after Plant, representing Nashville, Tennessee, made his way to center stage amid boos for whatever reason.
While some boxing observers had noted Plant’s nearly year-long absence from the ring, the up-and-coming fighter showed no signs of ring rust early in the fight. In the second round, Plant dropped Uzcategui with a mean left hand though the Venezuelan quickly hopped up and showed no signs of injury.
“I did feel that I had the advantage heading into the fight,” said Uzcategui. “I went down because I was off balance, but I wasn’t hurt.”
But Plant’s aggressiveness paid off again in the fourth round when a quick combo sent Uzcategui to the mat for a second time.
Behind on the cards after the two knockdowns, Uzcategui came out firing in the sixth round, but Plant held his own and absorbed several shots from the soon-to-be former champ.
“He started to get tired around the sixth round, which was the plan,” said Uzcategui. “Caleb knew how to clench and hold. He was smart. He knew how to stay away from the punches.”
After a hard fought tenth round, the two embraced, a show of respect all too often lacking in American combat sports. The mutual respect didn’t last long as the two traded rough blows until the final bell.
For Plant, his reign as world champion has come and his future is bright, but he chose to enjoy the moment atop a division which recently saw Canelo Alvarez win a belt.
“This is overwhelming,” said Plant, who moves to 18-0 with 10 KOs. “I am a kid who came from nothing. I believed in myself and now I’ve been crowned king.
“Right now I am not thinking ahead. I just want to embrace this moment and soak it in.”
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