The 2019 prizefighting calendar kick-started this past weekend with bouts on separate days, separate networks. Championship affairs and the next generation of potential fistic greats were all showcased and it bodes well for the limitless possibilities of the New Year.
Caleb Plant (18-0, 10 KO’s) vs. Jose Uzcategui (28-3, 23 KO’s)
Last Sunday night, just after the NFL Playoffs, Premier Boxing Champions on FOX presented an IBF super middleweight title fight between defending champion, Jose Uzcategui and the talented but untested Caleb Plant. Plant, a 2011 National Golden Gloves champion and alternate on the 2012 U.S. Olympic team, taped a picture of the red IBF strap he was vying for on the ceiling above his bed. It was the first thing he saw every morning and the last thing he saw before going to sleep every night. If that wasn’t inspiring enough, Plant was also on a mission to honor his daughter who tragically passed away in 2015, by not only winning the belt, but bringing it to her grave site. In a strange twist, Uzcategui’s also suffered the loss of a young child in his life.
There are no frills, no bells and no whistles to Uzcategui’s approach; he applies constant pressure and looks to knock his foes head several rows into the audience. On cue, he brought the fight to Plant, who worked behind his jab and displayed classic boxing skills. Plant has good head movement, counter punching ability, he’s defensively responsible, possesses good punch output, picks his shots well and attacks the body. In the 2nd, Plant stuck a left jab in Uzcategui’s face, clinched, spun him, fired a right hook to the body and a left hook to the head which caught Jose off-guard and floored him. Just as a cut opened over Caleb’s right eye in the 4th, he dropped Uzcategui a second time with a right-left to the body and another left hook to the head. Clearly, Plant hits a bit harder than his 10 KO’s suggests. On the strength of the knock downs, Uzcategui was arguably down as many as six points after the first 1/3rd of the contest and his task was basically impossible. To his credit, he hurt Plant with a huge left hook in the 9th, created swelling on both of his opponent’s cheek bones and connected with a big right in the 10th. It was to no avail however, as Plant lifted the super middleweight championship unanimously by scores of 116-110 (twice) and 115-111.
It was a master stroke on the part of PBC to piggyback off the NFL, and they were rewarded with peak viewership numbers of 986,000, which is staggering considering no A-list, household name level fighters were on display.
Devin Haney (21-0, 13 KO’s) vs. Xiolisani Ndongeni (25-1, 13 KO’s)
Please don’t call Devin Haney a “prospect”. Just as he appeared to be the favorite for most 2018 “Prospect of the Year” awards, Haney let it be known, “I’m not a prospect, I’m a contender”. To that end, he was ranked in the top 10 by three different sanctioning bodies, leading into his bout with South African Xiolisani Ndongeni. This was Haney’s third and final appearance on Showtime’s SHOBOX and he’ll be moving on to Showtime Championship Boxing henceforth.
Haney’s taken an unorthodox path to pugilistic notoriety, turning pro at 17 with an amateur record of 130-8. Due to his age, Haney’s first 4 bouts were held in Mexico, until he could compete in the States. As a novice, Haney frequently posted sparring footage on social media (taboo to grizzled old school boxing sorts), to elevate his brand. He now trains out of the famed Mayweather Boxing Club in Vegas, and when he’s not making noise in the squared circle, he’s spending time with noted model, Blac Chyna. At just 20 years of age, Haney’s proven to be quite adept at keeping his name in the mix.
The knock against Haney has been a perceived lack of power, something he went out of his way to disprove against Ndongeni. In the very 1st round, Haney landed double digit hard, head snapping jabs. A double jab, right cross, left hook combination hurt Ndongeni and had there been another 20-30 seconds, Haney may have ended things in the opening frame. He dropped Ndongeni in the 2nd with a right hook and stalked his prey relentlessly from that point forward. By the 6th, Ndongeni accepted defeat mentally, was perfectly content with relinquishing the “O” in his loss column and was strictly looking to survive. Haney tried valiantly to get the stoppage, including a savage barrage of body-shots in the 10th and final round but it wasn’t mean to be. He won unanimously, 100-89 (twice) and 99-90.
“I’m not a prospect, I’m a fucking contender!”, Haney said in his post-fight interview. And with the wave of new, young fighters in and around his weight class, names like Teofimo Lopez, Vergil Ortiz, Ryan Garcia and Skakur Stevenson, Haney’s actually the youngest of the lot with more pro fights than any of them. The power game will improve as he fills out and matures.