By Jake Donovan
Jose Uzcategui has served nearly all of 2018 as a super middleweight titlist despite having yet to make a single defense.
The International Boxing Federation (IBF) is ready to change that status.
The New Jersey-based sanctioning body has ordered Uzcategui to make his first mandatory defense, naming unbeaten Caleb Plant as the leading contender to the throne. A 30-day free negotiation period has been ordered between the two camps, with a December 5 purse bid hearing set aside in the event they cannot come to terms.
Photo Credit: Premier Boxing Champions Twitter Account
Representatives for Uzcategui and Plant were notified by the IBF earlier in the month.
“(Uzcategui’s) mandatory defense is due on or before January 5, 2019,” the IBF reminded Uzcategui’s promoter, Fernando Beltran in an official letter—of which a copy was obtained by BoxingInsider.com—to representatives for both sides. “The leading available contender is Caleb Plant…represented by TGB Promotions.
“Negotiations should commence immediately and be concluded by December 5, 2018. In the event that you are unable to come to an amiable agreement with Plant, the IBF will call for a purse bid.”
Uzcategui (28-2, 23KOs) claimed the interim title in an 8th round stoppage of Andre Dirrell in their rematch this past March. The Mexico-based Venezuelan—who turns 28 later this year—was elevated to full titlist after James DeGale vacated the belt this past summer in lieu of a mandatory title defense.
The turn of events was sweet redemption for Uzcataegui, who was cheated out of the title in his first fight with Dirrell last May. He was winning the bout and on his way to a stoppage win when he was suddenly disqualified for an official ruling of hitting Dirrell after the bell to end the 8th round. The sequence prompted a brief riot, infamously sparked by Dirrell’s uncle and head trainer Leon Lawson who attempted to sucker punch Uzcategui in his corner.
Lawson fled from the scene and was a wanted fugitive before eventually surrendering to authorities on an outstanding warrant.
Despite realizing his dream of winning a major title, it’s been hurry up and wait for Uzcategui. A mandatory title defense was desired, but Plant (17-0, 10KOs) has been out for most of the year while recovering from a hand injury. The Tennessee product hasn’t fought since a 12-round win over Rogelio Medina this past February.
Meanwhile, Uzcategui’s only piece of ring action since becoming full titlist came in the form of a stay-busy non-title fight this past September. It was a well-served purpose, easily outboxing Argentina’s Ezequil Maderna over 10 rounds in their ESPN+ streamed main event.
Uzcategui is co-promoted by Top Rank, which provides him with a major network outlet in ESPN. However, he is represented by his main promoter, Zanfer Promotions in this current round of negotiations.
Plant is represented by TGB Promotions but technically a free agent. His only contracted affiliation is through manager Luis DeCubas and adviser Al Haymon, fighting under the latter’s Premier Boxing Champions’ umbrella, which has lucrative long-term deals with Showtime and Fox.
Given that, the eventual clash will undoubtedly benefit from major televised coverage.