Super middleweight world titlist Jose Uzcategui wants to fight the big names in his division, wants to make a big name for himself and wants to make big money. He could be on his way eventually, but he didn't make the statement he promised on Friday night.
Although he easily outpointed the overmatched Ezequiel Maderna, Uzcategui allowed him to hang around until the final bell in a one-sided nontitle fight at a contract weight of 174 pounds in the main event of the Top Rank Boxing on ESPN+ card before 2,989 at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, California.
Uzcategui, who had promised an explosive performance prefight, won by shutout scores of 100-90 on two scorecards and 98-92 on the third in a fight in which he landed almost at will but could not do any real damage or come close to scoring a knockdown or knockout. ESPN also scored the fight 100-90 for Uzcategui, who was recently elevated from an interim titleholder to a full titlist when James DeGale elected to vacate his 168-pound belt rather than give Uzcategui the mandatory title fight he had earned.
After the fight, Uzcategui said going the distance was his real intent.
"It was part of the strategy," Uzcategui said through an interpreter. "Everybody expected an explosive fight, but everyone is running away from me, so my trainer [Jose Cital] and I developed a strategy to go 10 rounds so maybe the other champions will fight me. [Gilberto] Ramirez, [David] Benavidez, here I am, come fight me."
The heavy-handed Uzcategui applied nonstop pressure and really turned up his offense in the third round, letting his punches flow as he connected with solid combinations to knock Maderna back.
Uzcategui seemed like he could land at will. He connected with many straight right hands throughout the fight. He landed a brutal one early in the sixth round, but Maderna showed a good chin to take so many clean shots from a powerful puncher.
While Uzcategui regularly put combinations together, Maderna (26-5, 16 KOs), 31, of Argentina, rarely threw more than one punch at a time, perhaps knowing the danger of what would be coming back at him if he truly opened up. As if Maderna wasn't in a deep enough hole, it got worse in the seventh round when he landed a right hand on top of Uzcategui's head and appeared to injure the hand on the shot.
Uzcategui (28-2, 23 KOs), 27, a Venezuela native fighting out of Mexico, continued to throw punches constantly to force Maderna to back up, but he could never land the really big shot.
According to CompuBox punch statistics, Uzcategui landed 182 of 589 shots (33 percent) and Maderna was limited to landing only 72 of 429 punches (17 percent).
"I'm very happy with my performance, and in the end the Argentinean came to fight and he took a lot of shots and lasted the 10 rounds," Uzcategui said. "I just played around and got some rounds. Now that I didn't get the knockout, maybe the other champions will have the guts to fight me."
In May 2017, Uzcategui squared off with Andre Dirrell for a vacant interim belt in Oxon Hill, Maryland, and was ahead on two scorecards and even on the third when he was controversially disqualified in the eighth round for hitting Dirrell with a knockout punch thrown a split second after the bell ended the round, after which Dirrell's uncle and trainer, Leon Lawson Jr., sucker-punched Uzcategui in the face and was later arrested.
In the immediate rematch, Uzcategui claimed the interim belt as he delivered a one-sided beating of Dirrell, who quit on his stool after the eighth round, on March 3 in Brooklyn, New York. Next up was supposed to be a mandatory defense against Caleb Plant this fall, but when Plant suffered a hand injury that will keep him out of action until early next year, Uzcategui took Friday night's nontitle bout rather than sit idle for what likely would have been a year.
The fight with Plant (17-0, 10 KOs), 26, of Las Vegas, is expected to happen around March. If Uzcategui defeats Plant, there is a good chance he will get the unification fight he wants with the winner of the expected rematch between Ramirez and Jesse Hart, a fight in the works for later this year. But Uzcategui knows whom he wants to win that one.
"I know that first I have to make take on Caleb Plant, my IBF mandatory, but Ramirez, Ramirez, Ramirez is who I want. Let's make it happen," he said.