Jose Uzcategui fights on July 28 on ESPN+ card
By Jim Dower: Jose Uzcategui (27-2, 23 KOs) will be defending his IBF interim super middleweight title on July 28 in Floiriday on an ESPN+ card in Kissimmee, Florida, while he waits for his title shot against the still injured IBF 168lb champion James ‘Chunky’ DeGale.
Uzcategui, 27, will be fighting on the undercard of super featherweights Christopher Diaz (23-0, 15 KOs) and Masayuki Ito (23-1-1, 12 KOs). Those two will be fighting for the vacant WBO super featherweight title, which was vacated by Vasyl Lomachenko. He moved up to lightweight and beat WBA World 135lb champion Jorge Linares by a 10th round knockout last Saturday night in Brooklyn, New York.
Uzcategui is waiting for his title shot against the 32-year-old DeGale, who suffered a bad cut in his recent 12 round unanimous decision victory over Caleb Truax last month on April in Las Vegas, Nevada. DeGale recaptured his IBF 168lb title that he’d lost to Truax, 34, in his previous fight in December 2017 in a 12 round majority decision defeat. DeGale looked poor in both fights. What saved him in the rematch with Truax was his movement. DeGale moved just enough to squeak out a close decision by the scores 114-113, 117-110 and 114-113. Truax landed the better shots throughout the fight, but DeGale’s movement and constant tying up of the Minnesota native was enough to stall out the rounds to win the fight based very little action. DeGale was using the ‘punch and grab’ technique to stall the rounds, and the three Nevada State Athletic Commission assigned judges were impressed enough to give him the victory.
Uzcategui recently offered to step in as the replacement if George Groves is unable to face Callum Smith in the finals of the World Boxing Super Series tournament. Groves has been given 10 days by the WBSS to prove that he can physically perform in that fight. Groves suffered a left shoulder injury in his semifinals match against Chris Eubank Jr. in the WBSS tournament, and he’s been slowly healing. There might not be enough time for Groves to get back to 100 percent for the Smith fight. If that’s the case, then the WBSS will need a replacement for Groves. Uzcategui has volunteered to meet Callum Smith, but the WBSS organizers are leaning in the direction of using Chris Eubank Jr. as he replacement, even though he was beaten in his last fight by Groves in the tournament. It would be better or the boxing fans to have Uzcategui as the replacement for Groves, but he’s not as well known as Chris Eubank Jr., so it’s understandbale why they’re interested in having him as the replacement. There will be more interested from the boxing fans if Eubank Jr. is the replacement than Uzcategui got the job. Uzcategui would likely beat Eubank Jr. with ease, but that’s likely what this is about. I think the rationale for the WBSS choosing Eubank Jr. as the replacement for Groves is he’s very popular, and that’lkl help sell tickets.
Uzcategui recently stopped Andre Dirrell in the 8th round on March 3 to win the interim IBF super middleweight title in Brooklyn, New York. Uzcategui battered Dirrell to get the stoppage. In their first fight last year in May, Dirrell beat Uzcategui by an 8th round disqualification. The fight was stopped in the 8th due to Uzcategui hitting Dirrell after the bell had sounded to end the round. Dirrell was knocked out after the bell had sounded, which forced the referee Bill Clancy to disqualify Uzcategui.
The way that DeGale has looked lately, he’ll be a huge underdog when he faces Uzcatecui later this year. DeGale has looked like a shot fighter in his last two fights. Some boxing fans believe that the punishment DeGale absorbed in his 12 round draw against Badou Jack last year in January ruined him as a fighter, causing him to deteriorate physically. DeGale says he’s fine, and he blames his performances on the shoulder surgery he had done on his right shoulder after his fight with Badou last year. It’s been almost a year and a half since DeGale’s shoulder surgery, and he still doesn’t look like the same fighter he was in the Jack fight. If DeGale doesn’t get back to the level he was at before that fight, he’s likely going to get trounced when he faces Uzcategui this year.
Uzcategui might be the best fighter in the super middleweight division right now. His main competition isn’t considered to be DeGale. It’s Groves, and his career is a question mark now following his shoulder injury on his last fight. Uzcategui has power, boxing skills and mobility going for him. He’s also still young at 27.
The Top Rank promoted 23-year-old Christopher Diaz will have a great chance of beating of beating #2 WBO Masayuki Ito (23-1-1, 12 KOs) to win the vacant WBO super featherweight title on July 28. If Diaz wins the belt, the WBO title will stay in house with Top Rank keeping the belt after the Top Rank promoted Lomachenko gave up the title. The 27-year-old Ito has a lot of wins on his resume, but none against good opposition. His resume is well padded since he turned pro 9 years ago in 2009.
Ito was beaten by Rikki Naito (19-2, 7 KOs) by a 10 round majority decision in February 2015. Ito has won his last 7 fights since then beating weak opposition. Diaz hasn’t been beaten, but he’s also been fighting mostly weak opposition. Diaz’s recent victories have come against Braulio Rodriguez, Bryant Cruz, Jose Estrella, Erain Esquivias, Fernando Vargas (30-10-3) and Raul Hirales. Diaz has looked good against those fighters, but none of them were good enough to learn anything about him. If Diaz wins the WBO 135lb belt against, Ito, he would be the 5th Top Rank fighter that is in possession of one of the WBO titles. For some reason, Top Rank matches their fighters for the WBO’s belts quite a bit. It looks sectioned off the way that so many of the WBO titles are being held by one promotional company. You’d like to see the promotional companies having champions holding different titles with other sanctioning bodies.