For all that separates Jose Uzcategui and Caleb Plant, the inspiration is tragically common.
Tijuana-based Uzcategui (28-2, 23 knockouts) will make the first defense of his International Boxing Federation super-middleweight title Sunday at L.A. Live’s Microsoft Theater against Plant (17-0, 10 KOs).
Products of disparate locales, Uzcategui, a 28-year-old from Venezuela, and Plant, a 26-year-old from rural Tennessee, are each bound by the memory of a daughter who died at a young age.
Uzcategui’s child was 3 when she died of a heart defect; Plant’s child was 20 months old when she succumbed to a lengthy illness.
“It’s been 12 years, but I still remember it, and she’ll always be a part of my life until I see her again,” said Uzcategui, the father of six children. “It was very difficult to overcome, but I will always have her in my heart and my family is my whole motivation for being in this game and doing the best I can.”
Plant, who has risen to become Uzcategui’s mandatory challenger, said he draws continued inspiration from his daughter, Alia, who died four years ago this month.
“If she can go through all of that and keep going and fighting like she did, then, as a full-grown man, I should be able to do just about anything,” Plant said.
That fortitude brings Plant to meet a champion who won the belt in March by defeating Andre Dirrell, who retired after eight rounds following their controversial 2017 bout.
In their first meeting, Uzcategui was disqualified for punching Dirrell after the bell, and Dirrell’s trainer, Leon Lawson, stormed into the ring and sucker-punched Uzcategui.
As Plant recovered from an injury, Uzcategui took a non-title light-heavyweight fight in Oakland in September and performed flatly in defeating Ezequiel Osvaldo Maderna by unanimous decision. Uzcategui later explained he was struggling with the flu.
“I don’t think he looked the best against a lesser opponent. He made a lot of mistakes, and he’s going to have to do a lot better than that if he thinks he’s going to beat me,” said Plant, a former kickboxer.
Plant’s confidence has irked Uzcategui at times during this fight promotion.
“I don’t know where it’s coming from. He’s fighting the best opponent he’s ever had. He’s never fought anyone like me, and he’ll find that out on Sunday,” Uzcategui said. “I’m looking forward to knocking him out if I get the opportunity.”
Main Event: Jose Uzcategui (28-2, 23 KOs) vs. Caleb Plant (17-0, 10 KOs) for Uzcategui’s IBF super-middleweight title
Where: Microsoft Theater, L.A. Live
When: Preliminaries at 2:30 p.m. PST; FS1 portion starts at 5 p.m.