Showtime Championship boxing heads to Phoenix, AZ on August 28, live from the Footprint Center. The main event is a WBC Super Middleweight title eliminator which features the undefeated David “El Bandera Roja” Benavidez (24-0) going up against former IBF Super Middleweight Champion Jose “Bolovita” Uzcategui (29-4).
This fight looks like it could easily produce some fireworks for the hardcore fans in Phoenix. The winner also has the potential of earning a ticket into the Canelo Alvarez sweepstakes. With the fight just under a month away, I checked in with the man that goes by the nickname “Bolovita.”
Jose Uzcategui was born on December 24, 1990, in El Vigia, Venezuela.
Talk about an early Christmas present, his parents must have been extremely happy to welcome their only son into the world that day. Although this was a joyous occasion for the Uzcategui family, the country of Venezuela was starting to go through an economic crisis that resembled one they dealt with in the 80s. Both the 80s and 90s in Venezuela were considered “lost decades,” with unemployment rates surging. With that came a national slide into anxiety and hopelessness, with so many citizens worried about simply staying afloat.
The irony of that back story is that Jose goes by the name “Bolovita,” which is another way of describing the Venezuelan currency, the “bolivar.”
Jose admitted that he didn’t have a great upbringing but noted he didn’t have the worst one, either. He acknowledged that he grew up in a poor country, but it didn’t affect the family bond within the household.
Growing up with three sisters, Jose found himself having to assume the role of the provider and as a young child he worked to earn enough money so that he could contribute to the household.
Young Uzcategui fought a lot in the streets, which is something his father used to do. When dad saw Jose getting the best of the other kids and earning money doing it, he was given the name “Bolovita,” and was taken to a local gym at the age of six.
Although it could seem like his father was pushing him to box, Jose mentioned that it was something he had already taken a liking to by the time he went to the gym.
With boxing being a focus for Jose, there was a ton of pressure on him as he still needed to work while boxing, so that he could help support his family. Jose had a lot of weight on his shoulders and knew boxing needed to work, one way or the other. Having over 300 amateur fights, he joined the national team shortly after.
The opportunity to go to the 2012 Olympics came up, but that dream was put to the side as his six-month-old daughter died, leaving him only a memory of seeing her on two occasions.
Jose won 22 consecutive fights and earned himself an opportunity for a regional belt against Matvey Korobov (23-0), who was also undefeated at the time. This was Jose’s U.S debut and he couldn’t have been happier.
As the day finally came, he allowed his emotions to get the best of him. Of that June 28, 2014 match, Jose had this to say: “It was everything I dreamed of as a kid but when I stepped into the ring, I was overcome with emotions. The lights, crowd, the people in the venue, it all became a little too overwhelming for me.”
Jose ended up losing by way of decision but he sees the value in the loss, because he figured out some areas to improve on.
He won four consecutive fights and then the infamous night of May 20, 2017, happened. Jose fought Andre Dirrell for the interim IBF Super Middleweight title. The fight was competitive but at the end of the eighth round, Jose hit Dirrell with a punch that was thrown after the sound of the bell, which knocked down the Michigan boxer. Dirrell could not continue, and the referee called it a disqualification victory for Andre. Although that was somewhat controversial, it was the sequence of events that occurred after which everyone remembers.
Dirrell’s trainer, Leon Lawson Jr., would go over to Uzcategui’s corner and unexpectedly punch Jose in the face, which caused mayhem inside the ring.
With all the controversy that followed with that fight, they ended up meeting once again ten months later. This time, Jose wanted to ensure there was no controversy and stopped Andre Dirrell in the ninth round, capturing the interim IBF title. It was something that he dreamed of his whole life. When asked how life changed for him after winning the title, the 30 year old former champion said, “My life changed 100%. My lifelong dream of becoming a champion had come true. It was something that I had promised my mother as a child that I would one day be a world champion and it became a reality.”
Riding the wave of winning a world title, Jose came back six months later, facing Ezequiel Maderna (26-4) and came away with the unanimous decision.
The matchmakers at PBC decided that Caleb Plant was ready for a step-up opportunity, so on January 13th, 2019, Uzcategui put his crown on the line against Plant.
I was ringside covering that fight for this website and although Uzcategui was the champion, that wasn’t the vibe I felt ringside. He didn’t seem confident, and Plant was having his way. Jose had his moments, but they weren’t as often as you would like to see from a champion. When he finally figured out what he needed to do, Plant had already banked too many rounds. With the fight going to the scorecards, Uzcategui lost by unanimous decision.
I asked Jose what happened that night and he said, “To be honest, I didn’t train as hard as I should have. When I won the championship, I thought I had made it and took it for granted. Looking back, I’m more mature now and I understand what happened. If that fight were to happen today, it would be a completely different one.”
After losing the title to Plant, Jose knocked out Roberto Valdez (10-9-1) and then lost to Lionell Thompson (21-5) right before the end of 2019.
With 2020 looking to be a bounce-back year, the country was hit with the COVID-19 pandemic and things were shutdown.
I was curious to know what a fighter who isn’t making the big money does during the lockdown. Jose didn’t let the situation get the best of him and he spent time with his partner and his six kids.
When thinking about this past year and wondering if he ever thought about retiring, he said, “It was a difficult year not only for me but for everyone and I never really thought about retiring. I just stayed busy and in shape by training behind closed doors and running. I knew that it would eventually pass and that I needed to stay ready for whatever opportunities may come my way.”
Uzcategui stayed ready and knowing that phone would eventually ring. When it did, he was booked for two fights in Mexico, against Josue Obando (20-28-2) and Jaime Lopez (9-4). The Obando fight took place this past March and resulted in a knockout victory for Jose. The Lopez fight was last month and that also resulted in a victory for the Venezuelan.
I asked him if the plan was to get these quick fights to shake off the rust and he said, “The two fights this year were to keep busy and get some of the rust off. It also prepared me for this fight that I have coming up. Everything is going as planned. This fight is happening at the perfect time for me.”
Shortly after, Uzcategui was offered the fight with David Benavidez, and he jumped all over that opportunity.
At first, Jose was going to have his training camp in Los Angeles but him and his team opted to stay in Tijuana, MX. Tijuana brings a certain level of comfort for Jose. When asked about the last-minute switch, he said, ”It was a decision that was made by me and my team. Being here in Tijuana, I’m around my people and can still be motivated. We also wanted to prove that you don’t have to necessarily be in the States to prepare for a fight and that we can do it here just the same.”
The fight is less than a month away and Jose knows that he has a challenge ahead of him.
When asked about what we can expect from “Bolovita,” Uzcategui said, “You can expect the best version of me. A motivated and more concentrated Bolivita. I know he is a great opponent, but I have the skills necessary to have my hand raised.”
Before he got off the phone, he had a message for his fans, friends and family: “Don’t miss this fight. It’s going to be an exciting fight and I’m preparing hard for this war. You’ll see a hungrier Bolivita!”
My Three Cents:
Jose Uzcategui is a fighter that wants to do his best because of financial incentive, he wants to provide the best he can for his family. He has a very difficult task on his plate and one that is going to require the best version of himself.
Will David Benavidez continue his dominance within the Super Middleweight division? Will Jose Uzacategui ruin future fights that the PBC has planned for David Benavidez by pulling the upset? There will be fireworks popping, so make sure you tune into Showtime on August 28th and see how this WBC Super Middleweight title eliminator plays out.