David Benavidez and Jose Uzcategui are finalizing a deal for a super middleweight bout slated for January, sources told ESPN.
The pair were set to square off in November 2021 before Uzcategui tested positive for the performance-enhancing drug rEPO (recombinant erythropoietin), a synthetic version of EPO. Benavidez (26-0, 23 KOs) instead faced Kyrone Davis and scored a seventh-round stoppage.
The 25-year-old went on to defeat former middleweight titleholder David Lemieux via third-round TKO in May, but the marquee matchups continue to elude Benavidez, perhaps boxing’s most avoided fighter.
He has called for a fight with boxing’s top star, Canelo Alvarez, along with bouts against fellow PBC boxers Caleb Plant and Jermall Charlo. With a win over Uzcategui, Benavidez will remain in prime position for one of those matchups.
ESPN’s No. 2 boxer at 168 pounds, Benavidez is feared for good reason. He’s over 6 feet tall, throws a seemingly endless amount of punches and does so with tremendous power.
He twice held a super middleweight title but both times lost his title outside the ring. First, a positive cocaine test led to him being stripped. Benavidez regained the title with a ninth-round KO of Anthony Dirrell in 2019 but was forced to relinquish his belt the following year when he failed to make weight.
Benavidez will look to continue his impressive string of stoppage victories against Uzcategui, a former super middleweight titleholder. A Venezuelan boxer who fights out of Mexico, Uzcategui (32-4, 26 KOs) has fought once since the revelation of the banned substance, a second-round KO of journeyman Felipe Romero in May.
The 31-year-old’s career-best victory remains an eighth-round TKO of former titleholder Andre Dirrell in 2018. Uzcategui went on to lose his title to Caleb Plant via decision in 2019. Two fights later, Uzcategui dropped a decision to Lionel Thompson in an upset.
Now, he’ll head into a fight with Benavidez as a major underdog against the backdrop of his failed drug test last year.
“EPO is possibly the most powerful PED that can be used by a boxer,” Victor Conte, the founder of Balco, told ESPN last year after news broke of Uzcategui’s adverse finding. Conte served time in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to distribute performance-enhancing drugs before founding SNAC, a sports nutrition company.
“It increases oxygen uptake and utilization which drastically improves stamina and endurance,” he said. “Some have described the benefits to making an athlete like a machine.”