Despite being on the fans’ radar for a while, we still didn’t know a whole lot about middleweight Matt Korobov coming into this fight on the undercard of Yuriorkis Gambo-Terence Crawford on HBO from Omaha, Neb. He’s been a pro for six years, but didn’t step up competition in a while, which is usually a red flag for flaws shown in private. We didn’t know much about his opponent, Venezuelan-born Jose Uzcategui, either, given that he’d never previously fought outside Mexico. He did have an impressive KO record, however, and the tentative nature of the 1st round suggested Korobov was somewhat wary of his power, a lead left being the only notable punch thrown during the first three minutes.
The intrigue lay in what was to be gained for both fighters, rather than what was at risk, which is usually a scenario conducive to both activity and exciting fights. Yet this was very much the exception that proved the rule, with the 2nd round passing by with almost as little incident as the 1st, despite Korobov forcing the action at times and his Venezuelan opponent clearly looking for countering opportunities. Uzcategui pawed away with the jab, never fully committing to it and falling short more often than not, yet he still forced Korobov to swing wildly and miss at times. His lanky frame might have indicated a fighter adept at working from range, yet he never seemed comfortable with the distance, and the fight slipped into a rut early on.
Considering the KOs previously notched up by both guys, the action was almost non-existent, and a cut below Uzcategui’s left eyebrow threatened to force him even further into his shell. The restless crowd must have been wondering what they’d let themselves in for as Uzcategui continued to be relatively busy, yet mind-numbingly ineffective until round 4, which he shaded.
The boos began in earnest midway through round 5, and this seemed momentarily to gee up Korobov, who threw a short left hook that rocked Uzcategui, forcing him to clinch and stay on the outside briefly, before launching a few volleys in the final minute. An accidental head butt brought blood from outside Korobov’s right eye, which inspired a sense of urgency during round 6 and saw him land a solid right hand in the opening seconds. But the twitchiness of his opponent soon quelled the fire in his belly and the fight settled back into its soporific rhythm, with the boos once more being heard.
It was mind-numbingly even at this point, and the Venezuelan seemed to be dictating the pace (if, indeed, any forward momentum was being generated). Pre-fight claims of “stealing the show” were laughable, at least until Korobov dropped Uzacategui with a nice left at the start of round 7. He went down again shortly after, and was being stung repeatedly, yet Korobov remained timid and bizarrely ended the round as the one back-peddling.
Uzacategui came back well in the 8th, with Korobov seemingly bothered by the cut and operating with reduced vision on his right side, the Venezuelan never truly seemed to trouble his opponent, even when he landed cleanly. Both guys continued to miss, a fact which, when set alongside throwing with so little conviction, made the final rounds borderline unwatchable. Korobov’s excessive caution will surely see him struggle when he eventually makes that fateful step up, while Uzacategui’s trunks would seem to be his only upside. The judge’s cards (7-91, 97-91, 96,92) were a little wide, but Korobov was the rightful recipient of the unanimous decision and some meaningless intercontinental belt.
TQBR had it 95-93 for Korobov.