More Than An Underdog: Everything You Need To Know About Caleb Plant

Caleb Plant is far from the favourite against 'Canelo', but he is as live an underdog as they come.
18:00, 02 Nov 2021

Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez sits on the brink of becoming the first undisputed super middleweight champion of the four-belt era. This mission has characterised the last year of his career, as Callum Smith and Billy Joe Saunders have had their belts annexed by the generational Mexican. But observers would do well to remember there is another candidate to take home the four 168-pound straps on Saturday night, Canelo’s opponent, Caleb Plant.

The 29-year old IBF champion will perhaps be the least-known of Alvarez’s unification opponents so far, having very little UK profile. He has never faced off with a British fighter, and has fought exclusively in the United States and Canada. Plant’s most recent foe will be familiar to British fight fans though. The brilliantly-nicknamed ‘Sweethands’ scored a unanimous decision over former world champion Caleb Truax in his last outing. Truax is best known on these shores for upsetting James DeGale for the same belt Plant now wears, before losing it back in a rematch.

While he has fought below the level of Alvarez, Plant is a talented operator. The unbeaten Tennessee fighter won the 2011 National Golden Gloves at light heavyweight, following in the footsteps of Evander Holyfield and Antonio Tarver. He served as an alternate for Team USA at the 2012 Olympics, before turning pro. Plant first made waves when he decisioned noted knockout-puncher Tyrone Brunson in his eleventh pro outing. A win over former DeGale opponent Rogelio Medina began to put him on the radar of hardcore fans, but he was still unranked by The Ring magazine when his chance at a world title came.

Plant’s opponent in his first tilt at a world belt was Jose Uzcategui, the tough Venezuelan IBF king who had beaten the excellent Andre Dirrell to become champion. Caleb breezed through on points, knocking the champion down twice in the process. While Alvarez is the most dominant force in boxing today, Plant has enjoyed a more modest form of supremacy during his reign. Mike Lee and Vincent Feigenbutz were both stopped before the Truax victory.

The fact these are Plant’s only stoppages in his last eight fights suggests his hands are possibly too sweet at times, despite his undoubted talent. This lack of one-punch power does present problems considering the task ahead of Caleb Plant. We saw the iron chin Alvarez possesses in his wars with the concussive Gennadiy Golovkin. Nothing in Plant’s 21 wins, 12 of which have arrived by stoppage, suggests he can hurt Canelo. So how does he contend with the most complete fighter in the world today?

The key will be movement and speed. Most within the industry expected Billy Joe Saunders to be an awkward target for Canelo to hit. It did not pan out that way, but there is a feeling that giving the Mexican a physical puzzle to solve is the way to beat him. After all, his sole loss came against human Rubik’s Cube Floyd Mayweather, the supreme leader of “hit without getting hit”. Plant will need to get on his toes, land his shots and get out of dodge before Alvarez can unload the bombs that have blown up his 38 knockout victims.

Toughness will certainly not be an issue. Plant has endured personal difficulty and tragedy, and overcome crushing lows to reach the incredible highs of the world championship. Plant grew up in a trailer, and dealt drugs as a child until his father constructed a makeshift gym for him to train in. His mother was shot by police during an altercation, and six years ago Caleb’s daughter passed away from an unidentified illness. Plant has taken every horrific thing life throws at him, and fears nothing in the boxing ring as a result.

This lack of fear has presented itself in the build-up. ‘Sweethands’ can already count himself as alone in a field of one, as the only person to have rattled Saul Alvarez during pre-fight build-up. The pair had to be separated after a shoving match turned nasty and ended with Plant aiming a punch at Canelo during a press conference a few weeks ago. 

Fans, fight folk and journalists alike see a mountain in front of Plant. For his part, Caleb just sees the next step of his journey to the top of the sport. That confidence should serve him well against the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.

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