Caleb Plant knows you don’t think he can beat Canelo Álvarez.
And Plant wants you to know—he really doesn’t care.
“At the end of the day,” Plant says, “the bell still got to ring and we got to let these [fists] do the talking.”
On Saturday, Plant (21–0) will take on Álvarez at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. At stake: the undisputed super middleweight championship. Álvarez (56–1–2) has three pieces of the title, having rapidly collected them over the last 11 months. Plant has the last belt, which is the reason he is here. Álvarez wants to become the first undisputed champion at 168 pounds. Plant is standing in the way of that.
It’s hardly a hot take to say Plant isn’t on Álvarez’s level. Álvarez sits atop every reputable pound-for-pound list. He’s unbeaten since losing a decision to Floyd Mayweather in 2013, with a 2017 draw against Gennadiy Golovkin the lone blemish. Since then Canelo has defeated Golovkin, Daniel Jacobs, Sergey Kovalev, Callum Smith and Billy Joe Saunders. Plant’s best win came against Jose Uzcategui, in 2019. His last three have come against Mike Lee, Vincent Feigenbutz and Caleb Truax.
A murderer’s row, it was not.
Plant’s argument for how he wins is vague. He says he has several advantages over Álvarez, though he declines to identify them. He points to his dedication to the sport, his year-round boxing lifestyle as reason to believe in him. He believes his sharp jab will be a useful weapon against a fighter who loves to come forward.
“Whether it's fight off my front foot, fight off my back foot, pick shots off, roll shots off, potshot, put combinations together, I feel like I'm a pretty well-rounded fighter,” says Plant. “Whatever the situation calls for, I feel like I have the tools on my belt to bring it out.”
The confidence is great. Expected, even. And definitely familiar. Smith believed a seven-inch size advantage would be an asset against Álvarez. He spent 12 rounds being hunted around the ring. Saunders believed his slick style would confound Álvarez. He exited after the eighth round with a broken face. The 6’1” Plant will have a height advantage against 5’8” Álvarez. He may have the sharper jab. Álvarez, however, has regularly wiped out any physical advantages with a combination of speed, power and a relentless offensive attack. As Mike Tyson said recently, “I think Caleb is going to panic [and have] a heart attack when he gets in and [Canelo] is doing all that [movement],” Tyson said. “The guy just keeps coming.”
In recent weeks, Plant, 29, has taken the fight with Álvarez outside the ring. He has regularly brought up how, in 2018, Álvarez, 31, tested positive for a banned substance. He has accused Álvarez’s trainer, Eddy Reynoso, of running a dirty gym. If the goal was to get under Álvarez’s skin, it worked. In September, at a press conference to announce the fight, the usually unflappable Álvarez shoved Plant during a face off. The two traded open-handed punches, with Plant suffering a noticeable cut below his right eye.
“I didn't say anything but facts,” says Plant. “I didn't say anything that millions of other people were thinking, but a lot of other people are scared to talk about it, scared to bring it up. They say things like allegations and s*** like that. But it's not an allegation, it's a fact. Either you test positive or you test negative and he tested positive, he was suspended and there's no room for stuff like that in our sport.”
Does Plant believe Álvarez is a cheater?
“I believe that he tested positive for a banned substance,” says Plant, “and therefore that puts you in the cheater category.”
Álvarez believes Plant is scared. Plant scoffs at the suggestion. Some fighters have faced adversity in the ring. Plant has faced more outside of it. He grew up in Ashland City, a rural Tennessee town rife with substance abuse. He became a decorated amateur in a region not known for producing top boxers. In 2015, Plant’s 20-month year old daughter, Alia, died from complications from a brain abnormality. His mother, Beth, was killed during an altercation with a police officer in 2019. The experiences hardened Plant, shaping the man—and the fighter—that he is today.
“My head has played a big part and that's what makes any great champion in any sport or just in life,” Plant says. “The things that you go through, that's what prepares you and turns you into the man or the woman that you become. So those things have turned me into the man that I am, some for better, some for worse.”
“He wants to say I'm scared and this and that, but I've never tested positive for anything. He tested positive for something. That stems from fear, that stems from insecurity, from being scared that they won't make weight, scared that their conditioning won't be right, scared that their strength or their power won't be right. That's why different fighters or just different athletes in general, why they do stuff like that. I've never felt like I needed to do that to get myself to this position.”
The question remains: Will any of it matter? Álvarez is at the peak of his powers. He is a 9–1 favorite in some sports books. He’s nearly a 2–1 favorite to win by knockout. A sold-out crowd of more than 16,000 will pack the MGM Grand, the vast majority fans of Álvarez. It’s an environment Álvarez is used to; last May, more than 73,000 jammed AT&T Stadium in Texas to watch Álvarez. Plant’s last fight was behind closed doors.
Few, if any, will be picking Plant to win.
And Plant wouldn’t have it any other way.
“The only thing better than proving someone right, is proving somebody wrong,” says Plant. “And when you got thousands of people who don't expect you to do this or to do that, and then you go out there and you prove them wrong. I mean, it's a different type of feeling.”
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