LAS VEGAS — You can see it all over his face.
He’s over it. Caleb Plant is tired of talking about his November 6 fight with Canelo Alvarez to determine the first undisputed super middleweight champion.
Instead of just talking about the fight, Plant would rather let his hands speak for him and answer all of these silly questions that are asked over and over again.
After all, it’s all quite silly, honestly.
What is he supposed to say? Of course, it’s the biggest fight of his life and he’s ready for it. Is he supposed to say that he’s overwhelmed by the moment and unprepared? A lot of that is on us, the boxing journalists, who ask the same questions over and over again.
“How was training camp?”
“Do you feel pressure?”
“How does it feel being the underdog?”
Maybe, one day, a fighter will tell us that training camp was horrible, he can’t see a way to beat his opponent and he expects to lose. Until then, the questions will remain the same, just asked in different ways.
What Plant does realize is that he’s in a prime position to turn over the apple cart on Nov. 6. It’s supposed to be Canelo’s coronation as the undisputed super middleweight champ, a feat he aimed to accomplish in less than a year by capturing championships from Callum Smith, Billy Joe Saunders and, finally, Caleb Plant. Oddsmakers have installed the Mexican superstar as much as a 12.5 to 1 favorite, absurd odds that make Plant a bigger underdog than Conor McGregor’s foray into boxing against Floyd Mayweather.
He’s supposed to be just a speed bump. He knows what they are saying. After all, who has he fought, right? Caleb Truax, Mike Lee and Vincent Feigenbutz aren’t quite Gennadiy Golovkin, Floyd Mayweather and Sergey Kovalev. How good is Caleb Plant? We don’t know. What we do know is how good Canelo Alvarez is. But Plant knows that nothing he can say will convince us that he’s the better fighter.
He just has to go out there and do it.
“He may be as good as y’all say he is but he’s not better than me,” Plant told Sporting News last week as he made his final preparations for the fight. Unlike other fighters, who constantly try to convince us of how good they are, Plant doesn’t seem bothered by what people think. As long as he believes it, who cares what you think?
“There’s only one thing that’s better than proving people right and that’s proving people wrong,” Plant continued. “ But I’m not just here to prove the critics wrong. I’m here to prove myself right and that’s something that I’ve been doing my entire life.”
Proving people wrong is pretty cliche but it’s truly something that Plant has spent his life doing. Making it out of the impoverished confines of Ashland City, Tenn., (population: 4,538) is one thing. But a white kid from a city dominated by drugs and poverty who somehow managed to become a world champion is something else entirely. Add the fact that he lost his mother and daughter under shocking circumstances and somehow hasn’t lost himself and you have a man who isn’t interested in your thoughts about his boxing ability or how good he is based on what we’ve seen.
He’s got bigger fish to fry.
“Some fighters crack under pressure but I feel like I’ve been tested by so many things in my life and I’ve yet to crack,” Plant said. “(Pressure) really brings out the best in me. My bar has been raised so high that it has to be something really big to get me riled up and bring out the absolute best in me.”
And is Canelo that big of an opportunity that Plant is riled up?
“I think he can.”
It’s Tuesday of fight week and both Plant and Canelo are making their “Grand Arrivals” at the MGM Grand to kick off the events leading up to Saturday’s fight. Plant’s demeanor hasn’t changed despite more boxing writers asking the same exact questions that were asked for the past couple of months.
Plant stops for a few photos and descends to the lower level of the MGM Grand Garden Arena to speak to a few reporters about Saturday’s fight.
Again, the look on his face suggests he’s said all that he needs to say but he’ll go through with it because it’s his obligation. Plant’s publicist Mario Serrano says what Plant is probably thinking.
“Please don’t ask the same questions. Try to think of a different angle, okay?”
There aren’t really any different angles to cut here. But we’ll try.
He answers questions about being in hostile territory where the crowd inside of the arena is expected to be majority Canelo fans. He says that this pressure is no different nor was his preparation heading into the fight. He reiterates that most of Canelo’s opponents allow themselves to be beaten mentally before the first punch is thrown and he has no interest in handing over his belt without a fight.
But one thing he does perk up about is when he’s asked if we’ve seen the best version of Caleb Plant in a boxing ring.
“You haven’t seen the best Caleb Plant yet,” he says. “You’ve seen some good performances but you haven’t seen the best of me and that’s why I’m excited for this fight because all great fighters have been in a position where they are the underdog who is expected to lose. But they do their job and become the big dog.”
Teofimo Lopez wasn’t supposed to beat Vasiliy Lomachenko but he did. Manny Pacquiao was supposed to lose to Lehlohonolo Ledwaba and Marco Antonio Barrera but he proved everyone wrong and went on to become one of the greatest boxers of all time. There are no certainties in the fight game, only suggestions made by those who aren’t lacing up the gloves. Plant acknowledges all that Canelo has done but, in his mind, they all must fall.
“This is my destiny and I believe that I’m supposed to win.”
The look in his eyes suggests that he means business. And his father — who doubles as his trainer — knows exactly what his son has been through to get to this point.
“This is what we’ve been working for since he was a little boy,” says Richie Plant, who has watched over his son’s prowess in boxing ever since he first laced up a pair of boxing gloves. “We deserve this.”
Richie was there when Caleb lost his daughter and his ex-wife. He was there for all the tragedies and he’s been there for all of the triumphs but he believes that the best has yet to come.
“I don’t really think about the difficult days anymore,” he says. “Those are behind us and I’m just looking forward.”
Confidence is one thing that Plant isn’t lacking heading into this fight. It’s not manufactured bravado or overplaying his hand. He simply believes all odds can be overcome and on Saturday night he plans to disrupt the system with a massive upset against boxing’s pound for pound king.
“We’re not keeping our fingers crossed and hoping things turn out how they should because that’s not how life works,” Plant says. “If you want something in life, then you got to believe it. You have got to work for it. People go through things in life where they put a certain amount of work or time in and you feel indestructible. I’m at a point in my life where I feel like I can conquer anything and everything.”
And if the name of the game is respect, Plant believes that he’ll earn it the hard way on November 6.
“They say to be the man that you’ve got to beat the man,” he says. “You can put me wherever you want on your pound for pound lists but make sure you give me my flowers after November 6.”