Canelo vs Plant Big Fight Preview

Boxing Social’s Luke G. Williams looks ahead to Saturday’s undisputed super-middleweight clash between WBO, WBA & WBC king Canelo Alvarez and IBF champion Caleb Plant in Las Vegas…

Saturday night’s showdown for the undisputed super-middleweight championship of the world between Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez and Caleb Plant simultaneously serves as a symbol of many of boxing’s positive virtues, but also some of its infuriating negatives.

Both men are – in many ways – laudable examples of the social and economic benefits that the sport can confer upon those born into unfortunately straitened circumstances who possess the necessary determination to dedicate their lives to pugilism.

The 31-year-old Canelo – one of eight children born to a Guadalajara couple of humble stock – had to surmount ceaseless childhood taunts about his unusual complexion and ‘cinnamon’ hair before turning pro at 15 and gradually ascending to the sport’s peak – albeit via a somewhat scenic route after his humbling but educative loss to Floyd Mayweather in 2013.

Plant – meanwhile – had to negotiate the substance abuse ridden backwoods of Ashland City, Tennessee where he grew up. Since embarking on a boxing career he has also faced and surmounted dual heart-wrenching tragedies in the form of the death of his 19-month-old daughter Alia in January 2015 and the fatal shooting by police of his troubled 51-year-old mother Beth in 2019.

These narratives are outwardly inspiring but – boxing being boxing – both men have also courted controversy. Canelo still operates under the spectre of six-month suspension for a failed drugs test for clenbuterol in 2018, while the sincerity of the narrative constructed by Plant around the death of his daughter has been publicly questioned and dissected by his former partner and Alia’s mother, Carman. (Plant is now married to Fox Sports reporter Jordan Plant).

Compelling albeit controversial back stories to one side, Canelo vs Plant does possess one major virtues, namely the fact that it is a rare contest for all four major sanctioning body belts. Fights in the ‘four-belt era’ with the full quartet of baubles at stake are to be applauded, of course, no matter how tarnished said baubles truly are.

Whoever emerges triumphant on Saturday will thus follow in the footsteps of Bernard Hopkins, Jermain Taylor, Terence Crawford, Oleksandr Usyk and Josh Taylor as the only previous men to simultaneously hold the WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO belts at the same time – no mean feat in an era defined by sanctioning body shenanigans and promotional/ TV network nonsense.

More importantly, the victor on Saturday night will be – beyond a shadow of a doubt – ‘the man’ at 168lbs.

However, for all this contest’s selling points, there is also something decidedly unsatisfying about the fact that Plant has been manoeuvred into such a potentially momentous contest when possessing the flimsiest of professional CVs.

The 29-year-old from Nashville, Tennessee is only two years Canelo’s junior, but the gulf between the two men in terms of quality opponents faced is stark. Plant has assembled a 21-0 (12 KOs) professional ledger through matchmaking that has existed on the border between the careful and the embarrassing, and which pales into significance when placed alongside Canelo’s record.

Boxing Social currently rank Plant as the fourth best super-middle in the world, but none of his previous victims are to be found elsewhere in our top ten. Indeed, the most accomplished man that Plant has faced in his career thus far – Venezuela’s Jose Uzcategui – would merely be a fringe contender to edge into the top 15 list of Canelo’s most impressive foes. Plant certainly possesses less qualifications for an assignment against Canelo than two of the Mexican’s previous three victims, Callum Smith and Billy Joe Saunders.

Added to this ridiculous disparity in the quality of opposition are all manner of statistical indicators and deficits that bode ill for Plant’s prospects – namely, a 21-fight, 122-round pro career compared with Canelo’s 59 bouts and 425 rounds (56-1-2), as well as a mere 12 stoppage victories (a KO percentage of just a shade over 57%) compared to Canelo’s 38 (assembled at a much higher level, and with a superior percentage of 64.4).

Put simply, a cold and dispassionate examination of both men’s careers to date reveals no rational reason to believe that Plant can or will win.

True, he is a well-schooled and talented boxer. True, he possesses advantages in height and reach that most ordinary boxers would find forbidding and perhaps insurmountable.

But Canelo is no ordinary boxer.

The Mexican is a supreme and dedicated talent who is at his peak. His ability to give and take punishment, close the distance and inexorably turn the screw on even accomplished opponents is – right now – almost without peer.

Arguably Oleksandr Usyk – if we are talking pure skill, cunning and ringcraft – and Naoya Inoue – if we are discussing pure destructive capabilities – are Canelo’s pound-for-pound superiors, but neither of these men has faced as many quality opponents over such a consistently long period as Canelo has.

There is a case to be made for a Plant victory, but it relies on a series of events and circumstances that strain credulity to such an extent that it can almost be viewed as a statistical impossibility.

Perhaps Plant will box the fight of his life, keep Canelo at distance with his jab, move quicker than him, avoid his clubbing shots to head and body, display stamina far improved to what he has shown in his previous performances and sneak a victory on the scorecards handed in by Las Vegas judges who have traditionally favoured Canelo in close contests.

Far more likely – far, far, more likely an outcome – is that Plant will enjoy some fleeting but ultimately ephemeral success early on, and maybe even nick a couple of rounds, before Canelo inexorably walks him down, closes the distance, hurts him and stops him in the latter half of the fight, or routs him widely on the scorecards.