After a two-year hiatus, Las Vegas welcomes back one of its adopted sons this weekend. It is fitting that an undisputed championship is on the line as future Hall of Fame boxer Canelo Alvarez faces the popular Caleb Plant, who hails from Tennessee. In a city known for big gambling, the MGM Grand Garden Arena plays host as Alvarez puts up his WBC, WBA and WBO super-middleweight belts as the stake for Plant’s IBF title.
Alvarez (56-1-2, 38 KOs) is making his 13th appearance on The Strip. His previous showings have been at the top of the bill or as the co-feature. For a 31-year-old fighter arguably at his peak and with vast big-fight experience, nothing will surprise him. In comparison, Plant (21-0, 12 KOs) has made just two visits to the fight capital, both on the undercard. The hullabaloo of a massive fight week in the desert will present a huge learning curve for Plant, 29, one he must deal with if he is to have any chance of springing the biggest upset in the history of the weight division.
The last 11 months have been busy for Alvarez. He easily outpointed Callum Smith in December to add the WBA title alongside the WBC belt he won two years earlier when blowing away Rocky Fielding in three. In February he fit in an easy bout against Avni Yildirim, forcing a retirement in three. His last appearance in May was very impressive as he took his time to work out Billy Joe Saunders, bringing proceedings to a conclusion with an injury retirement after eight rounds and relieving Saunders of the WBO title. Even though this will be his 60th bout, Alvarez looks like he is still improving and retaining the hunger to win. If successful this weekend, surely a move up to the light-heavyweight division will be next.
In stark contrast, Plant has had only four outings in just under four years and arguably has not faced a genuine Top 10 opponent in his career. That leaves many more questions than answers with regard to his ability to face an elite fighter such as Alvarez. He won the IBF title in January 2019 against Jose Uzcategui in a tough fight, winning on the judges’ cards. A blowout of the inept Mike Lee followed. February 2020 saw a 10th-round stoppage of fringe German contender Vincent Feigenbutz. Plant’s last fight was in January, and he seemed to labor to a decision win over Caleb Truax, who had previously been beaten on points by a James DeGale who was somewhat past his best. That last performance is the concerning one, as Plant was very much expected to stop the 37-year-old Truax. I would have liked to see Plant be tested and overcome someone like Daniel Jacobs or David Benavidez to show he is more qualified to step through the ropes for what is undoubtedly a huge mission Saturday.
The usual talk of height and reach will once again be a concession for Alvarez, as Plant will be enjoying 5 inches in height and 3.5 inches in wingspan. Will this mean anything? Alvarez has been facing taller fighters for most of his career. He also is carrying a confidence that he has the power to stop almost anybody, as his last six fights have included four stoppages. Only two early finishes have come in Plant’s last eight contests against lower-level fighters, and that is key. I believe Plant will achieve beyond expectations if he can survive the 12-round distance, but I don’t think he will accomplish this feat. He will be game but will feel the heat early, and I can’t see him surviving deep into the second half of this fight. Alvarez will make history as the first four-belt super-middleweight champion.
Verdict: A strong play on Under 9.5 rounds at -115.