Boxers very often are given too much credit before they've really proven their skills. They run off a couple of victories in a row over second-rate competition and they're often hailed as the second coming.
The opposite has been the case with former super middleweight champion Caleb Plant. He finds himself in a prove-it situation yet again as he faces David Benavidez on Saturday (9 p.m. ET, Showtime PPV) at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas for the interim WBC super middleweight championship.
Plant was doubted heavily prior to his Nov. 6, 2021, bout with superstar Canelo Alvarez. Alvarez stopped Plant in the 11th round that night at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas to unify the 168-pound titles, but Plant made a name for himself. He fought Alvarez extremely tough and showed he belonged at the highest level of the sport.
He scored one of the best knockouts of 2022 in his next bout when he violently put Anthony Dirrell to sleep, but it's almost as if that didn't occur. He's doubted yet again as he goes into the Benavidez fight.
Benavidez is a -350 favorite with Plant as a +240 underdog at BetMGM. Benavidez is a highly talented young fighter who is just entering his prime, but that number suggests Plant is being somewhat overlooked.
He brought in highly regarded trainer Stephen "Breadman" Edwards to work with his team after the Alvarez fight, and Edwards, as he often does, has made a difference. He started, though, with a good product, and Plant is relaxed and eager to show what he can do after what he said was a difficult camp.
“I feel really good," Plant said at his media day in Las Vegas. "Last camp we brought in Breadman and we had a lot of great chemistry with the whole team. He’s easy to get along with and he just expects me to work hard. That’s right up our alley and that’s what we like to do. He brought some of that Philly grit with him and helped reiterate a lot of things that my dad [co-trainer Richie Plant] had been trying to instill in me.
“Different people handle things in different ways. I’m cool, calm and collected. I’m focused and I’ve had a great camp. We’re going into this fight 100 percent. I can only speak for my team, but we’re ready to handle business."
Plant handled his business a little differently this time. At the event's kickoff news conference, Plant and Benavidez got into it verbally and went nose-to-nose several times. Plant then created a website, davidbenavidez.com, which redirects to Plant's official website.
It was a win in the mind games, but it shouldn't have much impact in the ring. The newly found punching power he showed against Dirrell, though, should be a factor.
Benavidez is a high volume puncher and is, according to CompuBox, the most accurate puncher in the division. Benavidez isn't a one-punch knockout artist, but has won 23 of his 26 bouts inside the distance. He wears them down and stops them.
Benavidez said he saw signs that Plant is concerned about his power.
“You can see that every time Caleb is in the ring with a power puncher, he’s not comfortable," Benavidez said. "He beat Jose Uzcategui but he was hurt in the fight and then Canelo hurt him. Even Anthony Dirrell hit him with good shots, and he’s not a hitter like that.
“I’ve got the power and I feel like I’m faster. I just have to get my feet in the right position, because he’s going to be moving a lot. I think he has a little bit more confidence after beating Dirrell, though, so we’ll see if he wants to trade with me."
Plant is 22-1 with 13 KOs, none bigger than the one over Dirrell in October. It came on the undercard of a Deontay Wilder fight and Plant stole the show for the most violent KO. That's saying a mouthful.
— Premier Boxing Champions (@premierboxing) December 28, 2022
It surprised some who viewed Plant as more of a boxer than a puncher, but Plant said he's always had the ability to hurt his opponents.
“My power has always been there but I’ve been getting more back to my roots," Plant said. "Breadman and my Dad have a lot of similarities in how they want me to box and train. With some of it, I’m getting back to my old ways, but it’s combined with the new things that Breadman is bringing to the table and teaching me."
If he knocks out Benavidez, he'll not only hand the interim champion his first loss, he'll make a very loud statement and put himself in position to earn a rematch with Alvarez.
He has plenty of talent and believes he just has to stick with what he's done in camp to win.
"The key to this fight is just being myself," Plant said. "That’s what’s getting my hand raised. I’m hungry for this. This is a big moment and a moment I’ve worked a long time to reach. I’m going to make the most of it."