Canelo Alvarez charting greatness beyond conquering Caleb Plant

·5 min read
Canelo Alvarez and Billy Joe Saunders during their super middleweight title fight.
Canelo Alvarez and Billy Joe Saunders during their super middleweight title fight.

LAS VEGAS — It’s “Canelo fight week” in Las Vegas again. The return to The Strip of boxing’s pound-for-pound king also brings a rare moment tasted only by the elites of the sport’s history.

By asserting his power as a free agent released from promotional restraints and manipulations, Canelo Alvarez, 31, positioned himself to accomplish what he says will be his greatest career achievement.

Standing confidently as a -1100 favorite to defeat International Boxing Federation super-middleweight champion Caleb Plant (21-0, 12 KOs) of Tennessee, Alvarez (56-1-2, 38 KOs) can become the first undisputed, four-belt 168-pound champion in the sport’s history.

“Just think … only five fighters in the history of boxing have accomplished being an undisputed champion. This will be six,” said Alvarez, Mexico’s too fighter. “I’m excited by the possibility and making history. Making history is what I want.”

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Alvarez is expected to earn close to $40 million for Saturday night’s work, a Showtime pay-per-view bout at MGM Grand presented by powerful boxing manager Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions.

By freeing himself from his former promoter, Oscar De La Hoya, last year and altering what had been an 11-fight deal for the subscription streaming service DAZN, Alvarez armed himself with powerful career flexibility.

This will be Alvarez’s fourth bout of the calendar year. He previously added the World Boxing Association, World Boxing Council and World Boxing Organization 168-pound belts by defeating Callum Smith, Avni Yildirim and Billy Joe Saunders, respectively, under Eddie Hearn’s promotional banner.

Alvarez’s trainer and longtime confidant Eddy Reynoso managed the fighter’s split from De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions, and said fostering goodwill with the sport’s top fight makers is part of the fighter’s strategy to tick off a string of high-profile bouts.

Unified WBC/WBO/WBA super middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez trains in front of an image of himself at a gym Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021, in San Diego. Alvarez faces undefeated IBF Super Middleweight Champion Caleb Plant in a fight Nov. 6 in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
Unified WBC/WBO/WBA super middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez trains in front of an image of himself at a gym Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021, in San Diego. Alvarez faces undefeated IBF Super Middleweight Champion Caleb Plant in a fight Nov. 6 in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

“We deal directly with Al Haymon. We hope to continue to work with him. There’s big fights we can make,” Reynoso said.

Those future bouts were part of the motivation that drove Showtime Sports President Stephen Espinoza to broadcast Alvarez vs. Plant, creating a reunion with Canelo following a seven-year absence from the network.

Next week, Showtime will broadcast a card from Phoenix headlined by unbeaten former WBC super-middleweight champion David Benavidez, and the premium network is the broadcast home of unbeaten WBC middleweight champion Jermall Charlo.

“Canelo’s making one-fight deals. We wouldn’t have made this deal if we didn’t see a path forward,” Espinoza said. “We slotted Benavidez on (Nov. 13) to be paired with Canelo because one of the things we’ve always said is, ‘Make the fights make sense … let’s try to bring some order and organization to the sport.’”

Alvarez’s position allows him to shatter the more cautious, protective nature of promoters who tend to keep bouts in house, stalling before committing to co-promoted events like last month’s epic Tyson Fury vs. Deontay Wilder heavyweight-title trilogy.

Alvarez still could maneuver back to Hearn, who offers 175-pound champion Dmitry Bivol, or pivot to Bob Arum’s Top Rank, which has two-belt 175-pound champion Artur Beterbiev in its stable.

Hearn is in Las Vegas this week to support Alvarez, and Arum opened his Top Rank gym for Alvarez to work out in this week.

When someone asked Alvarez if he’d truly consider fighting Beterbiev with only one past bout at light-heavyweight, he said, “It’s not crazy to think of Beterbiev” for another undisputed crown at 175. “I love challenges.”

Reynoso said Alvarez’s sharp training camp was fueled by the fighter’s passion to “make history and cement his name in the history of Mexico and all of boxing.”

“Good things are coming," Reynoso assured. “It’s really important to emphasize: When we administer things correctly … and remain friendly with all of these resources, we can do big things and make the best fights with the promoters who have the best fighters.”

For now, the biggest fight is Plant, a fast-handed, well-conditioned fighter who sought to test Alvarez in a trash-talking exchange at their September news conference. Alvarez shoved Plant backward and landed a punch that cut him under the right eye – a superficial scar remaining.

Undefeated IBF Super Middleweight champion Caleb Plant wipes his head after being cut in a scuffle with unified WBC/WBO/WBA super middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez.
Undefeated IBF Super Middleweight champion Caleb Plant wipes his head after being cut in a scuffle with unified WBC/WBO/WBA super middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez.

“You never know” about the fight-night impact of Plant’s eye wound, Alvarez said coyly.

That savage bent is part of what has Alvarez at the peak.

He’s not only winning impressively — by stopping Yildirim on his stool after three rounds and then forcing Saunders to do the same after fracturing facial bones with a vicious eighth-round punch — he sends a discouraging message to the next man up.

“There’s going to be a knockout for sure,” Alvarez told reporters. And when someone suggested he might be wise to curtail his knockout pursuit in favor of ensuring Plant doesn’t out-box him and gain an upset victory by decision, he responded, “No, I’m in love with my power.”

He said the certainty in his fight-ending power punching is rooted in his comfort fighting at 168, no longer having to cut weight to 154 or 160, where he previously wore belts.

“When I lost so much weight, I lost my power. At this weight class, I feel strong and I feel good. Think about it: Now I'm fighting with 12-to-16 extra pounds.

“I don’t know what he’s going to do, but whatever it is, I’ll do it better. I get knockouts with my movements, no problem. And I know everybody loves the knockout.”

So, the odds deserve to be stacked against Plant?

"He’s strong and experienced and in each fight you can see him growing," Reynoso said of Alvarez. “He’s in his best moment right now.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Canelo vs. Plant: Alvarez charting greatness, can make history