Canelo Alvarez vs. Caleb Plant: 5 questions – and answers – going into fight

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  • Caleb Plant
    American boxer
  • Saúl Álvarez
    Saúl Álvarez
    Mexican boxer
  • Billy Joe Saunders
    British professional boxer
  • Caleb Truax
    American boxer

Canelo Alvarez and Caleb Plant will fight for the undisputed super middleweight championship on pay-per-view Saturday from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Alvarez (56-1-2, 38 KOs) is about an 8-1 favorite, which is no surprise given his track record and Plant’s relative inexperience at the highest level of the sport.

Indeed, on paper, Alvarez should have no trouble becoming the first 168-pounder to win all the major belts in the four-belt era.

The potential problem for Alvarez is that fights take on canvas, not paper. Plant (21-0, 12 KOs) deserves to be the underdog but he’s a live underdog because of his solid skill set, God-given gifts and some physical advantages over Alvarez.

Yes, Alvarez should win. At the same time, the matchup is interesting.

Here are five questions – and answers – going into one of the biggest fights of the year.

Is this just another mismatch for Alvarez?

Could be. Opponents like Callum Smith and Billy Joe Saunders were sound, experienced boxers who were overmatched against Alvarez in the end. Plant appears to enter the fight with similar credentials. His skill set and natural gifts – speed, athleticism – have been too much for his opponents, including capable fighters like Jose Uzcategui and Caleb Truax. The problem for Plant is that Alvarez, the consensus pound-for-pound king, is much better than Uzcategui and Truax. The reality is that we don’t know how Plant might do against the best in the business because we haven’t seen him at that level. He might have the wherewithal to compete. However, based on what we’ve seen, he doesn’t appear to have the extraordinary ability required to win this fight.

Is Alvarez superhuman?

No. We’ve seen in his fights against Austin Trout, Erislandy Lara, Gennadiy Golovkin (twice), Daniel Jacobs and even Sergey Kovalev that a particularly good, experienced opponent can push Alvarez to his limits. In fact, he was fortunate that he didn’t end up on the wrong side of a disputed decision a few times. And we know what happened against Floyd Mayweather. Of course, that doesn’t mean Plant can fight at the level of the aforementioned champions. He probably can’t. And worse for him is the fact that Alvarez has improved considerably the past several years, particularly in terms of his defense. The master counterpuncher with heavy hands also became an elusive target, making him all the more difficult to beat.

Is the undisputed championship a big deal?

Yes. In the dark age of close to a hundred major “titles” we look for other ways to determine the best fighters. The best way is to ignore the alphabet belts entirely and focus on who beats whom and what our eyes tell us, which I try to do. That way greedy sanctioning bodies play no role in the way fighters are perceived. That said, anyone who has the ability to win all four recognized belts in any division has accomplished something truly special. A so-so fighter can win a single title if he’s matched with the right opponent. However, it’s inevitable that you’ll run into at least one or two top-tier foes en route to an undisputed championship. Alvarez will have had to defeat Callum Smith, Billy Joe Saunders and Plant to turn the trick. And Plant, if he wins, will have taken down the biggest star in the sport.

Is Plant the best possible opponent for Alvarez?

No. Alvarez is focused on what he calls “making history,” which means collecting belts and becoming an undisputed champion. The problem with that is opponents who might be more worthy than the titleholders in a particular division are overlooked. I believe the most dangerous fights for Alvarez at 168 pounds are David Benavidez and 160-pound champ Jermall Charlo. Benavidez isn’t as athletic as Plant but he’s quick and punches much harder. And Charlo has the all-around skills to give Alvarez trouble. Then there are the light heavyweights, most notably Artur Beterbiev and Dmitry Bivol, both of whom would give Alvarez hell. Alas, Alvarez chose to fight Smith, Saunders and Plant instead. Which matchups would you have rather seen? The good news is that Alvarez could still fight all of the above.

What would Plant have to do to upset Alvarez?

Use his advantages. Plant isn’t as skillful, powerful or experienced as Alvarez but he does have an edge in some categories. He’s probably quicker and more athletic than his opponent. And he has a considerable height and reach advantage, 6-foot-1 to 5-8 and 74 inches to 70½. If Plant can use a long, stiff jab and enough power shots to impress the judges and keep Alvarez at a distance that’s ideal for him and use his feet to prevent the cunning Mexican from cutting off the ring, he’ll have a chance to reach the late rounds and possibly win a decision. Remember: Kovalev, an underrated boxer, fought Alvarez on even terms until Alvarez finally closed the distance and the show in the 11th round. Plant cannot allow Alvarez to trap him if he hopes to win.

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