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(Editor’s note: This post originally published at Boxing Junkie, part of the USA TODAY Network.)
Canelo Alvarez is set to return to the ring, which is usually bad news for the man who will see him standing across the ring.
That man on Saturday at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas will be Caleb Plant, a capable, but moderately experienced fighter who is about an 8-1 underdog (average of multiple outlets).
Does Plant have a reasonable chance of winning the pay-per-view fight for the undisputed super middleweight championship?
Depends how you define “reasonable.” He is a quick, athletic boxer with an extensive amateur background and a high ring IQ. However, he’ll be face to face with a beast that is evolving into an all-time great and is in his prime.
Here is a break down of the fight.
Canelo Alvarez (56-1-2, 38 KOs) vs. Caleb Plant (21-0, 12 KOs)
Date: Saturday, Nov. 6
Location: MGM Grand, Las Vegas
TV: Showtime PPV
Division: Super middleweight
At stake: Alvarez’s WBA, WBC, WBO and Plant’s IBF titles
Current win streak: Alvarez, 7; Plant, 21
Ages: Alvarez, 31; Plant, 29
Stances: Both orthodox
Trajectory: Alvarez at peak; Plant nearing peak
Also fighting: Elvis Rodriguez vs. Juan Pablo Romero, junior welterweights; Rey Vargas vs. Leonard Baez, junior featherweights; Anthony Dirrell vs. Marcos Hernandez, super middleweights
Worth watching (up to five stars)? * * * *
Alvarez has evolved into one of the best boxers in the world. The Mexican star had unusual God-given ability when he turned professional at 15 years old in 2005, which allowed him to win consistently from the start. However, under the tutelage of Chepo and Eddy Reynoso, he has improved dramatically as the years have passed. Most notably he turned himself into an excellent defensive fighter, using head movement and uncanny anticipation. That, combined with his dangerous offensive arsenal, has made him a complete fighter.
Plant also has evolved into one of the better technicians in the sport. The Las Vegas-based Tennessean learned the ropes in an extensive amateur career, which culminated in his designation as a U.S. Olympic alternate in 2012. And, working with longtime trainer Justin Gamber, he has continued to polish his skills as a professional. That includes a sharp jab and elusiveness, both of which has frustrated overmatched opponents. He has combined that ability with natural speed and athleticism to build his perfect record as a pro.
Saul Alvarez and Avni Yildirim during their WBA, WBC and Ring Magazine super middleweight championship bout at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. (Ed Mulholland/Matchroom).
Alvarez has some one-punch knockouts. The monstrous right hand that instantaneously ended the night of weak-chined Amir Khan in 2016 comes to mind. However, that was an anomaly. He can hurt anyone with a single shot but generally needs to combine his punches to take opponents out. That’s how he has collected 38 career knockouts.
Plant isn’t a puncher. He has knocked out the majority of his opponents – 12 of 21 – but that’s generally the result of an accumulation of punches, not particularly hard shots. He’ll outbox you, land more and more punches as the fight progresses, wear you down and then stop you. He recently KO’d Mike Lee in three rounds but that was the result of a huge disparity in ability.
Alvarez didn’t have much of an amateur career, choosing to learn the ropes as a professional boxer. Sixteen years later he has 59 pro fights under his belt, many of them at the highest level of the sport. He reportedly has taken part in 18 major titles fights. That’s a lot of valuable experience.
Plant’s amateur foundation has served him well. He learned the fundamentals beginning at the age of 12, which is one reason he has been so successful as a professional. And while he has only 21 pro fights, he has fought at an elite level for about five years. He’s no newbie.
Alvarez is a thick, strong man who has rarely been hurt in the ring and has had no major injuries. Jose Cotto, Miguel’s brother, stung Alvarez in the first round of their fight back in 2010. And Gennadiy Golovkin got his attention a few times in their fights. Otherwise, he has seemed to be indestructible.
Plant has absorbed everything thrown at him in 21 professional fights, including his title-winning victory over hard-punching Jose Uzcategui. That says something about his durability. Plant has also overcome horrible personal tragedies to fight on. That might say something about his mental toughness.
Alvarez will have an advantage over most fighters in this category. He has so much experience under the bright lights that it has become a non-factor for him. His longtime trainer, Eddy Reynoso, has evolved into one of the best in the business. The majority of spectators at the MGM Grand will be rooting for him even though Plant is American. The list goes on.
Plant has been in a few big fights but nothing like this. And you have to experience it to be completely comfortable with it. Will that affect him in the ring? Trainer Justin Gamber has done a good job but he’s still building his reputation. How will he do in the corner? And Plant might be at a disadvantage when it comes to scoring. Some would argue that the guy who is supposed to win often is given the benefit of the doubt.
Saul Alvarez and Avni Yildirim during their WBA, WBC and Ring Magazine super middleweight championship bout at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, Fla. (Ed Mulholland/Matchroom).
Plant, quicker and more athletic than his opponent, will give Alvarez problems in the early rounds as the favorite gets his bearings. And that might extend past the middle rounds, as Plant continues to jab, fire off enough power shots to get the attention of the judges and use his feet to avoid trouble. He’s that good of a boxer. However, Alvarez, a master at slowing his opponent down with body shots and cutting off the ring, will catch up to Plant in Round 8 or 9. At that point he’ll land combinations that will render a damaged Plant unable to continue. We’ve seen it so many times.
Alvarez by 9th-round knockout