Saturday, January 28, 2023  |


Caleb Plant makes easy work of Mike Lee in three

Caleb Plant (left) smashes Mike Lee. Photo by Steve Marcus/ Getty Images

This one was a little deeper. The words were a little more cutting. The faux arrogance was a little more annoying.

Mike Lee is a glorified club fighter who for months proclaimed he deserved to be in the same ring as IBF super middleweight champion Caleb Plant.

In the build-up for the fight, it was Lee, the challenger, who blew off Plant in a pre-fight Fox TV face-to-face showdown. It was Lee who was living the delusional idea that he was the A-side of the undercard leading up to Saturday’s Keith Thurman-Manny Pacquiao main event at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

It was Plant who bluntly brought Lee back to reality, knocking him down four times before referee Robert Byrd stopped it at 1:29 of the third round.

Plant (19-0, 11 knockouts) made his first successful title defense look rather easy. His victory sets up a later unification fight with the winner of WBC super middleweight champion Anthony Dirrell and David Benavidez on Sept. 28, which is the co-feature on the Errol Spence Jr.-Shawn Porter welterweight title fight.

But first, Plant had to do a quick clean-up of the overmatched Lee (21-1, 11 KOs).

“I did exactly what I said I would do, like I always do,” Plant said. “I want to beat the hell out of everybody I face. This was just another fight to me. But this was a dude, I didn’t like him. We had a few more words than some of my other opponents.

“He was in my way and I had to do something about it.”

During the post-fight telecast, Benavidez took a shot at Plant, saying “Sweet Hands” needs “a little help selling some tickets. There’s about 100, 200 people in here.”

Plant didn’t take too kindly to that.

“Of course (Benavidez) has something to say,” Plant said. “It’s early in the night. Everybody is coming for the pay-per-view portion. But I crushed the numbers of FS1, and we’re going to check the numbers tonight. My views are high and my check is big, and I got the belt.

“I’m a world champion. Something (Benavidez) is not.”

As for Lee, it was nothing more than a breathing punching bag.

He never bothered to look up at Plant during Byrd’s pre-fight instructions. It almost seemed as if Lee wasn’t even looking when Plant landed a left hook flush on Lee’s face that dropped the Notre Dame grad on his seat with :37 left in the first round. After the bell ended the round, Plant confidently walked back to his corner, feeling firmly in control.

He should have. Plant outlanded Lee 18-3 in the first round.

In the second round, Plant cracked Lee with a right to the body with less than a minute left. Lee still couldn’t do anything. He swung horribly and missed often.

After two rounds, Plant had outlanded Lee, 41-7.

With 2:30 left in the third, Plant poked Lee with a jab, then followed over the top with a straight right to the head, sending Lee down a second time.

Then it got a little comical. Lee, trying to show he’d recuperated from the second knockdown, came at Plant, who was leaning against the ropes. Plant unleashed a short left hook that dropped Lee a third time with 2:09 left.

A little over 30 seconds later, Lee was down a fourth time, with 1:34 remaining in the third. This time, it almost seemed as if Plant flicked a right with nothing on it.

By then, referee Robert Byrd had seen enough and ended it, the official time coming at 1:29 of the third.

When Byrd waved it over, Lee, after getting up the fourth time, demanded to continue and that Byrd count to 10. Byrd wore a smirk as if to say, ‘Are you kidding me?’

“I’ve been telling you all week it wasn’t going to go 12 rounds, and I stuck to my word and I tried to do that,” Plant said. “I tip my hat to Mike (Lee) because it takes a true champion to step between these ropes. But it’s ‘And still’ just like I predicted.

“I think I have a high boxing IQ and I do this at a really high level. So, it was just about making adjustments. He’s a big, strong guy and he just came in here to give it his all.

“Oh yeah, we can definitely unify (against Anthony Dirrell vs. David Benavidez winner). I ain’t hard to get a hold of. I ain’t hard to make a fight with. Come see me. You know my adviser.”

Lee, possibly still in a stupor, explained, “The speed was the difference, he’s fast and very accurate. I had some success with my right hands but wasn’t able to be consistent with it.

“No issue with the stoppage. That’s the referee’s job and I respect it.”

Nigerian heavyweight Efe Ajagba keeps climbing

In the co-feature of the undercard, Efe Ajagba went 10 rounds for the first time in his pro career, beating previously undefeated Ali Eren Demirezen (11-1, 10 KOs) by unanimous decision.

Ajagba, 25, landed 191 of 877 (22%) total punches thrown to Demirezen’s 149-564 (26%).

Photo by Stephanie Trapp

“This was the first fighter to take me the distance,” Ajagba said about Demirezen. “He was strong and could take my punches. My trainer just told me to keep using my jab and stay in the middle of the ring.

“I hurt my elbow early on, so I couldn’t shoot my right hand like I wanted. But I won’t use that as an excuse. As a tall man, I had to use the jab and if it went the distance; that was my best way to win.

“He was trying to throw big overhand right hands, but I tried to keep myself covered when I had to. It was enough to get the job done, but I’ll keep getting better.”

Judges Adalaide Byrd and John McKaie both saw it 99-91 for the 2016 Nigerian Olympian, while Steve Weisfeld had it 97-93 for Ajagba (11-0, 9 KOs).

Ajagba used his jab effectively throughout the fight, mixing in an uppercut to break up Demirezen’s high guard. It was a clean, efficient victory.

“I don’t agree with the scores; 99-91 is not correct,” said Demirezen, who was making his U.S. debut. “It was much closer. I feel at that minimum; it was a draw. I knew I had to knock him out and that a knockout might be easier than winning by points.

“I thought it was a good performance but I can do better. I’d like to fight in the U.S. again.”

Joseph Santoliquito is the President of the Boxing Writers Association of America and has written for The Ring/ since 1997. He can be followed on twitter @JSantoliquito.



Latest Issue Cover