Caleb Plant refuses to let a possible Canelo Alvarez fight divert his focus on Caleb Truax
Caleb Plant knows and hears the talk. He has to, it’s boxing, a sport where speculation runs rampant and everyone talks. He hears that the world’s No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter, Canelo Alvarez, is eyeing him for a 2021 date. Plant knows, too, he has the dandling carrot to lure in the Mexican superstar—the IBF super middleweight title.
The 28-year-old Plant (20-0, 12 knockouts) is also practical. While the possibility of an Alvarez clash swirls in the media wind, “Sweethands” realizes nothing will happen unless he beats 37-year-old Caleb Truax (31-4-2, 19 KOs) in the third defense of the IBF 168-pound title, being shown on Fox PBC Fight Night this Saturday (8PM ET/5PM PT) from the Shrine Auditorium and Expo Hall, in Los Angeles, California.
“That’s where my focus has to be,” Plant conceded to The Ring recently. “Regardless of how everyone else feels about January 30th, as an athlete, I know the amount of focus it takes to have to get in there, regardless of who’s standing across from me.
“I’m fully focused on Truax. I’m not looking past him, but I am looking through him. I know this has the chance to be a really big year for me. I know that there are big fights on the horizon, but first things first, I have to handle my business on January 30.”
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Plant will be entering the ring after the longest layoff of his career—350 days since he last fought, dispensing of German Vincent Feigenbutz in his second title defense, February 15, 2020, at the Bridgestone Arena, in Plant’s native Nashville, Tennessee.
Plant looked sharp—and more importantly—he looked sharp at home, while maintaining discipline in eschewing all of the trappings that come with fighting at home, like family and friends tugging on you for tickets and time.
Sweethands used the experience to raise his self-restraint.
“I took some weeks off and I let my body rest after that fight, then I got right back to work, so you’ll see a more-polished, better Caleb Plant,” he said. “I feel like each time you guys see me that you see a better version of myself. You can expect the same thing when I step in there against Truax.
“During the time off, the goal was to work on my whole game. I wanted to improve on fighting in the pocket, fighting off my front foot, fighting on my back foot, punching in combination and sticking to my jab. Whatever it may be, boxing is a never-ending sport.”
Truax is 2-1, with 1 no-contest over his last four fights. He once held the IBF super middleweight title Plant currently has by beating James DeGale in England, DeGale’s backyard in December 2017, only to lose it back to DeGale in a rematch in April 2018.
With the exception of DeGale in 2017, Truax has failed to beat former belt holders, having lost his attempt to win the WBA middleweight title by being stopped in the 12th round to Danny Jacobs in April 2015 and floored in one by former WBC super middleweight titlist Anthony Dirrell in April 2016.
Truax’s body has been ravaged lately by breakdowns. He’s had Achilles and elbow issues, and is coming off a 12-month layoff, after having won a 10-round majority decision over 41-year-old David Basajjamivule on January 25, 2020.
The no-contest came when an accidental headbutt opened a gash above Truax’s right eye in the second round of his April 2019 fight against Peter Quillin. A planned rematch in August 2019 was derailed when Truax blew out his right Achilles tendon in training.
“I didn’t have my greatest performance in my last fight but the most important thing I took from it was that my Achilles was healthy after eight or nine months of recovery,” Truax admitted. “It held up perfectly and that was the most important thing. I’m ready to move forward.
“It’s hard to say if Plant is the toughest opponent of my career until we get in the ring. He’s not the most experienced guy, he’s not the most highly-vaunted guy that I’ve fought. Probably Danny Jacobs was and even James DeGale. So that’s to be determined until we get in the ring and mix it up.”
Truax has one intangible working for him—desperation. If he loses, this is may be it as a title contender.
“I’ve always been the underdog and I embrace that role.” Truax said. “I fight my best when I’m in that spot and I look forward to proving all the naysayers wrong again.
“At my age, at 37, there is no telling when I’ll be able to get a world title fight again. So, I’ve been approaching it as if this is my last shot. I’ve been very focused in camp and just determined to leave it all in the ring and get my belt back.
“I’m going to win because I’m the most experienced and the best fighter that Plant has ever faced. I believe my experience, my pressure, my conditioning and just my determination will be the factor in getting the win and I expect to do so on January 30.”
Plant shrugs. But he knows he’ll have a lot of eyes on him.
“Caleb Truax is going to get his ass whooped for sure, I’m looking to punish him,” Plant said. “I don’t see this fight going the 12 rounds. Like I said with Vincent (Feigenbutz), he or his corner can throw in the white towel, or I’ll throw in the white towel for him.
“I have big things ahead of me. I have a lot of momentum on my side. I know people will think I’ll see Canelo Alvarez in the other corner, but I’ll see Caleb Truax. I won’t make that mistake. I know the dos and don’ts of boxing. You see too many times in boxing when someone loses focus and they pay a price.”
Plant vows that it’s a price he won’t pay, despite all of the swirling talk.
“You know what they say about talk,” Plant said. “It’s cheap.”
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter who has been working for Ring Magazine/RingTV.com since October 1997 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on twitter @JSantoliquito.
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