Caleb Truax embraces the role of the overlooked underdog
Caleb Truax is under no illusions. The former super middleweight world titlist is not headed for the International Boxing Hall of Fame nor is he about to crack anybody’s pound-for-pound rankings. And he freely admits he is near the end of his career.
However Truax carries an air of confidence about him as a veteran professional with a job to do. He said you should count him out at your own peril.
He is determined to reclaim his IBF 168-pound title, or at least go down swinging, when he challenges heavy favorite Caleb Plant in the Premier Boxing Champions main event, on Saturday night (FOX and FOX Deportes, 8 p.m. ET), without spectators at the Shrine Auditorium and Expo Hall in Los Angeles.
Truax is used to the underdog role. He was a massive one in December 2017 when he traveled to London as the hand-picked opponent to challenge James DeGale in his homecoming title defense. Truax fought the fight of his life and won a majority decision to claim the title in the upset of the year.
Though he lost a bloody unanimous decision to DeGale in their rematch in Las Vegas four months later, in April 2018, Truax showed what he can do when he is on his game and believes there is no reason he can’t pull off another upset against Plant. He is not at all perturbed by being the underdog and, in fact, enjoys the label.
“I think it’s fair,” Truax told The Ring of his ‘dog status. “I’ve had a friend who texted me the odds they’ve been betting on and some people have me like a 20-to-1 underdog and 15-to-1 underdog, which I think is a little crazy. But I definitely think I’m the underdog and I’ve been the underdog my whole career.
“I embrace that role. It motivates me to prove everyone wrong. I see people online saying I don’t deserve the fight and I’m just another cherry pick for [Plant]. But I feel like I’m the best fighter he’s faced by far and I think I offer something that no other fighter that he has – except for [Jose] Uzcategui – offered to him in being a former world champion and being experienced and having fought the much better fighters than he has. So I feel really good about the matchup.”
Truax thinks Plant, who outpointed Uzcategui to win the IBF belt in a tough fight in January 2019 and has defended it twice by stoppage against overmatched Mike Lee and mandatory challenger Vincent Feigenbutz, is looking past him. He said that is because there has been so much conversation about the prospect of Plant facing The Ring/WBA/WBC champion Canelo Alvarez in a possible unification fight as soon as this fall.
“I am ready to get my belt back and I think he and everyone else is overlooking me,” Truax said. “Every interview I see about the fight is not about our fight. It’s about him talking about how he’s going to fight Canelo next. Same deal with DeGale. We were in the press conference and he’s talking about how much money he’s going to make when he fights everybody else and I was like, ‘Hey, bro, you got a fight in a couple days. You better concentrate on that.’ So I think he’s ripe for the picking and I’m up for the challenge.”
Plant said Truax is off base if he believes he’s taking him lightly.
“I know he’s a veteran, has a lot of experience and is a former world champion who has upset people before, so he has to be taken seriously,” Plant said on a recent call with boxing media. “I’m not looking past him but I am looking through him. I’m looking to end this fight early…I’m looking for a stoppage.”
Truax, who supports his girlfriend and their two children, a daughter who turns 5 on February 1 and an 18-month-old son, believes a victory over Plant would be the biggest of his career, including the one over DeGale.
“A victory would probably top the DeGale victory, in my opinion, coming back from adversity the last couple of years and becoming a two-time champion,” Truax said. “Once you get a taste of it, you want some more and that’s certainly the case with me and it sets up big fights in the future for me and that means providing for my family.
“It’s a huge opportunity for me and I’ve been treating it like it’s my last big opportunity. I’m approaching it like it’s my last big shot and I think a win cements my legacy as a really good fighter.”
Truax (31-4-2, 19 knockouts), 37, of St. Michael, Minnesota, has certainly overcome adversity in recent years. He will enter the ring Saturday for his first bout in almost exactly one year. It will be only his third fight since August 2018, mainly because of injuries and the coronavirus pandemic.
He fought just once in 2019, an April super middleweight title elimination fight against former middleweight world titlist Peter Quillin that ended abruptly as a second-round no-decision when Truax suffered a terrible cut from an accidental head clash.
He and Quillin were scheduled to meet in an immediate rematch in August 2019 but the fight was canceled when Truax tore his right Achilles tendon training for the bout. Although Truax avoided surgery, he said it was a difficult recovery.
“I had to wear a boot for eight weeks and I didn’t need surgery but it took almost eight months to really feel good,” Truax said.
He returned for a 10-round majority decision win over journeyman David Basajjamivule in a hometown stay-busy bout last January and then was due to face Alfredo Angulo in a title eliminator this past August. However Truax dropped out during fight week due to a case of heat exhaustion. Initial reports were that he was dehydrated and having weight problems but he said that was not accurate.
“I wasn’t having weight issues. I was like three pounds over the day before [the weigh-in],” he said. “I kind of passed out and they told me I had heat exhaustion. When you’re cutting weight, you’re dehydrated but the paramedics checked my vitals and said I wasn’t dehydrated. I just kind of passed out, fell over. They said I had heat exhaustion and I felt like sh– for the next three or four days. Nothing like that ever happened to me before.”
So it’s been a long road to get back to this title opportunity against Plant (20-0, 12 KOs), 28, of Las Vegas, and Truax said he is taking absolutely nothing for granted.
“I’m just trying to stay healthy and away from COVID,” Truax said. “The last two years have been frustrating and disappointing. I’ve been really lucky to have a long career. This is my 14th year of boxing and I’ve been really lucky to never really have any injuries except your classics – cuts, a broken finger – but nothing serious until the Achilles injury. It was my first serious injury and I had the clash of heads with Quillin in the first fight. The last couple of years have been frustrating.
“I’m feeling healthy and ready to roll. I just want to go out there and show everybody that I still belong and show everybody what I can do.”
Besides regaining his old belt, Truax would love nothing more than to wreck Plant’s plans to face Alvarez down the road and perhaps get a shot himself at a big unification fight, since Alvarez has said repeatedly that his goal is unify the four 168-pound titles.
“It’d be awesome, man, because seeing everyone count me out is what motivates me and gives me a little bit extra added oomph in each workout and definitely in the fight and I wouldn’t mind fighting Canelo either,” said Truax, who said there is a rematch clause in his contract. “I’m 37. I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be doing this and I want to make the most of the time that I have. Winning this fight and then whether it’s a rematch with Plant after or a fight with Canelo, I’m trying to make as much money as I can.
“I’m at the tail end of my career and I want to provide for my family and, obviously, Canelo is the money man in boxing and in the super middleweight division and everyone is banking on a fight with him and trying to get a fight with him, so obviously that’s what everyone wants.”
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