“You don’t know me enough to hate me.”
Caleb Plant entered the ring with a T-shirt sporting that simple message, directed at Anthony Dirrell who spent much of the pre-fight buildup talking down to his fellow former super middleweight titlist. Dirrell’s shirt of choice sported an image of a buried Plant accompanied with the phrase “I’m Going to Plant Flowers.”
The pre-fight trash talk far exceeded the action—or lack thereof—in the ring through eight rounds in their October 15 Fox Sports Pay-Per-View co-feature from Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
That changed in an instant.
Plant was fighting for the first time since losing his IBF super middleweight via eleventh-round knockout to Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in their November 2021 undisputed championship clash in Las Vegas. The Tennessee native—now based in the greater Las Vegas area—was never known as a knockout puncher but always boasted underrated power.
Dirrell found out the hard way. The former WBC titlist—whose previous fight came in a knockout win over Marcos Hernandez on the Alvarez-Plant undercard—didn’t have time to react to the left hook to the body by Plant, who followed up with a clean left hook upstairs. The shot rendered Dirrell unconscious, as he fell straight back to the canvas and prompted referee Harvey Dock to immediately halt the contest at 2:57 of round nine.
“But now you do.”
A wardrobe change by Plant—sporting the aforementioned phrase—came after his post-fight celebration, complete with his mockingly shoveling dirt on Dirrell’s proverbial grave as medical attention was being given to the Flint, Michigan native.
The action was met with mixed reviews. The sport’s most uptight elitists cited Plant for a lack of professionalism during his opponent’s darkest hour. The rest of the industry seemed content with the 30-year-old thoroughly enjoying the moment as he saw fit, including social media influencer Ray Jackson who was content to end their unexpected yet extensive online beef following Plant’s sensational return to the win column.
Plant relished in victory, even playfully describing the mock dirt-shoveling scene as “burying the beef” with Dirrell. The was an emphatic reminder that he remains among the sport’s top super middleweight, which also earned a highly anticipated showdown with fellow former titlist David Benavidez (26-0, 23KOs) targeted for mid-to-late March 2023.
Whatever comes of their interim WBC super middleweight title clash, Plant gets to enter the fight on the heels of his greatest highlight reel moment through nearly nine years as a pro.
The highlight was great enough to land as BoxingScene.com’s 2022 Knockout of the Year.
The runners-up for BoxingScene.com’s 2022 “Knockout of the Year” award are listed below, in chronological order.
Leigh Wood KO12 Michael Conlan (March 12, Nottingham, England): A strong argument to be made that BoxingScene’s 2022 Fight of the Year deserved double-award status. The locally-based Wood overcame a first-round knockdown and a scorecard deficit to floor Conlan late in round eleven before finishing the job in the twelfth and final round to defend his WBA featherweight title. A right hand left Conlan limp along the ropes, his arms draped by his sides as a final flurry by Wood sent the unbeaten Belfast native through the ropes and out of the ring.
Joe Cordina KO2 Kenichi Ogawa (June 4, Cardiff, Wales): Quite possibly the least expected knockout on the list—even more so than the winning entry. Cordina (15-0, 9KOs) became just the 13th Welshman ever to claim a major title, as a single right hand deposited visiting IBF junior lightweight champ Kenichi Ogawa onto the canvas, rolling over in a disoriented state as the fight was instantly halted at 1:15 of round two.
Naoya Inoue KO2 Nonito Donaire (June 7, Saitama, Japan): The three-belt and lineal championship rematch was considerably less competitive than their Nov. 2019 Fight of the Year candidate. Inoue (24-0, 21KOs) dropped Donaire in rounds one and two, the latter leaving the four-division and dethroned WBC bantamweight titlist disoriented to the point of forcing an immediate stoppage just 4 ½ minutes into the night.
Issac Hardman KO1 Brian Hartas (July 2, Broadbeach, Australia): Truly living up to his ‘Headsplitter’ ring moniker, Hardman (13-1, 11KOs) delivered a Knockout of the Year contender after face-planting his countryman. A single right hand put Hartas (6-2, 4KOs; 1NC) face first on the canvas, with the fight immediately waved off at 2:49 of round one in support of the Jai Opetaia-Mairis Briedis lineal/cruiserweight championship fight.
Deontay Wilder KO1 Robert Helenius (October 15, Brooklyn, New York): The epitome of a one-punch knockout. Wilder (43-2-1, 42KOs), fighting for the first time in 53 weeks, landed just three punches in the 177-second affair. The most damaging was a single right hand by the former WBC heavyweight titlist, catching a squared-up Helenius who was put flat on his back and left motionless while staring at the ceiling as ringside medical attention rushed to his aid. Wilder’s fifth knockout in as many fights at Barclays Center, though a rare moment where he was upstaged by an undercard bout (Plant-Dirrell) which happened to win out this category.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox
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