NASHVILLE—Four weeks after the Tennessee Titans fell one game shy of reaching the Super Bowl, Caleb Plant provided Music City with the championship it deserves.
The unbeaten super middleweight titlist made the most of his long-overdue homecoming performance, outclassing mandatory challenger Vincent Feigenbutz en route to a 10th round stoppage win.
A final flurry by Plant rendered Germany’s Feigenbutz defenseless, prompting the stoppage at 2:23 of round ten.
“Oh man, the whole city came out,” Plant exclaimed to Fox Sports’ Heidi Androl after registering the second defense of his year-long title reign. “Nashville, stand up!”
Having never before fought in his home state, Plant came prepared for the occasion. The 27-year old from Ashland City was decked out in the colors of the Titans, with “R.I.P. Alia” embroidered on each leg in honor of his daughter who passed away four years ago.
Plant maintained a calm demeanor in the opening round, working behind jab and picking his spots against a defensive-minded Feigenbutz, who struggled mightily in his first career fight in the United States. Enough clean shots got through to draw blood from the German boxer’s nose barely two minutes into the contest, though Plant neither reacting to the blood nor the raucous crowd.
That would come in round two, when the unbeaten defending titlist scored with a flurry to cause the arena to erupt. The same combination continued to work whenever he launched it, with Plant repeatedly hooking off the jab and forcing Feigenbutz to cover up.
Plant continued with that mode of attack in round three, mixing in uppercuts for good measure. The crowd continued to soak it all in, alternating between chants of “Let’s Go Sweethands” and “U-S-A,” A left hook to the body and uppercut to the chin had Feigenbutz in trouble towards the end of the round, contending with the champ’s superior hand speed while blood continued to flow from his left nostril.
A right hand and left hook to the body scored for Plant to start round four. Feigenbutz—who was on the wrong end of a 5:1 differential in punches landed to that point—did his best to make a fight of it, but increased activity didn’t produce any more success on the offensive front.
After slowing down and having fun in the previous frame, Plant put on his game face and went to work in round five. Even when the punches weren’t landing, the hand speed remained too much for Feigenbutz to contend with, although managing to remain upright and without the threat of a knockout transpiring any time soon.
Feigenbutz took his best shot in round six, at the very least providing entertainment for the partisan crowd. A bulrush by the visiting contender briefly forced Plant to fight off the ropes, riding out the brief storm to quickly return the fight to his desired distance. Plant’s effort to mock his opponent was countered by Feigenbutz blowing a kiss in the spirit of Valentine’s Day weekend, which drew a rise out of the fans in attendance.
Action slowed in round seven, as Plant was economical in his attack. Feigenbutz connected with a left upstairs, his most effective singular moment to that point in the fight. Plant took the shot well and proceeded to press the action. A right hand from the defending champ reminded the crowd to rally behind its local hero who was well in control.
Plant returned to basics in round eight, and with that came a return to one-sided action. A right hand by Plant created an opening to follow up with a left uppercut, which Feigenbutz took well but without a response. Plant scored with a three-punch combination towards the end of the frame, with a look of frustration gracing Feigenbutz’s face as he walked back to his corner.
Body language being everything, Plant sensed weakened prey and moved in for the kill at the start of round nine. A five-punch combination upstairs punctuated by a left uppercut made Nashville stand up and Feigenbutz back up, though the mandatory contender was able to remain upright. Plant stepped back just enough to get leverage on a purposeful jab, followed by a right hand along with another combination before the bell.
Feigenbutz continued to soldier on, as hopes of making it to the final bell seemed within reach. Plant refused to allow it, intensifying his attack in round ten and ultimately closing the show. Body shots slowed down Feigenbutz to where he was left defenseless for a Plant flurry. A final uppercut snapped back the head of Feigenbutz, prompting referee Malik Waleed to bring a halt to the contest.
"I felt great out there," insisted Plant (20-0, 13KOs), who celebrated his one-year anniversary as champion this past January and has now twice defended his title. "I was relaxed and sharp. I told you I was going to stop this before the 12th round."
Feigenbutz falls to 31-3 (28KOs) with the loss, snapping a 10-fight win streak while falling well short in his second bid at a major title.
Saturday's bout marked the first title fight to hit Nashville since July 1997, also taking place in this very venue but whose sparse crowd instead led to decades of struggle in reviving the local boxing scene.
The turnout for this event provided hope for a brighter future in the way of big time boxing in Music City. Even bigger would be the opportunity to claim—without dispute—THE best super middleweight in the world.
With that comes a goal for 2020.
"Everyone knows I want the unification fight with David Benavidez," noted Plant of his fellow divisional titlist, who sat as a keen observer while working the host desk at Fox Studios in Los Angeles. "You know who the best 168-pounder is.
"If you want that, you've got to come see me. I want that fight; I've been asking for it and I'm tired of waiting."
The fight aired live atop a Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) on Fox tripleheader.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox