Caleb Plant never has to fight again after Saturday night. 

Win or lose against “Canelo” Alvarez, the Tennessee native can walk out of the MGM Grand Garden Arena with a check in the reported neighborhood of ten million dollars and never throw a punch for pay for the rest of his life. And at 29, there’s a lot of life left for Plant.

In that sense alone, he’s already won. 

Yet while Plant and his peers are all prizefighters, so the hardest game is played for money, it’s not all about that for the IBF super middleweight champion. If it was, he could have stepped in to face Alvarez in May 2020 after a tenth-round stoppage of Vincent Feigenbutz in February of last year.

He said no to the short-notice bout, refusing to face his toughest test in his biggest fight with less than a full training camp. Not surprisingly, Plant took heat on social media for the decision, but he didn’t waver. Not for a second, not even with a huge payday on the table and the possibility that with a loss, an injury or any number of mishaps, it would never be there for him again.

“I'm in this to win it, I'm in this for the long haul,” said Plant when I spoke to him late last year for Boxing News magazine. “I could have taken the fight and things would have happened where nobody would have blinked an eye, but I would have blinked an eye because I would have known that I took the fight for the money.” 

Fight fans didn’t want to hear it. Plant didn’t care.

“If I walked on water, they'd say I couldn't swim,” he said.

It was an admirable stand to take by Plant, and a rare one. We’ve all seen fighters step into situations where the odds were even more against them than they would be in an ideal training camp situation, but the money was too good. There’s nothing wrong with that, and fans, promoters and networks usually give those folks a pass in the likely event of a loss. 

Plant wanted something different for his career, his legacy, his life. And after successfully defending his title for the third time with a shutout 12-round unanimous decision win over Caleb Truax in January, he got the fight he wanted, on his terms. That means a full camp to prepare for one of the best in the game, and he isn’t showing up for the paycheck and to be the witness to the coronation of Alvarez as the undisputed champion at 168 pounds.

“There have been some guys who lost before the bell even rang against Canelo,” said Plant at a recent media workout. “I think that’s why he’s so irritated with me. Some guys just come in and are there to hand over their belt, get their check and leave. Anyone who knows me, they know I’m only here for those belts.”

That may ultimately be true, but after a skirmish at the press conference announcing the fight and some heated words back and forth, there seems to be a lot more than some gaudy trinkets at stake in the fight capital of the world.

  

“This is personal for me, but every fight is personal for me,” said Plant. “I’ve sacrificed a lot for this sport and dedicated myself completely, so anybody who’s getting in the way of my goals makes it personal to me. No matter who it is.”

A press conference brawl and some witty, bad blood banter sells a fight. That’s no secret, and if it is all for show between Alvarez and Plant, good for them, because emotion carrying over into the ring on fight night is usually a no-no at this level.

Or is it?

Can Alvarez’ desire to make a statement make him sloppy, and not dangerous? Can Plant’s desire to establish himself as one of the sport’s best by soundly beating a legit superstar be the catalyst for a career-best performance? If the animosity is real, eventually a fight will break out on Saturday, and Team Plant knows it.

 “When you have two alpha dogs in the same room, it’s not going to be calm,” said Plant’s co-trainer Justin Gamber. “There’s always going to be clashing. It doesn’t surprise me. It’s not personal on the teams’ ends, but these are two pitbulls and they’re ready to go at each other.”

And in a fistfight, it’s always personal. 

So while Plant doesn’t likely have the power to deter Alvarez, and though Mike Lee, Feigenbutz and Truax don’t compare to the Mexican star or even the laundry list of standouts he’s beaten, the Tennessean comes from a place in Ashland City – literally and figuratively – where if you can’t fight, you stand still.

“Where I'm from, there's a lot of poverty, there's a lot of drugs, there's not a whole lot of opportunities,” Plant told me last year. “There's honor in all work, no matter what you do. But some work is meant for some people and some people are okay with some work and some people just feel like they're not meant for that, that they're meant for something more. And I felt like that at a young age and I wasn't really willing to accept anything less than where I'm at now. And if I didn't get up and go do what I had to do to get here, then I'd be stuck where I'm from and I just don't think that's a good place to be.”

Plant is in a good place right now. It’s probably the best place he’s ever been in. He’s a world champion, he’s happily married, and he’s about to perform for the world for the most money he’s ever seen. That’s enough to make someone smile, but also enough to make them content. Content fighters don’t win the biggest fights. 

Caleb Plant’s job this weekend is to stay hungry and hope Canelo Alvarez is content and looking to the future and not to 12 rounds of a prizefight.

“He says the first few rounds will be tough, but I’m saying all the rounds are going to be tough for him,” said Plant. “He’s got a tall order in front of him.”