When Canelo Alvarez was looking for an opponent to fight this past May on Cinco de Mayo weekend, before the coronavirus pandemic shut down the sports world for several months, super middleweight world titlist Caleb Plant was one of the names prominently mentioned as a possibility.
Ultimately, Alvarez was lined up to face super middleweight titlist Billy Joe Saunders, although the announcement was put on hold and eventually canceled due to the spreading virus.
For Plant, it was no big deal that he didn’t get the call for the spring bout because he had just made his second title defense on Feb. 15, knocking out Vincent Feigenbutz in the 10th round.
Making a deal for a major fight with Alvarez on relatively short notice, and fighting again so quickly after a long camp for Feigenbutz, was not something Plant was interested in doing.
But when the prospect of Plant taking on Alvarez on Dec. 19 was raised in the aftermath of Alvarez parting ways with Golden Boy Promotions and DAZN after reaching a settlement of his breach of contract lawsuit against them, he was interested.
Alvarez’s team, according to sources, had conversations with Premier Boxing Champions chief Al Haymon about a potential deal that would have paved the way for Plant to get what would have been a pay-per-view fight. Ultimately, it didn’t work out, and Alvarez wound up doing a one-fight deal with Matchroom Boxing to return to DAZN to challenge super middleweight titlist Callum Smith on Dec. 19.
“It was brought to my attention that this was something that could happen (on Dec. 19),” Plant told BoxingScene. “It wasn’t like they came to me with an offer even though I had an idea what I could make off a fight like that. But it’s not like they came to me and said, ‘This is what you’re gonna make.’ It wasn’t detailed, just a potential thing and they were working to get it done and they couldn’t come to terms on it with Canelo.”
So while Plant is now 0-for-2 in landing a fight with Alvarez, the pound-for-pound king to many and the biggest attraction in boxing, he remains very interested in facing him and believes it can happen in 2021.
“I think that would be a great fight and that’s a fight that I really want,” Plant said. “There was a lot of talk going around that I should stay ready, Caleb’s not ready. That’s not the case at all. With Canelo leaving Golden Boy and Oscar (De La Hoya) and looking to venture out, and maybe signing with somebody or doing a one-fight deal with a multitude of companies, whatever deal that him and Al and the PBC team were trying to work out for him to come over here that’s what didn’t materialize.
“Hopefully, this interview can clear up some confusion on me turning it down or saying I’m not ready. That definitely is not the situation. I’m not sure what it would take to get Canelo to come to PBC to have a fight over here but as far as everything with me I’m not hard to make a fight with. I’ve been in the gym. When I came off my fight in February and I had been in a long camp I felt like it would be better to get the rest and not rush into anything. But this (possible December fight) was not a situation like this. I’ve been resting through the quarantine but I have been working. I would have been ready (for Dec. 19).”
Plant theorized that even if Alvarez and PBC thought they could mount a pay-per-view promotion on about five weeks’ notice that it probably didn’t make sense for PBC because it is also putting on a major Fox PPV event on Dec. 5 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, where unified welterweight world titlist Errol Spence Jr. will defend against former titlist Danny Garcia in the main event.
“A Spence-Garcia conflict a couple of weeks before (Dec. 19) meant people may have to choose between Canelo and me or a Spence-Garcia fight and maybe it didn’t make sense for the PBC team and maybe Canelo and the PBC team just couldn’t come to an agreement,” Plant said. “But as for me, I would have been ready. It wouldn’t have been a weight issue or an issue that I hadn’t been training or sparring or anything like that. I’ve been working. I stay in shape year round.
“Whatever Al and Canelo couldn’t figure out, that has nothing to do with me. It’s easy to make a fight with me, but I also know there’s a lot that goes into making a big pay-per-view fight like that and if they felt they didn’t have the time to put that show together and all the variables that go with it, like Spence and Garcia fighting on Dec. 5, I don’t know about all that.”
Plant (20-0, 12 KOs), 28, of Las Vegas, won his 168-pound belt by unanimous decision over Jose Uzcategui in January 2019, defended it by third-round knockout of Mike Lee in July 2019 and then took Feigenbutz apart in February.
Plant is anxious now for a bigger fight and believes he would do well against Mexico’s Alvarez (53-1-2, 36 KOs), 30, a four-division world titlist, who currently holds a middleweight title and a secondary super middleweight belt.
“I get my hand raised. I’m not scared of Canelo,” Plant said. “I know that he does have the experience, but I feel like I have all the tools in my belt to get my hand raised in a fight like that. I have heart, I have a good chin. I’ve shown that I can dig deep. I can take big punches like I did against Jose Uzcategui. I’ve developed a lot since that fight and shown it in my last couple of fights.
“Whenever it’s been time to step up to the plate in my life I’ve always stepped up to the plate and I’ve never shied away.”
Plant is a boxing fan in addition to having a keen interest in what takes place in his weight division so he said he will be tuning in to Alvarez-Smith next month.
“I’m gonna check it out. I’m a boxing fan as well. It’s a big fight regardless of it’s in my weight class or not but it being in my weight class, of course, I’m going to tune in,” he said.
As for how Plant thinks it will go, he believes Alvarez will prevail.
“I think Callum does have some good things going for him but at the end of the day I feel like he’s an ABC, 123 fighter and I feel like Canelo will have the skills and the tools in his belt and will be able to figure him out,” Plant said. “Also, with the John Ryder fight, unless that was just a super off night for Callum, and he just had a really bad performance, then it doesn’t seem like he likes to fight on the inside and someone who can get inside of his big, lanky arms can wear him down and do what they need to do. Canelo is a much better version of that than John Ryder.”
Smith (27-0, 19 KOs), 30, of England, struggled mightily with Ryder last November in his last bout but retained the title via disputed decision.
“I’m not really gonna say I’m rooting for one of them because they’re not my friends but it would be nice for Canelo to get his hand raised, that way we could hopefully bring the fans a big fight,” Plant said. “I feel like I have all the tools to be the one to beat Canelo.”
Plant said whatever happens in Alvarez-Smith, he plans to be back in action in early 2021.
“Since we weren’t able to make this fight (with Alvarez) materialize for end of the year I’m sure I’ll be in there right at top of the year,” Plant said.
After that, he hopes a fight with Alvarez can finally be made.
“I’m here to stay. I feel like I’m the best in the 168-pound division,” Plant said. “I don’t care who’s in the division. In the 168-pound division I’m the best until it’s proven otherwise.”
Dan Rafael was ESPN.com's senior boxing writer for fifteen years, and covered the sport for five years at USA Today. He was the 2013 BWAA Nat Fleischer Award winner for excellence in boxing journalism.