THE battle of the Caleb’s takes centre stage in the boxing ring this weekend, when world super-middleweight champion Caleb Plant makes the third defence of his IBF belt against its former owner, Caleb Truax, behind closed doors in Los Angeles, California.
After ‘Canelo’ Alvarez climbed aboard the 168lb division by taking the Ring magazine and WBA belts away from Callum Smith in December, the rest of the division is jostling for the chance to unify against the Mexican PPV star.
And Plant could jump into pole position for a spring or summer showdown with Alvarez by delivering another highlight reel defence. Since dropping Jose Uzcategui twice en route to a clear points victory in January 2019 to become champion, the 28-year-old has made two short distance defences.
Previously unbeaten Mike Lee was up and down four times before getting stopped in the third in the summer of 2019, before Plant’s sole defence in 2020 – back home in Nashville, Tennessee – went 10 rounds before busted-up German challenger Vincent Feigenbutz was stopped on his feet.
With heavy hands, great footwork and a ring IQ that taps into two decades spent in the ring, ‘Sweethands’ is a headline star amongst a new golden generation of American boxing champions. In just six years, the former amateur standout has raced to 20-0, with 12 KOs, and gets better with every performance.
"He got a belt and he didn't get soft… There's no question he can be a legend, he will be the P4P champion of the sport." @SweetHandsPlant's strength and conditioning coach Larry Wade believes the standard that Plant sets will take him to the top spot #PlantTruax pic.twitter.com/Siagx7Ak0M
— FOX Sports: PBC (@PBConFOX) January 25, 2021
If Plant then is on the rise, challenger Truax is more likely on the demise. A decade older and with nearly double the pro fight experience – running a 31-4-2 card – this is likely Truax’s final chance to win back the world title he once held, albeit for just 119 days.
In December 2017, a routine IBF title defence by James Degale at the Copper Box in London blew up in the former GB gold medallists face when Truax outworked him for large spells of a forgettable fight to take the belt back to the US.
Degale managed to gain revenge in a bloody return four months later in Las Vegas, but would then relinquish the world title – allowing Plant and Uzcategui to fight for the vacant belt – and forcing Truax back onto the long road back to contention.
In fairness, Truax has only ever lost to current or former world champions. He dropped former undisputed middleweight king Jermain Taylor with a crunching right hand before losing on points in 2012; was stopped on his feet in the 12th in a title fight against Danny Jacobs in 2015; was caught cold in the first round by two-time WBC champ Anthony Dirrell in 2016; before being outscored in his title return with Degale.
Whether the 37-year-old’s his chin can stand up to the power of Plant’s predictable early onslaught will dictate whether Truax’s final spin of the world title wheel ends inside the first six rounds or whether he manages to make it into the championship rounds before being saved from himself. Either way, it’s not going the distance.
My Tip: Plant by TKO in rounds 4-6