Boxer Caleb Plant Chases Glory With His Daughter’s Spirit Leading The Way Against Canelo Alvarez Tomorrow

Caleb Plant pictured on the left, throws a left hand to the body against Vincent Feigenbutz during their IBF world super-middleweight championship bout in Nashville in February 2020. Photograph: Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Caleb Plant takes on boxing’s Kingpin Saul “Canelo” Alvarez at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Paradise, Nevada, on Pay-per-view for $86.00.  The fight is billed as Road to Undisputed, in which Alvarez holds the WBA (Super), WBC, WBO, and The Ring champion belts, while Plant, 29, holds the IBF.  Alvarez, 31 (56–1–2-38 KOs), is a 6-1 favorite to defeat Plant (21-0-12 KOs) and do so in a devastating fashion, given that Alvarez broke his last opponent’s orbital bone, something that didn’t impress Plant.

“He may be as good as y’all say he is, but he’s not better than me,” Plant told Sporting News last week. “There’s only one thing that’s better than proving people right, and that’s proving people wrong,” Plant continued. “But I’m not just here to prove the critics wrong. I’m here to prove myself right, and that’s something that I’ve been doing my entire life.” Plant has been forthcoming about the trauma and dysfunction he experienced growing up in Ashland City, Tennessee. His mother, Beth, suffered from severe mental health struggles and substance abuse; she was in and out of Plant and his younger sister’s lives.

“We’d bundle up next to little space heaters in the winter. Food was donated from churches, or we had little to eat,” Plant told reporter Joseph Santoliquito. “I’d ask for a dollar from people at school for snacks for me and my little sister, and we got served foreclosure papers a lot.” When he was a teenager, Plant sold drugs for his mother; the two had a solid mother-son relationship. However, as his mother’s dysfunctional ways worsen, Plant grew fatigued, and by the time the fighter reached adulthood, the mother-son relationship was strained.

Sadly, Beth would experience an early death at age 51  after her friend called 911 because she showed signs of extreme mental confusion.  As a medical emergency transported her to a hospital, Beth became distraught, and the driver pulled over and called 911. When law enforcement arrived, police footage showed Beth pulling a knife and running toward an officer; the officer yelled for her to stop, but she continued to march forward and that’s when the officer fired a shot, killing her instantly.

Her death happened shortly before one of Plant’s title defenses.  “I miss my mother very much. She was a very sweet and wonderful lady. She had demons she was battling with,” Plant told reporter Manouk Akopyan in 2019. “Some of her demons were stronger than she would have liked for them to be. She had her flaws just like anything other humans do, but we still stayed in touch, and we loved each other very much.” Plant’s father, Richie, was involved in his kids’ lives. However, he worked nonstop as a driver to pay the family’s mounting bills, which caused him to spend long hours away from home.  But what little money Richie made, he knew that boxing was a way to protect his son from the dangers of the street where many of Plant’s friends were addicted to drugs or moving in and out of jail.

“What I have now didn’t come easy, and it’s not something that I want to lose,” Plant told Akopyan. “This is the life that I asked for, worked for, and want to keep. To me, boxing is life or death.” And early into his career Plant backed up his word with impressive performances until the birth of his daughter Alia on May 7, 2013.  Alia suffered from an unknown medical condition, which caused her to have over 200 seizures a day.

Plant’s daughter

Plant spent mornings crafting his boxing skills in a gym, but by night, he turned into a caring father sleeping either on the hospital floor near his daughter’s bed or he slept in bed with her. On Jan. 29, 2015, she died at 19 months after she caught a respiratory infection that developed into pneumonia.

In 2015, Plant told writer Kevin Iole “[Alia] was in an induced coma, and I went up to her, and I said, ‘Alia, are you tired of this? Do you not want to do this anymore?'” She’d been through so much,” he said. “I said, ‘Are you tired? Because if you are, I’m not going to be disappointed in you. I’m not going to be mad at you or upset with you. I just want you to know if you don’t want to go through this anymore, I support you. I love you, and your dad’s not going to be mad at you.'”   He told a Los Angeles Times reporter, “I love her very much. I would do anything and everything for her. I miss her. I wish she was here. But I feel like she’s in a better place, and luckily, she doesn’t have to suffer anymore.”

Plant has a tattoo of her face on his arm, and regardless of the trunks he wears in a fight, Alia’s name is prominently displayed.  After her passing, Plant promised to honor her memory by winning a world title when the opportunity came.  In 2019, he faced José Uzcátegui, who was a 5-1 favorite, for   Uzcátegui’s IBF world title.  Plant put on a masterful performance in defeating Uzcátegui by decision.

It is a boxing tradition that fighters are perceived as enemies before the fight and friendly afterward.  Yet, in September, Plant and Álvarez had their first press conference, and enemies were an understatement.  During the customary face-to-face stare, the boxers jaw-jacked each other.

“It was normal pre-fight banter,” Plant said. “You know how it goes: ‘I’m going to beat you.” Plant said. “No, I’m going to beat you. Fuck you. No, fuck you.’ It seemed like he lost his cool then, and I responded the way I was taught to respond. I’m a fighter.”  Alvarez pushed Plant and both boxers took swings at each other in which Plant suffered a mark under his eye.  Alvarez said Plant called his mother a curse word. Plant denied the claim and asked reporters, “Where is my mother right now?” making reference to her death and why he would never disrespect Alvarez’s mom.

Alvarez shoves Plant Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

 

 

EVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 21: Caleb Plant after a face-off with Canelo Alvarez during a press conference ahead of their super middleweight fight on November 6 at The Beverly Hilton on September 21, 2021 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

 

Plant has been criticized by many fans and boxing media, who have grown impatient with the cat-and-mouse game of his not challenging top-level fighters in his weight division at 168-pounds. Recognizable fighters tease fans promising to destroy their opponent, but show little interest in backing up their talk in the ring.  Plant, who will earn 10-million on Saturday, has wanted to challenge Alvarez for years.  Should he defeat him, Plant would not only become the undisputed champion, but he would set himself up for future glory and millions upon millions of dollars.   “It was a fight I wanted, and it was a fight that I was ready for, and anyone that follows me, you know they’ve been seeing me working throughout the pandemic,” Plant told SecondsOut.

During the final press conference on Thursday, Plant, whose wife is Jorden, a television boxing reporter, had few words going into tomorrow’s fight. “Not much time left. Really not much left to say. So, I’m going to keep it short and sweet. When the bell rings, it’s completely different. I don’t take anything away from anything from the press conference [in September].” He added, “I’ve always been a fighter who can step up to the occasion; I do best when there’s a lot of pressure on the line.” When the lights are on, and it’s time to put my best foot forward, I always do that, in or out of the ring.”

He added, “I’m not just here to hand my belt over. I’m not just here to pick up a check and be quiet and let him ride off into the sunset. I’m here to win this fight, and I’m going to win this fight.”

Win, lose or draw, no opponent will measure up to the memory of his mother and daughter.

“Thinking of them both every day [his mother and daughter] before every fight drives me on. Losing both my daughter and my mother was real painful, but it’s made me stronger. Fighting for their memory is a motivating factor for me.”

Photograph: John McCoy/Getty Images

 

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