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Preview: Canelo Alvarez and Caleb Plant fight for undisputed honor at super middleweight

Canelo Alvarez and Caleb Plant have their chances to become the first undisputed super middleweight king.

Canelo Alvarez and Caleb Plant fight for undisputed honors at super middleweight
Canelo Alvarez and Caleb Plant fight for undisputed honors at super middleweight
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Main Event

Canelo Alvarez and Caleb Plant battle for all the marbles — every single marble! — this Saturday night on Showtime pay-per-view, with four belts on the line and a chance to crown the first-ever undisputed super middleweight champion.

Canelo (56-1-2, 38 KO) will be a heavy favorite for this fight (DraftKings have him -1000 right now, with Caleb Plant at +600), but what’s new? He’s boxing’s No. 1 active superstar, the face of the sport for many at the moment, and he’s simply a great, proven fighter, too.

Plant (21-0, 12 KO) has other ideas about the outcome, of course, and I’ll tell you, I truly believe in his confidence. The 29-year-old, originally from Tennessee and now fighting out of Las Vegas, has never fought on a stage near this level before, but as much as I know this might ruffle a feather or two, I have to agree with Leonard Ellerbe that sometimes that’s all a fighter really needs, the stage and the opportunity.

Now I’m not Leonard so I don’t feel any need to bring up the Mayweather-Canelo fight from eight years ago, nor do I think Canelo’s struggles with Erislandy Lara in 2014 or even Golovkin in 2017 and 2018 matter much at this point. First of all, the Mayweather and Lara fights were a long time ago, and Canelo has gotten better. He’s also gotten bigger and physically stronger. And with Golovkin, GGG was simply a great fighter, too. Of course those fights were close. And Plant doesn’t fight like Golovkin, nor should he try to do so.

That said, let me go back to agreeing with Ellerbe: Canelo is not untouchable or someone who doesn’t lose some rounds. For as much as he dominated Callum Smith or blew the doors off of the over-matched Rocky Fielding and Avni Yildirim, he did neither against Daniel Jacobs, Sergey Kovalev, or Billy Joe Saunders, and those the other three of his last six fights along with Smith, Fielding, and Yildirim. Jacobs won rounds, that fight wound up closer than a lot of people remember. Kovalev won rounds, that fight was closer than a lot of people remember (Canelo was up 96-94 on two cards, the other even after 10 rounds). Saunders won rounds, that fight was competitive.

Now to go back to the other hand, yeah, Canelo also knocked Kovalev out pretty bad in the 11th round and broke Saunders’ face for a stoppage after eight. So you do have to consider that, too, I suppose. Might be worth considering.

Plant’s best win to date is either Jose Uzcategui, who made his name off of fights against a guy who’s never liked when people fight back, or Caleb Truax. Uzcategui has fallen apart since the loss to Plant, basically, and his time as a “top super middleweight” was probably more a fluke of timing and the right situation than anything, which happens. Truax was 35 and past his best days, too. Between those fights, Plant made easy title defenses against Notre Dame Subway, which was ridiculous, and Vincent Feigenbutz.

But it’s also clear that Plant can fight. He’s got skills, he’s smart, he’s shown good ring IQ. He has done as he should have done with the opponents he’s had to date, he doesn’t go out and let opponents get into fights when they aren’t expected to be competitive.

Of course, Canelo really is a whole other ball of wax, and is himself an extremely intelligent fighter who has shown an increasing ability to break opponents down and bust them up as he’s gotten more experienced and come into his true prime years. Canelo doesn’t overlook opponents, either; everyone else can think this will be “easy” for him, but Alvarez won’t fight like that.

This is Caleb Plant’s big shot, no doubt. But Canelo Alvarez isn’t going to treat it like it isn’t his, either.

Undercard

Let’s not mince words: This undercard stinks and had no effort put into it. Even if you accept that nobody watches or much cares about undercards on a show like this, which is sold entirely on Canelo Alvarez’s fight, this is borderline insulting to the serious boxing fan who might like to see something of real note on the show other than the main event.

Errol Spence Jr. v Shawn Porter Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Anthony Dirrell will be repeatedly called “two-time former super middleweight champion Anthony Dirrell” in an attempt to hype his return, but the 37-year-old Dirrell is at the back end of his career, and very clearly so. He struggled badly in February against Kyrone Davis, going to a draw in a fight that even a few years ago he would have been expected to win handily. Davis went out and had trouble getting past club fighter Martez McGregor in September, if you want to really gauge how flat Dirrell was nine months ago.

Marcos Hernandez (15-4-2, 3 KO) will oppose Dirrell on Saturday. The 28-year-old “Madman” from Fresno is a tough fighter at a certain level, gives good rounds to basically everyone he fights. He doesn’t have top tier ability, but he’s not somebody you can just look past, though he’s sort of an uneven fighter, too, his quality seeming to depend on the night every bit as much as the opponent.

Rey Vargas (34-0, 22 KO) vacated the WBC belt at 122 lbs in order to move up to 126 for an ordered fight with Gary Russell Jr. That fight reportedly had terms agreed way back in March, but hasn’t happened, and apparently isn’t going to happen, at least not right now. Vargas is instead staying at 122, now without a belt, as he fights for the first time in 28 months on Saturday against Leonardo Baez (21-4, 12 KO).

Baez, a 26-year-old Mexican, turned some heads in 2019 when he beat former Olympian Alberto Melian via clear decision over 10 rounds, and followed that with a solid win over Edixon Perez in Mexicali and one over Moises Flores in early 2020. But he was dominated by Jason Moloney and Carlos Caraballo in back-to-back fights after that. He’s won three low-level fights in Mexico since then.

If Vargas, who turns 31 later this month, is on form and in shape and all that, this shouldn’t be a terribly difficult fight for him. He was never a guy who got anyone super excited, but he’s a very good boxer-puncher who knows how to use his height and reach.

The opener is probably the best matchup of the undercard bouts. Dominican junior welterweight Elvis Rodriguez (11-1-1, 10 KO) picked up some buzz with five wins in Top Rank’s “bubble” between July 2020 and February 2021, with Freddie Roach incapable of helping himself as he started presenting Rodriguez as his next great fighter, which at this point we’ve heard about several guys who didn’t wind up being Roach’s next great fighter at all.

Rodriguez blasted through the first four of those opponents before some holes started to show against Luis Alberto Veron in his last one, and then he got rather exposed in a fight this past May in Las Vegas, losing a majority decision to Kenneth Sims Jr in a fight where Rodriguez had no argument for the W. Top Rank decided they’d seen enough, and Rodriguez is now on a PBC show.

He does have promise, though, and a loss isn’t the end of the line. He’ll be facing 31-year-old Mexican Juan Pablo Romero, a former Olympian and Sergeant in the Mexican Army, who brings an undefeated record of 14-0 (9 KO) to the fight. He’s old for a prospect, but shouldn’t be counted out here at all. Rodriguez has real flaws, and Romero is a solid fighter, as we saw in April on a Ring City USA show. (Remember Ring City USA?)

How to Watch

Canelo vs Plant will air live on Showtime pay-per-view on Saturday, November 6, starting at 9 pm ET. Bad Left Hook will have full live coverage for the event.

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