Despite a fairly ugly build up to this super middleweight unification bout between Canelo Alvarez and Caleb Plant on Saturday night in Las Vegas, it's been all business since fight week began on Monday for both fighters. Alvarez and Plant have shown great restraint in going after one another and staying focused on the task at hand as first bell inches closer and closer.
Plant (21-0, 12 KOs) went as far as saying during Wednesday's final press conference that "the media makes more of it when we do" when asked about the September scuffle between the two that went viral and caused a still visible cut below Plant's left eye. The native of Ashland City, Tennessee, was also quick to add, "we've both been in worse scuffles than that. When the bell rings, it's completely different."
The bell will finally ring this weekend inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena (Showtime PPV, 9 p.m. ET) where any lingering grudge talk will be replaced by that of history as the 168-pound division crowns its first four-belt undisputed champion with Alvarez (56-1-2, 38 KOs) looking to continue his march through the record books.
Alvarez, who earned three of the four recognized titles at 160 pounds, has his eyes on even bigger challenges if successful on Saturday night. The Mexican superstar has plans on moving up to light heavyweight to challenge Artur Beterbiev or Dmitry Bivol for the 175-pound belts. But first he must get through the final test at 168 after beating Callum Smith, Avni Yilidirim and Billy Joe Saunders -- all within a 12-month span. Plant, meanwhile, earned the IBF belt in 2018 with a win over Jose Uzcategui and has defended three times.
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"The goal is to be an all-time great," Alvarez said. "I'm so proud of the journey I've taken to achieve that. I'm not going to stop until I've tried my best to reach that goal. Only one thing is going through my mind, and that's winning. Everything else is outside of my control. I only care about what's going to happen inside of the ring Saturday night."
Plant, 29, will bring elite hand and foot speed to the matchup and an aggressive style for a fighter not known as a one-punch knockout artist. His mental toughness has been a big focus in terms of the pre-fight narrative as he has promised to leave it all in the ring in the biggest fight of his pro career.
"Leading up to this fight, Canelo said that the Mexicans don't f--- around," Plant said. "That's good to know, because where I'm from, we don't f--- around either. I have to get the job done by any means necessary. That's what me and my team have done so far to get to this point. Whether it's boxing or in life, I've gotten here by any means necessary. I had opportunities to bow out, and I haven't. I just can't wait for the bell to ring Saturday."
While Alvarez respects the skills that Plant brings to the ring, there has definitely been a feeling of "been there, done that" from his team in terms of whether they believe the fighter known as "Sweethands" has the requisite level of experience or danger to truly best Alvarez.
"We respect and admire Caleb Plant's work ethic. But in the end, we're better and we're going to show it Saturday night," Alvarez trainer and manager Eddy Reynoso said. "I don't focus on the opponent. I focus on what my fighter will be able to do."
Alvarez went as far as saying Plant has a style he has "seen before and I know what to do with it." Yet when reminded how difficult it is to get a decision against Alvare and how many times judges have rewarded him with the benefit of the doubt, Plant said he isn't worried.
"The way I see this fight turning out is, Jimmy Lennon Jr. saying 'the new undisputed and still undefeated,'" Plant said. "Canelo's had multiple close fights, but I believe the right people are in place to make the right decision Saturday night. All I can focus on is the game plan and the job that needs to be done.
"People are going to say what they're going to say. But I get the final say and I can't wait to prove everything in the ring. I can't focus on what other people say about me. If I listened to the doubters, I wouldn't even be here."
Below is the latest fight card for Saturday night along with a prediction for the main event.
Fight card, odds
Odds via Caesars Sportsbook
- Saul "Canelo" Alvarez (c) -900 vs. Caleb Plant (c) +600, WBC, WBA, IBF, WBO super middleweight championship
- Elvis Rodriguez -195 vs. Juan Pablo Romero +165, welterweight
- Rey Vargas -1500 vs. Leonardo Baez +850, featherweight
- Anthony Dirrell -420 vs. Marcos Hernandez +330, super middleweight
Sometimes fighters who have shown flashes of potential brilliance don't fully come to bloom with their best performance to date until it is forced out of them by an equally great fighter. Tyson Fury's breakthrough upset of Wladimir Klitschko in 2015 is a great example of that and could end up being the case for Plant.
As far as styles go, Plant does possess the exact skill set one would want to try and play the angle of outslicking Alvarez. From that standpoint, Plant just might have the perfect mix of speed, technique and determination to overachieve compared to expectations and push Alvarez late into the fight.
But does Plant have what it takes to do even more than that and actually win? His lack of fight-changing power hurts his argument, as does the fact this version of Alvarez -- who has evolved into a 168-pound destroyer -- just isn't to be messed with.
There's a fight inevitability worth watching for that Alvarez will eventually figure out how to time Plant's speed and, when he does, begin rapidly breaking him down with body hooks and various power shots. Should that adjustment come in the first half of the fight, like it did for Alvarez against Billy Joe Saunders in May, expect Plant to be finished shortly after.
But if Plant's speed and the timing of his flurries can hold off until the second half of the fight, he may have a chance. Although, to be fair, that's also where the realities of their previous press conference beef might come to bear fruit.
While Plant's mental toughness plays a huge role in him accepting such a big challenge willingly and believing in himself, there's a thin line between being brave and reckless. The typically mild-mannered Alvarez has a history of making those who have crossed him pay inside the ring, which is why a late stoppage is most likely.
Pick: Alvarez via TKO10
Who wins Canelo vs. Plant? And which prop is a must-back? Visit SportsLine now to see Brandon Wise's best bets for Saturday, all from the CBS combat sports specialist who has crushed his boxing picks in 2021, and find out.