History could be made on Saturday night in Las Vegas when boxing's biggest superstar returns to the ring. Unified super middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez (56-1-2, 38 KOs) looks to become the first undisputed champion in the division's history when he takes on IBF champion Caleb Plant (21-0, 12 KOs) in the main event of a Showtime Boxing PPV form the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas (9 p.m. ET).
The event also gained more mainstream interest from a skirmish which broke out between fighters at the Sept. 22 press conference in Los Angeles, which left Plant with a cut below his right eye.
As we close in on fight night, let's take a look at the biggest storylines surrounding the Mexican icon's return.
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1. No one has come at Canelo quite like this before
While the buildup to his 2018 rematch against Gennadiy Golovkin turned particularly icy following GGG's consistent references to Alvarez's failed drug test, it was nothing compared to the fireworks Plant set off at September's press conference. Not only did Plant publicly paint Alvarez and his stablemates under trainer Eddy Reynoso as outright cheaters, he incited what would turn into a brief and explosive melee by calling Alvarez a "motherf---er" and responding to his push with a slap. This wasn't Billy Joe Saunders firing goofy insults at Alvarez during their press conference faceoff or Daniel Jacobs pushing Alvarez after their weigh-in staredown. This was the most aggressive any Alvarez opponent has been to get in his face and let him know they are for real. Plant's unwillingness to back down also helped the extracurriculars between them go viral, adding an element of bad blood to the promotion. They were also an unmistakable message to Alvarez regarding Plant's mental strength and belief in himself. We won't know until fight night, however, whether it helps Plant's chances as a heavy underdog by getting Alvarez off of his game. One thing we do know is ...
2. Waking a sleeping giant is never an idea that comes without danger
Is Plant outright crazy for provoking Alvarez or is he crazy like a fox? If this was meant as a way for Plant to simply fire himself up, it's a gamble that comes with potentially severe consequences. You know, the whole "don't mess with the bull or you'll get the horns" type deal. Alvarez is ferocious enough as a finisher in this weight class that giving the typically mild-mannered champion extra reason to be even more ruthless and efficient in his pursuit of a knockout seems misguided. But it's possible that Plant, an aggressive boxer known for his quick feet and combinations, might be subliminally goading Alvarez into being more of a bull to his matador under the thinking that a less patient Alvarez can be countered more easily. Again, it's a major gamble but it's strategically aggressive, just the same. And an interesting way to try and shake up the recent status quo of Alvarez opponents who enter with humble hope and exit with a one-sided defeat. Alvarez is such a pinpoint counterpuncher that the same things Plant is hoping might will him to success are, in theory, the same things that could ultimately speed up his demise.
3. Alvarez is currently operating at an almost historic level of greatness
How might anyone setting a betting line justify Alvarez as high as a –1200 favorite in a four-belt unification fight against an unbeaten champion? Probably because he's really that good. The evolution of Alvarez from a smart counter puncher at 154 pounds to a do-it-all destroyer two weight divisions higher has been remarkable to see. The fact that Alvarez went as high as previously winning a world title at 175 pounds by knocking out a feared puncher like Sergey Kovalev was only icing on the cake in the Mexican star's recent ascent to unchallenged dominance atop the pound-for-pound list. Seeing Alvarez become this dangerous of a fighter -- one who can outbox you just as easily as finishing you off with one punch -- is a testament to his work ethic and hunger. But it's his consistency regardless of the size or style of opponent that has been the most impressive thing to watch. A big part of that is the prolific schedule Alvarez keeps as the rare elite fighter focused on maximizing the window of his physical prime by staying active at level most stars in this sport never see. This weekend will mark the fourth fight for Alvarez in 12 months. As a promotional and network free agent with a rare amount of leverage in his favor, Alvarez can largely call his own shots. And the fact that he does so in this fashion only speaks volumes to the character of Alvarez and the substance of his career goals.
4. Plant's small sample size of elite foes makes this hard to properly handicap
No one is questioning whether Alvarez should be the favorite, or even an overwhelming favorite, entering this fight. He's the best boxer in the game for a reason. Yet trying to figure out exactly how much of test Plant should be remains a difficult exercise. Should this fight have come immediately after Plant's breakthrough title win against Jose Uzcategui in 2019, when he scored a pair of knockdowns and held on amid big punches late, it's fair to wonder whether the native of Tennessee might not be such a betting afterthought. Plant has made three defenses of his IBF title since defeating Uzcategui, but the matchmaking has been questionable enough throughout a series of showcase fights that we failed to learn much regarding his true top-end ability. Even Plant's most recent outing, a shutout decision across the board over 12 rounds against faded former champion Caleb Truax, left more questions than answers as Plant dominated yet did so without much flair or inspiration. Is Plant the type of fighter who rises to the occasion against the true elite when the stakes and the danger are the highest? It's hard to know given the lack of evidence.
5. Alvarez's unifying dreams don't appear to be stopping at 168 pounds
Even though Alvarez previously claimed a world title at light heavyweight before quickly vacating it, little serious thought was given to the idea of him returning to the weight class. Or at least that's what fans and media alike thought. But Alvarez won't stop bringing up the possibility of making a full-time move to 175 pounds to challenge the likes of unbeaten champions Artur Beterbiev and Dmitry Bivol. Considering both are incredibly dangerous opponents and anything but households names, it's the kind of high risk and low reward prophecy that most elite fighters would avoid considering. Alvarez is simply a different type of competitor altogether. There is certainly more money for Alvarez to make should he stay at super middleweight and entertain potential PPV fights against David Benavidez or Jermall Charlo. But if Alvarez goes on to unify titles in a fourth weight class and do so by defeating a P4P level talent in Beterbiev, it's going to be hard to overstate just how historically great of a career he is currently having.
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.