The battle for super middleweight supremacy takes place on Saturday as Saul "Canelo" Alvarez (56-1-2, 38 KOs) faces Caleb Plant (21-0, 12 KOs) at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. All of the 168-lb. belts will be on the line and Saturday's winner will become the undisputed champion in the division.
Although Plant has faced few top opponents in his career, his skills are easy to see. Among all active boxers who fight in the orthodox stance, he has one of the best left hands in the sport. His jab and left hook are significant weapons. He possesses considerable hand and foot speed and his punch placement and accuracy (especially with his left) are impressive.
|Canelo (left) and Plant at the final presser|
Photo courtesy of Amanda Westcott
The main issue with Plant is that his left hand is significantly more developed than his right. There isn't a whole lot that Plant does with his back hand other than keep opponents honest from time to time, and often he doesn't do that, even against foes who are far beneath him in skill level. He just doesn't throw his right hand with frequency or confidence.
This is the central conundrum that Plant and his trainer, Justin Gamber, face for Saturday's fight. I'm sure that Canelo realizes the significant difference in effectiveness of Plant's left vs. his right. So naturally Canelo would want to take away Plant's left hand in the fight as much as possible.
So, what does Plant do if Canelo stands all the way to Plant's right side, well out of the range of Plant's left hand? What if Canelo angles himself as such to make it a battle of the right hands? Canelo has hurt, dropped and stopped opponents with his right, but what can Plant do in this scenario?
To force Canelo out of his Plan A, Plant has to throw his right hand and needs to do enough with it to gain Canelo's respect. If he can't, it seems hard to envision a scenario where Plant can win. Yes, Plant will have faster hands and feet, but none of that will matter if Plant is unable to land effective punches.
I expect to see Canelo fight large portions of the match on Plant's right side. It's up to Plant and his team to make Canelo change his strategy. And I'm just not a big enough believer in Plant's right hand to see how he can overcome this predicament. Canelo can shoot right hands to the body. He can throw straight rights from range. He can mix in right hooks when he's in close quarters. Plant doesn't have the same effectiveness with his right.
If Canelo-Plant becomes a battle of right hands, expect a low punch-volume affair. With both fighters unable to land jabs from this set-up, the fight will be determined by whose single right hands will cause more damage. And in this scenario, I believe that Canelo's right will rule the day.
To win the fight, Plant will have to show some new tricks, and let's not discount that possibility. He's an intelligent boxer and is very coachable. In addition, he's a fighter who can stick with a game plan very effectively. This will be an enormous hurdle for Plant and Gamber to overcome, but this is their chance to prove themselves on boxing's highest level. If they can get Canelo to move to a Plan B, then the fight could open up much more to their liking.
I think that there will be a lot of slow rounds early in the fight, with neither fighter able to get off combinations. The early rounds will feature several small tactical battles in terms of movement and positioning, with Canelo trying to get to Plant's right side and Plant attempting to deny that movement. I expect only a few punches of significance in the first few rounds of the match.
As the fight progresses, I think that Canelo's rights to the head and body will start to have their desired effect. Ultimately, I think that he will be able to stop Plant late in the fight from sustained damaged caused by his right. I don't think that Saturday's fight will be Canelo's most dominant performance, but I believe that if he employs the appropriate strategy of staying to Plant's right side, that he will minimize Plant's skill set and will become the undisputed champion at super middleweight.
Saul Canelo Alvarez stops Caleb Plant in the 11th round.