This Saturday night on FOX (8 pm ET), IBF super middleweight titlist Caleb Plant will defend his belt against former titleholder Caleb Truax in a 12-round main event.
This is a bigger fight than just the components of the matchup. We’ve got a clear favorite here for sure, and it’s another kinda lousy FOX main event, in all honesty, which they’ve made a regular thing at this point.
But Plant (20-0, 12 KO) is fighting to maintain his spot in line for the fight in boxing, which is very possible for later this year. If Plant can win and retain his belt, he will stay headed toward a unification bout with Canelo Alvarez. Alvarez holds the WBC and WBA belts, and he wants all four. There’s already talk of him fighting Billy Joe Saunders, the WBO titleholder, in May.
For Truax (31-4-2, 19 KO), it’s a chance for the likable Minnesota veteran to pull another world title upset. Hey, if Truax were to win, he’d probably have to rematch Plant. If he won that, crazy is at all is, he’d be in line to fight Canelo later this year.
So who wins on Saturday? Do we have an upset chance? Our staffers make their picks:
Scott Christ (2-0)
I wasn’t personally that shocked when Truax beat James DeGale for this belt back in 2017. Like, obviously it was an upset, I didn’t predict it, but DeGale always had a habit of minimizing his talents, whereas Truax has made a career out of maximizing his. It was the right night, the fight went the right way, and it happened.
I’ve never had the feelings about Plant that I had about DeGale, though. You can still quibble with the quality of Plant’s record, and his title reign has been a bit of a dud thus far — I like his skills, but the challengers have been bunk. But I’ve also never seen him play with his food, or allow his food to play with him. I saw DeGale under-perform against expectations in fights with Hadillah Mohoumadi and Piotr Wilczewski and Rogelio Medina. Plant goes out and does his job basically as expected every time out.
So with this one, yeah, I’d be shocked if Truax won. He’s 37, he’s winding down his career, his last fight was a majority decision over an old Ugandan dude in Minnesota, and would have actually been a split draw if not for the opponent being docked two points. And Plant just has so much that is so close for him. We’re talking a matter of eight months or so before he could potentially be fighting Canelo. I think Plant largely dominates and gets the vet out late. Plant TKO-11
Wil Esco (1-1)
Look, I don’t have anything against Caleb Truax. He’s a perfectly fine gentleman of the sport by all accounts. But he’s also a limited fighter who’s now 37 years old and has taken a decent amount of punishment over his career. Yes, Truax shocked the world with a world title win over James DeGale a few years ago, but he also lost it right back to DeGale in convincing fashion in their immediate rematch, showing it was a little fluky.
Caleb Plant isn’t an old, shopworn DeGale. Plant is probably as sharp as we’ve ever seen him and in the prime of his career. Moreover, Plant seems to have all the advantages in this fight, particularly when it comes to speed, slickness, and power. It’s no secret that I’m not exactly thrilled with Plant’s opposition since winning a world title, but I still fully expect him to light up Truax in a one-sided beating. Plant TKO-7
Patrick L. Stumberg (1-1)
Man, remember when Saturday was stacked to the rafters? That was nice.
This attempt to determine the One True Caleb doesn’t figure to be terribly compelling. Truax isn’t as hapless as Vincent Feigenbutz, but nothing in his arsenal seems like it would give Plant issues. He’s not gritty enough to turn it into a slopfest, not powerful enough to lamp Plant during his brief windows of opportunity, and not slick enough to make up for the considerable difference in speed.
If Truax takes more than one or two rounds, it’ll be because Plant’s taking a breather. “Sweethands” comprehensively dismantles him with rapid-fire combinations for a near-shutout. Plant UD-12
Lewis Watson (0-2)
It’s no secret that Truax is coming towards the end of his career. He’s game, tough, willing, but against a smart, athletic, fresher fighter in Plant, he’s going to have his work cut out from the opening bell.
Pressure combined with rangey uppercuts and big left hooks did the business for Truax back in 2017 in his first tilt at the IBF strap, but we’re a lot further down the road now and that type of performance feels like a lifetime ago. Injury after injury has seen Truax edge closer to retirement and this title shot is a real last chance saloon for the 37-year-old – something he admitted to me last week.
This is a real opportunity for Plant to look good against a come-forward fighter. I expect him to showcase his skills in popping Truax comfortably from the opening stages, wearing down the former champ.
I’d like to think Truax hears the final bell in this Caleb derby, so I’ll let my heart rule my head. Plant UD-12