By Jake Donovan
Caleb Plant has firmly believed that he is destined to become a world champ – so much that he never once questioned the sequence of events that left him inactive for nearly a year while waiting on his first title shot.
By putting his faith in the bigger picture, Plant’s showdown versus defending super middleweight titlist Jose Uzcategui has become a bigger event than when first conceived.
The two will collide Sunday evening at the Microsoft Theatre in downtown Los Angeles. The bout will air live on FS1, atop the network’s first boxing telecast since Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) and Fox Sports came to terms for a multi-year, multimillion dollar deal last fall.
“I knew it was fate that led me to this moment, so I never questioned why it didn’t happen sooner,” Plant (17-0, 10KOs) told BoxingInsider.com of the months-long delay in getting to this point. “But I have to admit, from being in the studio (during the PBC on Fox launch in November) to seeing commercials for this fight during the NFL playoffs – there’s definitely some benefits to it coming now than if we fought last year.”
Plant became the mandatory challenger to the title following a 12-round win over veteran contender Rogelio “Porky” Medina last February, but first had to wait out a rematch between Uzcategui and Andre Dirrell to determine whom he’d next challenge.
Uzcategui would go on to stop Dirrell in the 8th round of their rematch last March, lifting the title and avenging a controversial DQ loss the prior year. The end result perfectly suited Plant, who loved the idea of facing the one super middleweight whom nobody else in the division seemed keen to meet.
“I love the fact that my first title shot comes against the guy everyone believes is the boogeyman,” Plant notes. “I know what a lot of people already think of me and my chances; I’m cool with that. Now I get to bring everyone up to date on what I’m about.”
Plant was willing to prove it much sooner, but fate managed to get in the way. The bout was originally scheduled to take place last September, but was postponed after the unbeaten 26- year old suffered a training camp injury which put him on the shelf for at least two months.
“Five weeks away from the fight being scheduled, I break my hand,” Plant recalls of the injury and letdown. “It was disheartening, but I knew the fight would be on the table once I was ready to return.”
Uzcategui (28-2, 23KOs) kept the belt on ice, instead taking stay-busy non-title fight versus Argentina’s Ezequil Maderna, whom he soundly outpointed over 10 rounds.
The bout did little more than keep Uzcategui loose and ready for his eventual first title defense. It didn’t matter much to Plant, who already knew what he was walking into when he first agreed to the fight.
“He did what he had to do, but I wasn’t expecting to learn anything new about him,” Plant admits. “For me, it was just about healing up and staying sharp.”
The healing process had a tremendous effect on the rising contender. He’s noticed a marked improvement ever since relocating more than two years ago from his childhood home of Ashland City, Tenn. to the bright lights of Las Vegas.
While the scenery changed, the core remains the same. Along for the ride with Plant are two who’ve been with the boxer from the very beginning – head trainer Justin Gamber, founder of Music City Boxing Gym which he left in the hands of his associates in making the move, and his father Richie Plant.
“I’m with the same team but the quality of sparring has been such a big difference,” Plant notes. “It’s a great feeling to be in. A lot of people lose themselves under the lights; for me, I’ve always wanted to command the spotlight.”
Keeping his team intact allowed Plant to remain on track without having to mentally reset. The rehabilitation process in getting to Sunday’s title fight has only made him even more prepared than when he first thought he was ready five months ago before the injury.
“I thought I was ready last summer, but these past few months have taught me a lot,” Plant admits. “This Caleb Plant would’ve whooped the Caleb Plant that would’ve fought Jose – but I know that both whip Jose on any night.”