By Jake Donovan
The thing Caleb Plant remembers even more than winning the super middleweight title is the competitive drive which led him to that point.
Barely six months removed from his title winning effort over Jose Uzcategui this past January, Plant will attempt the first defense of said strap versus unbeaten Mike Lee. Their bout takes place July 20 at MGM Grand Garden in Arena in Las Vegas, Nev., headlining a primetime edition of Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) on Fox.
“The mentality has not changed,” Plant (18-0, 10KOs) said of his preparation, not at all thinking like a champion defending his title but as a hungry challenger still in pursuit. “I don’t feel like I’m the hunted. I still feel like I’m the hunter.
“It wasn’t the goal to become a world champion; it was just a goal. I’m 18-0. I’m only 26. I’m just getting started.”
Plant was a betting underdog heading into his first major title fight, and perhaps for good reason given the history of the sport. His hometown of Ashland City, Tenn. has never been mistaken for a boxing hotbed, nor is there any greater reputation to be found in Nashville where he regularly trained before relocating to the greater Las Vegas area.
Still, he never lacked the self-belief that he was destined to become a champion. It showed in his early assault, dropping Uzcategui twice and piling up a huge lead before fending off a late surge from the exiting titlist to claim a clear-cut decision win.
While the night represents by far his best career win to date, the unbeaten titlist refuses to let the moment go to his head.
“I think it’d be hard to not be more confident after winning a world title,” Plant admits. “Jose was considered the boogeyman of the division, someone nobody wanted to fight. I came in after a year layoff, broke hand, hand surgery, no tune-up fight and I knew I could get the job done.
“But I don’t feel validated in a sense of what I’ve accomplished. I’m happy but I’m not content, so as I said, I’m gunning for him July 20. I’m focused, I’m zoned in but at the same time I’m definitely even more confident than I was before.”
Across the ring, Plant will find a challenger boasting similar pro credentials as when he entered his first title fight. Lee (21-0, 11KOs) lacks Plant’s amateur pedigree, however, and boasts a fairly thin résumé through more than 10 years as a pro. The Chicago-bred college graduate steps up considerably in class, and down in weight as he has campaigned at light heavyweight for the duration of his career.
All of it still adds up to another opponent in the way of his ultimate quest.
“If I’m not mistaken, there’s never been an undisputed super middleweight champion of the world,” observes Plant, though not getting too far ahead of himself. “So, I would like to become the first. But first things first and that’s to handle business on July 20.”
The Plant vs. Lee super middleweight title fight tops a Fox lead-in telecast to the Fox Sports Pay-Per-View headlined by unbeaten Keith Thurman’s welterweight title defense versus legendary former eight-division titlist Manny Pacquiao.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox