Caleb Plant vs Caleb Truax: IBF Super Middleweight Championship Preview

Caleb Plant and Caleb Truax are two fighters I wrote about in my early writing days on East Side Boxing before it became Boxing News 24/7. I wrote about Truax’s draw with Ossie Duran back in 2014 and became a fan of his over the years. I was not confident on his ability to make a splash at the championship level but thought he would be a tough fighter for prospects and separate the pretenders from the contenders. Plant was a fighter whom I got around to a little after Truax and I remember covering his fight against Rogelio Medina where he won a lopsided decision over the tricky veteran. Plant struck me as a fighter with a lot of talent who had a slick style but not a lot of punching power. I thought of him how I thought of Paulie Malinaggi when I first saw him coming up on ESPN Friday Night Fights. I felt that this would have made a very interesting fight a few years ago but now I feel Plant is either in his prime or just about reaching it while Truax has passed his peak.

How did we get here

Back in 2017 there were two big names at 168 lbs. James DeGale and Badou Jack and they met on Showtime to unify titles in a thrilling fight. DeGale built an early lead and down the stretch Jack hammered his way back into the fight and after twelve rounds the fight was declared a draw. Both men retained their titles with Jack moving up to light heavyweight and DeGale resting with a shoulder injury. DeGale was out from January of 2017 and returned in December to face Caleb Truax in his backyard in the UK. Truax was recently knocked out by Daniel Jacobs and Anthony Dirrel and was not viewed as a serious threat to the man viewed as the best fighter in the division. Truax shocked everyone with a major upset victory by way of a decision to take the IBF championship away. Truax was able to win the physical battle and pushed DeGale around the ring all night in a performance where he could not land the significant shots to deter Truax. Five months later Truax’s short bid as champion was over. He lost a close decision in Las Vegas in a fight where he just never built any momentum. Truax described his performance as flat which was a pretty accurate description as the beaten champion exited the ring with cuts around his eyes.

James DeGale retired not long after the second fight with Truax after a slew of injuries he got out before the age of 35. The title became vacant and the young Caleb Plant was paired with Jose Uzcategui. Uzcategui made a name for himself by defeating Andre Dirrel in an impressive showing. Uzcategui’s stock was very high going into the Plant fight and Plant had a degree of unknown. Off of the eye test many pegged him to win based on his talent, based on his resume others weren’t sure if he was a hype job. In an exciting performance Plant floored Uzcategui twice and secured a unanimous decision to win the title that had briefly belonged to Truax. As champion Plant has made two successful title defenses against Mike Lee and Vincente Feigenbutz but despite the spectacular stoppages the opponents were not up to par. Truax is Plant’s third defense and the highest rated contender in the IBF’s rankings but their rankings are a mess.

Though Truax sits atop the IBF totem pole he is not in the top 10 of any of the other main sanctioning bodies. Boxrec and their criteria has him rated at number 38 in their rankings. Besides the IBF, Ring Magazine is the only list that has him in the top 10 and they have him at 6. I don’t agree with the ranking but I think he is a proven commodity at a weight class with a lot of young fighters trying to break in. Because he held the title, Truax has enjoyed a long stay in the IBF rankings. However, since losing the title in 2018 he has not scored a meaningful victory and had three elimination fights fall apart. First he was set to meet former WBO Middleweight titlist Peter Quillin in August of 2019 in a chance to get the mandatory challenger spot for Plant’s title. This was an interesting fight of two veterans and former titlists going at it to face the young champion. The fight ended in the third round when an unintentional headbutt ended the fight due to a cut that Caleb Truax suffered. Truax and Quillin were supposed to meet again in September of 2019 but an injury forced Truax off the card and Quillin went forward against an over the hill Alfredo Angulo who was competing two divisions above his best weight class. Angulo decided he didn’t care about the script and dragged Quillin into a war and won a majority decision and derailed Quillin’s hopes of an IBF challenge. Following the upset, Angulo and Truax were then slated to meet each other in a final elimination bout to settle who would get the IBF’s top slot and face Plant. The day before the fight Truax pulled out and Angulo was then upset by an 11-4 late replacement and thus scuttling his own title hopes. Truax has essentially earned this title shot by upsetting DeGale in 2017 and not losing since 2018 while just avoiding any elimination fight landmines in between.

The Fight

Plant: Plant is going to have a lot of advantages in this fight as he is nine years younger, he is the faster of the two and I feel has has more depth to his game. I also see Plant as being on the upside of his career as he continues to improve and has been winning by knockout. After a long streak of decision leading up to his title fight with Uzcategui and the decision victory to win the title he has a two fight knockout streak. I think he has finally paired his defense with his offense in a way that makes him more of a dual threat. Earlier in his career Plant could move and embarrass his opponents by making them miss but did not have the firepower to end the fight inside the distance. I think his ability to create angles and his faster hands are going to be the deciding factor. Odds are floating around in the 14-1 range for this contest.

Truax: Though the deck is stacked against him, he was a larger underdog at 25-1 when he defeated James DeGale to secure the IBF title in 2017. Truax is a fighter, that is the best way I can describe him. He is not going to wow you with his speed or his punching power. He certainly was not gifted the explosiveness of “god given” greats and his success has come from dedication in the gym and desire to win. He first came up as an opponent for Jermaine Taylor in his comeback bid and had Taylor on the canvas. He took DeGale to the trenches twice and won the first time and in the rematch he lost a close decision. He has the punch to command respect in the ring even though he is not a knockout artist. If he is going to win it will be off of brute force and toughness to outlast Plant.

Prediction:

ESPN+ did an experts predict article on this fight and it was unanimous in favoring Plant. Most of the picks have been TKO somewhere between the seventh and the ninth round. I would link the article here but its on ESPN+ and has a paywall. The experts included fighters turned analysts in Tim Bradley, Sergio Mora and Raul Marquez while also including current fighter David Benavidez and current trainer Aureliano Sosa. The general consensus was Plant is in his prime and is too fast and Truax is old, slow, and can only win if Plant suffers an injury. I am going to be a little more risky in my pick and say Plant in two. Anthony Dirrel stopped Truax in the first round a few years ago and I think Plant can do the same. Jacobs took twelve rounds to do it but I think Plant is faster and more aggressive the Jacobs though I feel Jacobs is the harder puncher.

The Stakes

While Fighting Plant for the IBF is the opportunity of a lifetime for Truax, Plant has his sites set on bigger things. Plant has been in the running for a fight with Canelo Alvarez since 2020. Plant actually rejected the opportunity to face Canelo complaining of too short a turnaround in between fights despite an easy victory over Feigenbutz. With Canelo being a free agent politics is a much smaller obstacle in negotiating a fight. However, with this freedom comes greater competition. Alvarez is slated to face Yildirim next month and rumors are already circulating of a fight with Saunders in May. That would leave Plant waiting until September or later to land the fight unless he can jump Saunders in line. Plant has a lot on the line and it is fights like this against Truax where a star of the sport overlooks an older less heralded foe. Can Truax spoil the showdown, we will see!

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