Monday, December 6, 2021

Undisputed: Canelo Alvarez, Caleb Plant fight for rare honor

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Canelo lvarez has an infringement of pride in his Mexican heritage. Ever since he was a redheaded teenage prospect, the Guadalajara native has carried his country’s standard and reveled in his deep passion for boxing.

Canelo has idolized Mexico’s toughest, proudest fighters since childhood, and he wanted to be the best of them all.

So when Alvarez (56-1-2, 38 KO) felt he had an opportunity in 2021 to do something no Mexican boxer had done before, the three-belt super middleweight champion teamed up with IBF champ Caleb. Prepared the finale program in a showdown. Plant (21-0, 12 KOs) on Saturday night. The winner will be the undisputed 168-pound world champion, holding the title belts of all four major sanctioning bodies.

This is something no super middleweight has ever done. Since the feat was made possible in 1988, only five male boxers have done so at any weight.

Somewhat unreasonably for Canelo, none of those five undisputed champion fighters were Mexican. Alvarez has his first chance at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday night in Las Vegas, and he doesn’t intend to fail.

“The goal is to become an all-time great,” Alvarez said. “I am very proud of the journey I have taken to achieve this. I am not going to stop until I do my best to reach that goal.”

At 31, Canelo is in his fighting prime as the recognized pound-for-pound king of his era, securing multiple world titles in four weight classes and countless major payouts. It wouldn’t be surprising for a fighter of Alvarez’s talents and achievements to lose some attention – in fact, it would be something that’s happening too often for a lot of great champions.

Instead, Alvarez remains an avid gym rat dedicated to honing his skills and taking on new challenges. Being the undisputed king at 168 pounds is just the latest mountain.

“It’s harder to be there than to get to the top,” Alvarez said. “So I try to get better every day. That’s what I’ve been trying to do since my first fight.”

On paper, this bout is a mismatch – but this was the case with just about every fight Alvarez has had over the past eight years, except for his two sensational meetings with former middleweight king Gennady Golovkin.

Although Plant has fast hands, a strong jab and good defensive instincts, his two biggest drawbacks lie in power and experience. He doesn’t have nearly enough quality to thrive in a matchup with Alvarez, but Plant says his strength will be enough.

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Plant has only won two stoppages in his last 10 appearances, all of them against opponents, that wouldn’t even inspire Alvarez to raise an eyebrow. Plant’s most notable win was in January 2019, when he took the IBF title from Jose Uzcategui.

“I have to do the work by any means necessary,” Plant said. “This is what my team and I have done so far to reach this point. Whether in boxing or in life, I have become here in any way necessary. I had opportunities to bow down, and I didn’t. “

Plant may not have the skill or experience of Canelo, but no one doubts this champion’s toughness and resilience. The Tennessee native’s life story is tragic and inspiring.

He lost his 19-month-old daughter Aaliya in 2015 due to several medical problems including seizures. She sold drugs while growing up with her addicted mother, who was killed in 2019 after she stabbed a police officer, just two months after her son won the world title.

Plant determined and built a career worthy of a shot at Alvarez, the golden ticket for any fighter in several weight classes.

“I’ve been a Dalit before,” Plant said. “It’s a place I love to be in. I like people standing against me. It gives me extra motivation. But when you’re fighting for undisputed status, you don’t need more motivation than that.” “

Alvarez has never lacked inspiration. He’s earned championship belts and several lifetimes of wealth, but he’s driven by pure athletic challenge—and, of course, national pride.

Even though he lives in San Diego for most of the year, Mexico is never far from Canelo’s mind. Discussing the opportunity to make undisputed history this week, he made the rounds to express his support for Sergio Pérez, who had a chance to become the first Mexican driver to win Formula One’s Mexican Grand Prix on Sunday while driving for Red Bull. For a realistic shot.

“The fact that I can make history with Checo (Perez) this weekend is very motivating to me,” Alvarez said. “My goal is to make this an incredible weekend for Mexico.”

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More AP Boxing: https://apnews.com/hub/boxing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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