This weekend in Las Vegas, the pair of 168-pounders will finally face up, and there’s a lot on the line.
This weekend, in a Showtime PPV event from Las Vegas, two former champions in the sport’s most thrilling division will square off. There will be plenty of animosity between the combatants on the main card.
In a crucial 168-pound contest on Saturday inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena, David Benavidez (26-0, 23 KOs) and Caleb Plant (22-1, 13 KOs) will square off after years of teasing one another in interviews and on social media.
As fight night approaches, let’s take a look at the major plotlines that are driving this feud.
1. These guys truly do dislike each other; it’s not just for show.
It wouldn’t be a major boxing event if everyone involved, including the boxers, promoters, and media, didn’t work together to exaggerate every possible point of friction between the two opponents in an effort to increase interest. Yet, a battle like this simply sells itself each time Plant or Benavidez come close to one another after five years of back-and-forth trash talking. The two teams that represented them had to be kept apart prior to, during, and following February’s opening press conference, which says it all. Not only is their feud extremely genuine, but it also seems to have its roots in an altercation that was caught on camera at a Las Vegas gym in 2018. Jose Benavidez Jr., the older brother of Jose Benavidez and a former welterweight title contender, appeared to be hit first by Plant, who then appeared to throw the first punch, sparking a fight between the two teams. Since then, neither Plant nor Benavidez has been questioned about the other in any interviews featuring them, which only served to fan the flames.
They have genuine animosity toward one another. #BenavidezPlant 3.25 on SHO PPV. pic.twitter.com/2rWhuuQK4B
February 3, 2023 — SHOWTIME Boxing (@ShowtimeBoxing)
2. David Benavidez seemed to be headed for stardom after a couple of slip-ups.
When he defeated Ronald Gavril at age 21 to win the vacant WBC title in 2017, Benavidez made super middleweight history by becoming the division’s youngest champion ever. Benavidez went on to lose the belt twice when he slowed down in his development, first for a positive cocaine test in 2018 and again for being underweight in 2020 after winning the title back. Due to the setbacks, Benavidez was not only unable to fight Plant, who won the IBF championship in 2019, sooner, but he was also left out of Mexican boxing superstar Canelo Alvarez’s quest to become the first four-belt undisputed champion in division history (which he achieved by defeating Plant in 2021). This only served to fuel Benavidez’s ire and drive him to work harder, especially as Alvarez rose to the position of pound-for-pound king in the sport despite Benavidez’s longstanding reputation as the only 168-pound fighter truly capable of challenging him due to Benavidez’s size, power, and high-pressure fighting style. A victory over Plant in his first headlining PPV role might propel Benavidez to the brink of one of the best fights that could be made in the sport. Alvarez will return on May 6 in Mexico against mandatory challenger John Ryder.
3. Caleb Plant exudes an unsettling amount of confidence.
It has been challenging to ignore how significant the chip on Plant’s shoulder has become and how focused he seems to be going into this one. If Plant’s competitive knockout loss to Alvarez in the ninth round taught him anything, it’s that he belongs at the top. The most eye-opening, though, has been what has occurred since that conflict. In the co-feature of a PPV event in Brooklyn, New York, in October, Plant faced former champion Anthony Dirrell in an effort to bounce back from his first professional loss. The usually smooth boxing Plant looked anything but a stick-and-move fighter in his debut fight under new trainer Stephen “Breadman” Edwards as he unleashed a two-punch combination of left hooks — The knockout of the year for 2022 went to the tough Dirrell after receiving one to the body and one upstairs.
It was a signal to the rest of the talented division that Plant was still exploring his potential, and it provided an intriguing new angle on how a matchup with Benavidez may play out. Since then, Plant has done nothing but maintain her composure in the face of Benavidez’s intimidation tactics, frequently speaking in a soothing and patronizing tone. Even more, Plant bought the opponent’s name’s web domain and turned it into a website showing his own pre-fight documentary video and a Plant online shop. Benavidez has long been regarded as the division’s bogeyman, but Plant hasn’t wavered in terms of pre-fight mental preparation despite the fact that he may be facing off against him.
4. Given that, Plant should exercise caution in his requests.
There has always been a fine line in boxing between going mad like a fox and endangering oneself. Style-wise, Plant’s repeated propensity for triggering Benavidez’s emotions might well work in his favor on fight night, when his speed and footwork would enable him to play matador to his adversary’s enraged bull. From that vantage point, Plant may be able to keep Benavidez off balance and worn out by forcing him to chase by persuading him to abandon his game plan in favor of the desire for violent retribution. On the other hand, it would be risky to desire for a technical brawler like Benavidez to have this much motivation to train hard in order to cut off the ring and administer punishment through a relentless style that takes no backward steps.
5. It’s time to determine who the world’s top super middleweight is.
Given that Alvarez is still unquestionably the best fighter in his division, the aforementioned claim could seem false. Yet in 2022, Alvarez fought twice outside of his division’s rankings, first falling to light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol and then defeating Gennadiy Golovkin in their third encounter (and first contested at 168 pounds). The division simply grew worse in the interim. Demetrius Andrade, a former two-division champion, moved up in weight and made his PBC debut, while David Morrell Jr., a fellow unbeaten fighter at super middleweight, successfully defended his title twice while establishing himself as a potential challenger for the full crown at the young age of 25. Jermall Charlo, the undefeated middleweight champion, kept hinting at a full-time move up in weight as the division’s star power keeps growing. Yes, Alvarez continues to be the finest in the business after stopping then-unbeaten champions Callum Smith, Billy Joe Saunders, and Plant three times in recent years to unify titles. Nonetheless, the division has restocked without him, making Benavidez-Plant an important battle to help us understand the true hierarchy.