The fighter highly regarded as the pound for pound king and the biggest superstar in boxing can now add another accolade to his mantle: undisputed champion.
Saul “Canelo” Alvarez followed a game plan of working the body to slow down the movement of Caleb “Sweethands” Plant, then scored two knockdowns in the 11th round to hand Plant his first loss of his pro career. Canelo (57-1-2, 39 KOs) continued his run of consecutive fights without a loss in 8 years, amassing 15 wins in 16 fights. He won the IBF super middleweight title to become the first fighter in history to become undisputed champion in the super middleweight division.
It did look like a struggle for the 16 year veteran to get to Plant in the opening rounds as Plant utilized his height and reach advantage to score jabs before Canelo could throw a punch. This strategy for Plant was effective for some time as he showed good foot movement to get away from Canelo as he shifted over to Canelo’s left side, limiting the amount of shots that Canelo could throw before resetting. It quickly became a tactical battle of who could execute their game plan the best and for how long. For the majority of the first half of the fight, Plant seemed to get his offense going while Canelo continued to look for the right shot to halt Plant’s movement. When Canelo was in range, he threw left hooks to the body each time attempting to wear down the 29 year old. However, Plant’s defensive stance blocked most of Canelo’s punches at that spot.
It wasn’t until the sixth round that Canelo started to use more of his offensive repertoire as he threw right hands to the head of Plant, landing a couple of big shots that backed Plant to the ropes. After being successful with the right hands, Canelo went back to working the body of Plant in the seventh and eighth rounds. Plant was still game as he threw combinations and was moving out of Canelo’s range which frustrated the Mexican, but in the tenth round Canelo scored more punches to the body and then scored the first knockdown in the eleventh round with 2:25 left. Plant got up and went to the other side of the ring to regroup, but when the fight resumed Canelo continued the offensive assault and a five punch combination sent Plant to the canvas once again forcing referee Russell Mora to stop the bout.
The significance of Canelo’s victory was brought up after the bout as he became the sixth male undisputed champion in the four-belt era and the first undisputed Mexican fighter in history. He talked about how much it meant for him and for the sport of boxing.
“This means so much for the history of Mexico to become an undisputed champion,” Canelo said. “It keeps me happy and very motivated to be one of the six undisputed champions. This is for everybody, especially for Mexico. This is another one for our team. We did it tonight.”
After battling it out for 11 rounds which followed weeks of animosity between Canelo and Plant, the undisputed champion did clear things up and gave credit to his opponent for the way he competed that night.
“I told him that we had a great fight. At the end of the day, we’re men and we’re competitors.” Canelo said. “I have a lot of respect for Caleb Plant. He is a good fighter, and was a difficult opponent with a lot of ability and I do respect him.”
With Canelo making history as the first undisputed super middleweight champion, the major question is what is next for him as he has won titles in 154, 160, and 175 before achieving this feat. As for now, he is taking a break.
“We’re going to rest. We need it.”
Cover photo by Ryan Hafey of Premier Boxing Champions