The undefeated World Super Middleweight Champion has a score to settle with undefeated Mike Lee when they square off Saturday night on FOX.
As they were being introduced for their July 20 showdown, Caleb Plant darted a quick look across the stage at his opponent, Mike Lee, and was briefly reminded of the glares again. They’re brandished in Plant’s head. They’re the judgmental head-to-toe looks the IBF super middleweight champ used to get as a kid when he was mocked by other kids, when his clothes were disheveled and dangling from his feet and hands.
They’re the looks Plant used to get from kids like Lee, the ones who seemingly had everything to his nothing.
Plant (18-0, 10 KOs) will make his first title defense, against Lee (21-0, 11 KOs), on Saturday, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on FOX PBC Fight Night live (7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT), leading into the mega-fight, Fox pay-pay-show between legend Manny Pacquiao and Keith “One Time” Thurman (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
Just one look at Lee stirred latent emotions in Plant. “Sweet Hands” has fought 18 times, though there is no opponent he’s ever faced that he would like to beat more than Lee.
Aside from their physical measurables, Plant went down the list:
Plant earned his title on grit. Lee was handed this chance without merit, Plant stressed.
Lee, who will be fighting for the first time in 18 months, is 32 years old and was once a national pitchman for Subway sandwiches without ever really accomplishing anything in the ring. Plant, 27, has been actively fighting for the last five years and used to have his fight posters put up on the walls of a local used-car dealership in Ashland City, Tennessee. Passersby were lucky to see them behind the lot dirt plumes.
Lee is a graduate of the prestigious University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business. Plant notes that he graduated from the “University of Going Nowhere.”
Lee will be dropping down to 168 for the first time. Plant had to beat Jose Uzcategui to win the vacant IBF title and dominate veteran Rogelio Medina to get there.
It’s not hard to imagine Plant simmering until Saturday arrives.
Does Lee really know what he’s getting into?
“No,” Plant said.
“But that's okay,” he continued. “It's not my job. It's none of our jobs to tell him otherwise. I'm going to let these hands do the talking on July 20, but no, he's delusional. He's never faced anybody like me.
“He's never even come close. He just told you guys that he's not even getting the sparring of anybody who even looks like me. How many people do you think I can spar that fights like Mike Lee? How many people do you think he can spar that look like me? And he answered it for you. I don't even have to tell you. So no, he has no idea but that's okay.
“ ...I have the same amount of respect for him as anybody else who I step in the ring with, which is none. ” Undefeated World Super Middleweight Champion - Caleb Plant
“He's going to learn a lesson July 20, one that he can't be taught. One that can only be taught by me, so I don't like him that much. I don't like anybody who's in the ring with me. I don't want to be friends. I don't care about what they've got going on. To me, boxing is life or death so if I don't win, I don't get to go home because I won't have a home.”
What few know is Lee blew off Plant, the champion, in Los Angeles for what was a scheduled face-to-face TV hit in the promotional build-up for the fight. It’s something that told Plant his opponent doesn’t completely respect him.
When asked if he feels any animosity towards Lee personally or what are some of his perspectives on him as a person during a conference call, Plant took somewhat of the high road, saying, “I think that Mike Lee is not someone who tells the whole truth. I have the inside scoop on a couple of different things and so I don't know. But I have the same amount of respect for him as anybody else who I step in the ring with, which is none.
“If you want me to respect your fighting skills, then you've got to make me do that. I'm not just going to give you the respect that you want. July 20, when the bell rings, if he wants me to respect anything in his arsenal, then he's got to make me do that because he's not getting it.
“To me, boxing is life or death. That's it. So, I don't care about anybody in his village, I don't care who lives there, I'm coming to burn it down. So, unless he's looking to do the same thing with me, it's either going to be a long night or a short night. Something my father has taught me is the truth belongs to everybody and lies belongs to individuals. I'm going to give you the truth July 20.”
When asked privately if there are sides to him that the boxing public has yet to see in the ring, Plant thought for a second, then said, “Yeah, this guy will find them out, and I can’t wait to show them,” he said.
Then Plant went back to his youth, to the abject poverty he lived in and how boxing was his sanctuary. In the gym, the world emulated him. One step outside, he converted back into the kid “nobody wanted to be.”
“Boxing is like a woman. If you treat her right and you do good by her, then she'll stand by you and she'll do right by you,” Plant said. “But she's a jealous woman as well. The difference between me and my opponent is I haven’t glanced off of her.”
For a closer look at Caleb Plant, check out his fighter page.