The undefeated World Super Middleweight Champion hands Lee his first loss in impressive fashion, dropping him three times in total in the main event on FOX PBC Fight Night.
The adage that it’s more difficult to keep a title than it is to win one doesn’t apply to Caleb Plant’s first defense.
The IBF super middleweight titleholder demonstrated almost immediately that challenger Mike Lee, a brave, but crude boxer, had little to no chance of beating a rising star like Plant (19-0, 11 KOs), who headlined FOX PBC Fight Night ahead of the Manny Pacquiao-Keith Thurman PBC on FOX Sports PPV main event, both live at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
The champion coldly and efficiently scored three knockdowns in two-plus one-sided rounds, the last of which convinced referee Robert Byrd that the overmatched Lee (21-1, 11 KOs) had already taken enough punishment for one night and stopped the fight.
The official time was 1:29 of the third round.
Plant won the title by putting hard-punching veteran Jose Uzcategui down twice and defeating him by a unanimous decision on January 13 in Los Angeles, a triumph he dedicated to his late daughter, who died at 19 months old of an unknown illness in 2015.
He has since lost his mother, who was shot and killed by a police officer for allegedly brandishing a knife in March. However, Plant has not allowed the latest tragedy in his life to derail his rapid ascent as one of the best 168-pounders in the word or distract him.
Lee, a graduate of the University of Notre Dame, learned that quickly on Saturday night.
Plant had his way with Lee from the opening bell, landing quick, hard punches at will and using cat-quick feet and reflexes to avoid almost every attempt Lee made to find target. Lee was game but didn’t have the physical tools to compete with a fine-tuned athlete like Plant.
The first knockdown came with about 40 seconds remaining in the opening round, as Plant landed a short left hook that put Lee on his pants.
Lee got up from the first knockdown and managed to remain on his feet in the second round, at least in part because the patient Plant didn’t recklessly pursue a knockout, but it all came crashing down in the third round.
Plant threw two jabs and then followed with a wide right around Lee’s guard that put him on the canvas a second time. The challenger was able to get up but went right back down when Plant landed another left hook.
Lee again got to his feet but was in trouble. Another left hook dropped him but Byrd ruled it a slip. It wouldn’t matter. Lee didn’t seem to be hurt badly but clearly had no idea how to cope with the task at hand, as the final knockdown underscored. One more left hook, which seemed to catch him off balance, put Lee down again and raise the question in Byrd’s mind, “Is there any point in allowing this fight to continue?” The obvious answer was “no.”
Lee complained about Byrd’s decision but few others would. Plant had predicted that he would stop Lee and did it with ease.
“I’ve been telling you all week that it would not go 12 rounds. I stuck to my word,” Plant said in the ring afterward.
Plant can’t expect his next opponent to be a pushover.
WBC super middleweight titleholder Anthony Dirrell reportedly will face "Champion in Recess” David Benavidez for that belt on the Errol Spence-Shawn Porter card in September.
Plant would love to take the next step in his career by facing the winner of that fight for an opportunity to unify titles.
“We can definitely unify,” he said. “The winner of that fight, I ain’t hard to get ahold of, I ain’t hard to make a fight with. Come see me. You know my advisor (Al Haymon).”
Efe Ajagba Extended the Distance, Decisions Ali Eren Demirezen
In the televised opener, heavyweight prospect Efe Ajagba (11-0, 9 KOs) of Nigeria passed the stiffest test of his young career, defeating stubborn fellow 2016 Olympian Ali Eren Demirezen (11-1, 10 KOs) of Turkey by a unanimous decision in a 10-round fight.
Ajagba, who has seven first-round knockouts, had never gone the distance. The scores were 97-93, 99-91, 99-91.
Ajagba, who fights out of Houston, did his best work fighting behind a stiff, incessant left jab and enough power punches to keep his shorter opponent at a distance for the majority of the fight and win rounds.
However, Demirezen, skillful and tough, found ways to get inside Ajagba’s long reach to land his own punches at times and make Ajagba work harder than he had to in any previous fight.
Ajagba had never fought past the fifth round.
For a closer look at Plant vs Lee, check out our fight night page.