The Fundamentals With ... Justin Gamber

The trainer of unbeaten IBF World Super Middleweight Champion Caleb Plant breaks down the keys to the game ahead of their battle versus former champion Caleb Truax Saturday night on FOX.

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Caleb Plant Talks About the Challenges of Training in a Bubble

This Saturday January 30, IBF World Super Middleweight Champion Caleb “Sweethands” Plant (20-0, 12 KOs) defends his title against a man who previously held the same title, Caleb “Golden” Truax (31-4-2, 19 KOs). 

The bout headlines a tripleheader on FOX PBC Fight Night (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT)

Coach Justin Gamber has been training Plant since 2013, before he turned professional. They started out together in Nashville, Tennessee and knew each other well before Gamber officially became Plant’s coach. 

Gamber graciously took time away from Plant’s busy training camp to break down the fundamentals of boxing.

It All Starts With the Jab

“Caleb has a number of different ways he throws it. He'll throw it from his waist—we call that a shovel jab because it's kind of a shovel-like motion. Most fighters look into their opponent's eyes when they're fighting. So if you and I are fighting, you're looking into my eyes and my left hand is down by my waist hanging, you're not gonna see it. 

“We have a jab called a swivel jab. If I throw a 1-2 (jab-right hand), most people would say the next punch coming is gonna be a left hook. But the swivel jab comes straight behind the right hand. It’s very effective because straight punches get to the target fastest, and it’s unexpected.”

In January 2019, Plant won his IBF world title from then-champion Jose Uzcategui in an impressive performance. Gamber described how Plant twice dropped Uzcategui with a hook upstairs that was set up with a jab.

“It wasn’t a shot we practiced. We started with the jab, probing with it and doubling it up. Then he came with a right hook to the body, then a left hook to the body, then a left hook up top.”

Footwork & Positioning

“I showed Caleb different positions, different angles he can take. Coaches will teach a fighter how to throw a jab, but they don’t teach him where to stand when he throws it. Or where they’re gonna have the best avenue for their shot. Or where they shouldn’t stand, what to look out for in each position.”

“I knew Caleb’s footwork, his natural athletic ability, his speed, would be a lot for Uzcategui to deal with. Caleb clearly snatched the early rounds, but I felt like he expended more energy than he needed to. It was his first championship fight, the biggest moment of his life, and he got excited. But we figured out different ways to tone it down in that fight by working on the inside or tying him up. 

Protect Yourself At All Times

“Caleb is the best I’ve ever seen with the slip bag, or maize ball. It’s a very small bag hooked to a little chain and you push it and move your head. Caleb is the absolute best I’ve ever seen with one. 

“Not many fighters will stand in one spot when their opponent tries to hit them in the face and defend from that same spot. Caleb just has natural gifts when it comes to things like that, so he has a good radar for punches coming at him.”

“In our old gym in Nashville, Caleb started working on a heavy bag, one of the wrecking ball shaped ones. One day he just started creating things, moving his head, and we thought it was so good we had to turn it into an official drill. 

“But now I’ve seen videos of Canelo doing it. And I know that Canelo did not create that. It’s flattering (laughs).”

In this game, you cannot underestimate anyone. Trainer - Justin Gamber

Control Distance

“Caleb’s inside game has improved over his last few fights. He had to learn the different balances: Throwing combinations from the outside, your feet are set different than they are on the inside. On the inside you’re using curved punches—hooks, uppercuts. You have to square up a little bit more because throwing hooks sends your momentum hard to the side. Whereas throwing a straight punch will send your momentum straight out in front of you.

“So you have to know how to get your balance in both places. The thing that contributed the most [to improving Plant’s abilities at every range] was him being in the gym, and us keeping it creative.”

Champion Mindset

Ahead of the Uzcategui fight, Gamber was on his way to Los Angeles when he heard an interview with Uzcategui’s trainer. 

“They really underestimated us,” Justin said. “He was talking about everything they were gonna do next. He didn’t mention Caleb at all. I was like, Wow. But I learned that lesson before [myself]. The last time I lost as a pro coach was because me and the rest of our team underestimated our opponent. I had a 16-1 heavyweight get knocked out by a 4-6 heavyweight. I told myself I’d never let that happen again, and that was 49 fights ago. 

“In this game, you cannot underestimate anyone. I see it so often: guys become champions and they have a couple successful title defenses. ‘I don’t need to work as hard. I can do this and get away with it because I’m the champ.’ And they have so many people not telling them what they need to hear, but what they want to hear.”

“Our team mentality is we don’t just half-ass it in the gym. The emphasis isn’t hard work—the emphasis is smart work, at least for me. Caleb is putting on these awesome displays of boxing and I’m the one who’s like, ‘Eh, it was good, but we can do this better.’ Man, Caleb gets irritated with me sometimes. That’s my job though, you know? To put him in the best position to keep from losing and to do the best he can. My intention is to only make them better. That’s my goal. If you can’t face your mistakes, then you’re never gonna get better.”

“One of my biggest pet peeves is seeing a fighter get hit low or even just on the belt-line, and they complain to the ref. Dude. That’s definitely not my fighter. That’s weak. Don’t look to him to do something about it. You do something about it. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be dirty. But maybe you can do something else about it. 

“Caleb was sparring once at the Mayweather Boxing Club. The guy was being really dirty with him, throwing low blows. Finally from the corner I screamed at him, ‘Caleb, you hit him low back, right now!’ (laughs) 

“It’s not only a sport. It’s a fight at the end of the day. If somebody’s doing something to you, sometimes you’ve got to do it back to them to get them to stop, especially if the referee’s not getting involved. 

“It’s a very mental game.”

For a closer look at Plant vs Truax, check out our fight night page. 

In “The Fundamentals,” we sit down with the top coaches in boxing to get their unique insights into how their fighters utilize the core techniques of the sport. 

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