The respected trainer of former 168-pound world champ Caleb Plant discusses the nuances of the game ahead of Plant's mega-showdown versus David Benavidez Saturday night in Las Vegas on SHOWTIME Pay-Per-View.
This Saturday, March 25, longtime adversaries David Benavidez (26-0, 23 KOs) and Caleb Plant (22-1, 13 KOs) finally meet inside the squared circle with Benavidez’s interim WBC Super Middleweight World Title – and much more – at stake.
The bout headlines a Premier Boxing Champions event at MGM Grand in Las Vegas, live on SHOWTIME Pay-Per-View (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
Plant’s head coach, Stephen “Breadman” Edwards, will be in the former IBF world champion’s corner for the second time on fight night. You could say they’re off to a good start: In their first fight together last October, Plant earned PBC’s Knockout of the Year award, stopping former two-time world champion Anthony Dirrell with a single shot in the ninth round.
Ahead of Saturday’s big fight, Edwards took the time to break down the fundamentals of boxing and how Caleb Plant utilizes them in the ring.
It All Starts With the Jab
Against Dirrell, who trains out of the famed Kronk Gym in Detroit, Plant employed a consistent jab to throw Dirrell off and keep him guessing.
“Kronk fighters, they have big right hands,” Edwards said. “We wanted to keep Dirrell from lining us up with the right hand. I knew Dirrell had a big right hand. He has a lot of knockouts and I faced him before with another one of my fighters, Kyrone Davis.
“Most fighters parry the jab with their right hand. We jabbed Dirrell in different spots to occupy his right hand, so he wouldn't be so inclined to throw it. It just kind of threw him off and he didn't land a lot of right hands in that fight.”
Plant also utilized lead right hands and hooks more often in that bout.
“Even if you're super talented or super fast, if you keep giving the same look over and over, eventually he will pick up on it and to be able to counter punch you,” Edwards said. “Caleb is known for a good jab, so sometimes we would just switch it up and lead with the right hand to change the look, so he couldn't start timing Caleb.
“And it wasn't something I had to ask him to do, to be honest. It was something that we went over in training so it could become muscle memory, and then when he saw it in the fight, he could just do it.”
Footwork & Positioning
Plant utilized elite-level positioning and movement in the fight against Dirrell. Edwards explained, “Dirrell wanted to move Caleb to his right. I saw that he was letting Caleb go over there and I think somebody from Dirrell’s corner screamed it. I was like, ‘Caleb, just keep going to your right because he's gonna have to cross his body to hit you with a right hand.’
“I don't think that they thought Caleb can go to his right, but he can. Then Dirrell had to cross all the way over his body and hit a faster guy with his right hand. So that just worked out for us.”
Plant’s ability to move in both directions with fluidity is no accident.
“Every single thing we do in the gym—if he can do it to his left, he has to do it to his right. Or if he can do it going forward, he has to do it backwards. He has a lot of dexterity.”
“ There is pressure in a fight. ” Caleb Plant Trainer - Stephen "Breadman" Edwards
Protect Yourself At All Times
“I think Caleb’s defense lies in his feet,” Edwards said. “Some days your eyes are just on and you just pick up on the punches a little bit better than other days.
“Caleb is a little bit fancy with his defense…I let him do his thing, because he has to get his rhythm a certain kind of way. We have a compromise with it. Sometimes I'll let him do the fancy stuff, but I believe in hands up, chin down, elbows in, you know, keep your defense nice and fundamental. Everybody is not blessed with catlike reflexes like Muhammad Ali or Roy Jones.
“When your defense lies in your fundamentals, your reflexes don't have to be as good. But Caleb is a good athlete, so sometimes he relies on his reflexes. I'm trying to get him to rely on both: his reflexes and his fundamentals.
“Our defense in this fight [against Benavidez] has to be even better because David is a little faster than Anthony. He punches in bunches more and he's really good at getting fighters up against the ropes.”
“Breadman” believes in teaching his fighters to be comfortable fighting at any range, including on the inside.
“Inside fighting is something we do constantly in the gyms in Philadelphia, where in other places they may not be on it as much. It's an acquired skill. In training sometimes I’ll tell Caleb to stay inside and work there for a while.
“Sometimes on the inside you use your tactile reflexes, where you're touching the guy and you can feel when he's going to punch. It's something that you got to do over and over again, like anything else, but obviously it's very dangerous because you're right next to the opponent.”
“There is pressure in a fight,” said Edwards. “The fighter’s adrenaline is up, cortisol gets released in the body, they're getting hit in the head, you know…so from my experience, you practice something in the gym and the scenario to use it in, and you just hope that the fighter's muscle memory and instincts take over.
“You know when the fighter is really on his game because he'll do it instinctively—he won't have to think about it. That comes from practicing over and over again.”
Edwards is a big proponent of sparring in training, not just for the benefits of practicing boxing technique but its mental benefits as well.
“You hear all these people on the medical side saying, don't spar. Well, it'd be pretty tough to spar 10 rounds a week getting ready for a 12-round fight. You got to spar. And you want to simulate as much as you can: The stress. The heart rate. The emotions. Because it's not always if a guy is in physical shape, sometimes mentally he burns out in the fight because he's not managing his stress.
“You got to find a happy medium with sparring. You don't want a guy to get his butt kicked in sparring or leave everything in the gym, but you definitely don't want a guy that's sparring too easy and then he gets in the fight, he gets pushed, and he doesn't respond to it. It hardens your body, it hardens your mind, it gets you ready for the fight.
“And for Caleb, there are a lot of emotions in his fights. For some reason, his opponents don't like him, and it's so emotional. Emotions can burn you out and make you fatigued. If you get into a hard argument with somebody, see how your heart rate goes up. It's fatiguing. So imagine that being in a fight. I want him to get the feel of that, as much as he can.”
For a closer look at Benavidez vs Plant, check out our fight night page.