The undefeated, newly-crowned World Super Middleweight Champion opens up on his troubled childhood, the recent passing of his mother and more ahead of his July 20 ring return on PBC on FOX.
Caleb Plant couldn’t control it. He knew he couldn’t. He was just a kid with this crazy dream of one day being a world champion. His mother, Beth, had a substance dependency problem and his father, Richie, was forced to work odd jobs to keep a roof over the family’s head.
The family was so steeped in poverty that they couldn’t even afford a crib when Caleb was born. His first crib was a dresser drawer.
With money scarce, arguments would ensue between his parents. Caleb found a way to tune it out. He’d steal away in his bedroom, put on his headphones and try to shut off the world, lost in the pounding vibes. Other times, he would get teary eyed, unable to deafen the chaos around him.
In his late teens, at one point, he was sleeping on a raggedy futon in the back of an abandoned office building.
Still, nothing then was able to rattle him. Like nothing is able to shake him now.
Plant, the IBF World Super Middleweight Champion, recalls all of those past ghosts. They’re indelible. They’re the times he was pedaling drugs for his mom; and the times he was curled up trying to brace himself against the cold; and the times he was wondering where his next meal would come from.
There’s been a lot of broken glass, literally and figuratively, that “Sweethands” has pieced together from his Ashland City, Tennessee, roots.
On Saturday, July 20, Plant (18-0, 10 KOs) will be making his first title defense, meeting Subway sandwich pitchman Mike Lee (21-0, 11 KOs) on PBC on FOX (7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT). THe bout is part of the stacked undercard headlined by Keith Thurman’s WBA title defense against the legendary Manny Pacquiao from the MGM Grand Garden Arena, in Las Vegas, Nevada, live on PBC on FOX PPV (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
Plant, who will turn 27 on July 8, will also be fighting for the first time without his mother, who was tragically killed at the age of 51 by police on Saturday morning, March 9, after approaching Cheatham County, Tennessee, deputies with a knife.
Beth Plant, Caleb’s mother, had her demons that plagued her throughout her life. Caleb dealt drugs for her when he as a young teenager.
“Without all of those things that happened to me as a child and being young and alone at one time, with no place to stay, with times like that, knowing what it was like to be cold and hungry, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Caleb said. “I didn’t want to let anyone know I was staying in the back of a broken-down building.
“This might sound crazy, but I think I needed that. I needed to be put into the fire to be forged into steel. I needed those days, because it’s made it possible for the days ahead of me.”
Then Plant goes back again in time to a Jeep Grand Cherokee that he once owned. The car was constantly breaking down. It was either the fuel pump or water pump. Whatever it was that day, Plant always managed to get it to take him where he needed to go.
Getting back home, or wherever he was staying at the time, was the obstacle.
“The car would get me to where I had to go, and there were times it took me forever to get that car started again,” Caleb said. “The car was able to get me to the gym. Damn, that thing stressed me out.
“But I didn’t care about anything else. All I wanted to do was get to the boxing gym.”
Richie Plant, Caleb’s father, was a steadying force inside the house. He was hard on Caleb. It was Richie that pushed Caleb to extremes. Caleb’s legs may have been aching during a morning run, and it was Richie who implored Caleb to find those new gears he wasn’t aware he possessed.
There were times when Caleb admittedly rebelled, like all teenagers tend to do with their parents, because they don’t understand why parents push.
“ I was pretty angry inside as a kid, because I could see what was better. ” Undefeated World Super Middleweight Champion - Caleb Plant
The boxing gym was Caleb’s sanctuary. His father constructed a rinky-dink gym, as Caleb liked to call it, giving him aspirations to escape Ashland City. There were more than a handful of nights when frustration froze him. He envisioned a better life.
Kids are born with silver spoons in their mouths. Caleb Plant had to steal one to get it.
“I was pretty angry inside as a kid, because I could see what was better,” Caleb said. “I was no angel. I was upset and pissed off. I wanted to get out of the poverty I was in. There is no guidebook when it comes to dealing with a child.
“My father was a rock. He got us through a lot. He was always by my side. My father worked a lot. When I was younger, he was driving for Coke and there were times when he didn’t come home until after we were all asleep.”
Caleb tried with Beth. They clashed often. He saw what was happening. As he grew older, Caleb’s vista took on a wider scope.
“For one, I learned an expensive lesson with the people that we love,” Caleb said. “We want them to be what we want them to be. So, we put them in this box. Unfortunately, sometimes, the people that we love don’t fit into the box that we want them in.
“It doesn’t mean we can’t have the best relationship with them as we can. I think it’s important that we can’t always put the people that we love in that box. We have to love people for who they are. I learned that lesson.
“I begged my mom to be a certain way. I yelled; I screamed; I broke stuff. Every way imaginable you can think of to try and get through. As I said in the press conference with Mike Lee, lessons are earned, they’re not learned. I earned a lot of expensive lessons at a young age.”
Caleb was moving into his new home in Las Vegas when his younger sister, Maddie, called to tell him the news that their mother was killed.
“A lot of good things have gone on in my life, starting with Jordan (Hardy, the FOX boxing commentator, who Caleb proposed to after beating Jose Uzcategui for the IBF belt and is scheduled to marry on Oct. 5),” Plant said. “She’s another reason why I am where I am today. I still believe that, no matter what, I would be a world champion.
“But I wouldn’t be doing things at the level I am without her. It’s nice to do things with a partner. I have a best friend that we do everything together. She’s not faster than me, though. Not anymore. Maybe back in her college days (when she was running for UNLV) she would beat me.”
Mike Lee is moving down from light heavyweight. On paper, he’s the bigger, stronger fighter. In reality, Plant is far superior skill wise and in experience.
“Lee is undefeated, and he is an athlete, but he’s also endeavored into too many different things, and I’ve been about the same thing my whole life and that’s boxing,” Caleb said. “You’ll see a better, more improved Caleb Plant, like everyone has seen every time out. This fight won’t go 12 rounds.”
Plant paused for a moment to catch himself when he was asked what his mother might say after he beats Lee.
“She would tell me how proud she is of me,” Caleb said. “She would tell me she’s my biggest fan and something she’s told me since I was a little, ‘Work hard, Bubba!’ That’s what she called me. You know, there were a lot of bad times in that house growing up—but there were a lot of good times, too.”
“That’s what I want to remember. That’s what my career, so far, has turned out to be—a lot of good times.”
Instead of “Sweethands” across the waistband of Plant’s trunks on fight night July 20 will be etched “Bubba.”
In memory of Beth Plant.
For a closer look at Caleb Plant, check out his fighter page.