The past 12 months have been a revelation in boxing, in terms of Boxers become undisputed champions or try to join this elite group. It is only fitting that Canelo Alvarez, the number one pound-for-pound fighter in boxing, would like to add such an accomplishment to his already long résumé in the sport.
Tuesday brought the news that Alvarez, who holds three of the super middleweight world titles, is Finalization of plans for a title union match against IBF world champion Caleb Plant in September.
If he defeats Plant, Alvarez will have won all four belts by £ 168 in nine months. Alvarez defeated Callum Smith in December 2020 to win the WBA and WBC belts, successfully defended them by fast work by Avni Yildirim in February and then beat Billy Joe Saunders in May to add the WBO strap.
So what can fans expect in this Alvarez-Plant fight? And how could it shape the future?
Mike Coppinger and Ben Baby are here to answer some of the biggest questions that come up (and possibly come out) in this super middleweight title union bout.
Canelo Alvarez, left, united three super middleweight titles by defeating Billy Joe Saunders in May. Omar Vega / Getty Images
How hard is this fight for Canelo compared to the other 168 pounders he’s struck?
Copper: I see that Plant Alvarez is facing a tougher challenge than Smith, but not performing as well as Saunders – in front of the broken orbital bone, of course. Plant is talented and in his prime. He’s got quick hands. He is defensively responsible. His jab is excellent. But I don’t think Plant has the power to keep Alvarez away from him. Plant certainly doesn’t have the kind of top-level experience that would prepare him for a fight like this.
Nobody really does that. After all, we’re talking about the best boxer in the world, a man who stood on the biggest stages in the ring and competed against the best that the sport has to offer. Gennadij Golovkin, twice. Floyd Mayweather. Miguel Cotto. There’s nothing that Alvarez hasn’t seen on these four ropes.
Plant? His best win – really his only win to speak of – came against Jose Uzcategui in 2019. Every other opponent was B-Level at best. Is Plant an Elite Fighter? Impossible to know since it has never been tested.
The margin of error against the pound-for-pound king is low. The boxing universe – and Plant itself – is about to find out how good he really is.
Caleb Plant, left, won the IBF super middleweight title with a unanimous win over Jose Uzcategui in 2019. John McCoy / Getty Images
Can Plant thwart Canelo’s plan, and if so, how?
Infant: Let’s be honest here. It will take a brilliant game plan to beat Alvarez, who is rolling and is considered by several outlets (including ESPN) to be the best pound-for-pound boxer in the sport.
On paper, Plant doesn’t have the power to worry Alvarez, which was the same problem Saunders had with his shot at Alvarez. The two most notable victories in Plant’s career, a win over Caleb Truax in January and his win over Uzcategui in 2019 to become a champion, both fights were over the distance. If Alvarez doesn’t respect his opponent’s power, he’ll be more than ready to take a punch to land a couple of his own.
Apart from that, Saunders showed that it is possible to win rounds against Alvarez. Plant needs to be extremely disciplined and pick its spots outside. He has to start quickly, bank rounds and then hope to dodge Canelo in the later rounds.
If that sounds like a lot of unlikely variables, that’s because it is. The odds stack heavily against Plant.
Canelo Alvarez, right, defeated Callum Smith in December to combine two world super middleweight titles. Ed Mulholland / Handout Photo / USA TODAY Sports
How will Canelo do if he wins?
Copper: With a convincing win over Plant, Alvarez will achieve his goal of becoming the undisputed champion at 168 pounds. If he chooses, Alvarez can go back to £ 175 and go for a fight with reunited champion Artur Beterbiev, a dangerous puncher from Russia. That is perhaps the most attractive option for Alvarez in the light heavyweight division after September 18. But Alvarez was troubled by a faded version of Sergey Kovalev before spectacularly knocking Kovalev out. Would Beterbiev turn out to be too big and powerful?
An even more attractive option remains at £ 168 for a few defenses of his undisputed crown. PBC also has David Benavidez under their banner ad, and he’s the fighter who, in my opinion, is the toughest challenge for Alvarez. Benavidez is a volume puncher who comes straight to the front and wields bombs. It’s a fascinating fight, especially given the courage the 24-year-old has shown.
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Another compelling option, either before or after Benavidez: Jermall Charlo. The middleweight champion has expressed a desire to move up to 168 pounds – and fight Canelo. Charlo is a tall 160 pounder that would fit right into the super middleweight. He has an excellent power jab and the strength to fight Alvarez inside.
If Alvarez insists on climbing to 175 pounds and doesn’t want to go after Beterbiev right away, a fight with Dmitry Bivol, another champion in the division, could be a good bridge to Beterbiev. But Bivol, a skilled boxer from Russia with an amazing jab and footwork, isn’t an easy test either.
Caleb Plant, left, defended his IBF super middleweight title against Caleb Truax in January, and Plant managed to unite all four belts against Canelo Alvarez in September. Brett Carlsen / Getty Images
What should Plant do next when he defeats Canelo?
Infant: If Plant manages the unlikely surprise, a rematch might be in order. It will obviously be another big payday for Plant, and Alvarez will surely want to avenge a devastating defeat.
This is going to be a great situation for PBC, under which the Plant umbrella is fighting. If Plant can be undisputed and keep all of the super middleweight belts, it also delivers big fights against Benavidez or even Charlo if Charlo actually decides to move up. It could help PBC establish the type of hammerlock at 168 pounds that it has enjoyed at 147 pounds for the past few years.