He’d been saying it for weeks, a month before: How his guy would be too much for the other guy, how his skill set was such that it wouldn’t be easy work but it would go their way. Luis DeCubas Jr. made it clear, publicly, that his guy Caleb Plant, who he’s managed since day one of Plant’s pro career, would get the win over Jose Uzcategui on January 13.
But while it looks meaningful in retrospect, it isn’t news-making when a manager tells media that his man is the better fighter than a rival and that will be apparent to all when they clash. Still, maybe some of us “smarts” should have paid closer attention to what DeCubas was saying…and where Plant had come from…and how much he’d struggled and persevered to get to this place in his life. Perhaps so many wouldn’t have been so surprised at how well Plant, 26, did in that L.A. ring on Sunday night.
“We have a very special relationship,” the manager told RingTV.com. “He’s been through a lot; he’s had a rough life. And now God is starting to pay him back tenfold!”
More folks have come around and are aware of Plant’s back story, how his upbringing featured a fractured home and how his young adult life was marked by severe tragedy, as his 19-month-old daughter succumbed to a genetic defect, back in 2015.
Plant’s mom struggled to stay on the straight and narrow, so his dad stepped to the line and functioned as a single father. The Tennessee town he lived in, Ashland City, was small. There were maybe 3,000 inhabitants and dad Richie worked hard but sometimes the paychecks only went so far. There was food deprivation…All that stuck within Plant. He worked his ass off to get past it, to not give in to anger or sadness, but elements of the pain inflicted upon you stay inside you. DeCubas knew early on that Plant would be a likely candidate to funnel the emotional pain correctly, convert the pain into desire and ambition.
Back in the day, DeCubas was hitting amateur tourneys, looking for signees. At one in Colorado, he said two guys stood out for him. One was Gervonta Davis, the other was Plant. “I didn’t sign Davis. There were some issues on my end but I told Caleb, ‘When you are ready to turn pro, call me. I will make you a champ.’ I knew he was special.”
That gut call played out in public on January 13 but DeCubas was telling anyone who would listen when the fight was signed that Plant would outbox Uzcategui “but also hurt him.” He’d seen the boxer work harder for this camp than ever before and DeCubas thought it quite possible that he’d up his game to the next level.
We also talked about Plant’s personality; fight fans have come to understand that Plant’s past informs him now, that he wants to succeed and give credit to the memory of daughter Alia. However in interviews, I’ve seen flashes of another side to him – a hardness. Guy has some Manson Lamps on him every now and again. (See 1:10 in)
DeCubas understood where I was coming from when I touched on that other side of Plant. “People, don’t get it twisted. He’s a great boxer but he’s a rough guy. Losing his child, he treated her like a princess. I know a lot of guys who have kids who don’t. Something like that, once you’ve lost everything that you loved hard, it’s hard not to hate that. And does he use it the right way? He’s a special breed of fighter and they can turn it on and off.”
Now that more fans see and better recognize what DeCubas has known, there will be more fan interest in Plant’s next bout. So what about that, DeCubas; what might Plant’s path in the near-term be?
“He wants to fight the toughest and we think (former WBC super middleweight titlist David) Benavidez and Plant are up there. But we know (former WBO middleweight beltholder) Peter Quillin and (former IBF super middleweight titlist) Caleb Truax are fighting in an eliminator (on April 13), so we’ll look at them. Two former world champs. And we think Caleb has earned the right…We want the right fights, tough fights; we don’t want no cherries but Caleb needs to heal. It was a long camp; he trained the whole year. We will look at the whole weight class. Who else we looking at? It’s a little early. There are a lot of good fights. (The Ring Magazine/WBA super middleweight champion) Callum Smith, I think Caleb beats him if they fight today.
“(WBO super middleweight titlist Gilberto) ‘Zurdo’ Ramirez? I always tell people, if they can make (Manny) Pacquiao versus (Floyd) Mayweather (Jr.)…It’s all about timing,” DeCubas continued after I asked about limitations because of political divides. “Ramirez, I think he’s the easiest of the champs. He’s a good fighter but basic, slow on his feet. I think Caleb beats him 12 rounds to nothing. As for Callum, he beat (George) Groves, pillar to post. He’s a very good fighter but kind of basic. Throws one-twos and Plant has so much in his arsenal. What about an Uzcategui rematch? I think Caleb shut the book on that. If Uzcategui beats a Zurdo, Callum or Benavidez, hey, Caleb was off a year. If not for the layoff, I think Uzcategui gets kayoed. Anyway, I want to make clear how proud I am of this kid. It’s been a hard road. Lotsa guys are looking for the as route to the title. Not him, he went the hardest route.”
Michael Woods, a Brooklyn resident, was a staff writer at New York’s Newsday before joining ESPN The Magazine (2003-2011). He edited for TheSweetScience.com (2007-2015), publishes NYFights.com, calls fights for Facebook FightNight Live and hosts the “Talkbox” podcast for Everlast. You can follow him on Twitter @Woodsy1069.
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