With personal life stabilizing, unbeaten super middleweight champion Caleb Plant pursues lofty goals

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist
IBF super middleweight world champion Caleb Plant turns to opponent Vincent Feibenbutz during a news conference to promote their title fight on Saturday in Nashville, Tennessee. (Stephanie Trapp/TGB Promotions)

The path to the top was anything but easy for Caleb Plant. Oh, the IBF super middleweight world champion always had more talent than the next guy, and was able to find refuse with gloves on his hands in the center of a ring.

“I was a rough kid,” Plant said. “And this is all I ever wanted to do. I never wanted to be an astronaut. I didn’t want to do anything else but box. Boxing has been everything for me as long as I can remember.”

And while he’s had his share of successes, and was an alternate on the 2012 U.S. Olympic team and is 19-0 with 11 knockouts as a pro heading into Saturday’s fight on Fox at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee, against Vincent Feigenbutz, it’s not always been smooth sailing.

He was a poor kid from rural Tennessee who was surrounded by trouble. His daughter, Alia, died a few months before her second birthday. His 51-year-old mother, Beth, was shot and killed by police in an incident in October.

There’s been a lot to overcome.

It’s a credit to his character that he’s done that, though. He won the title with a lopsided decision over Jose Uzcategui 13 months ago and then in his first defense, blew out overmatched Mike Lee and stopped him in the third round in Las Vegas in July.

He looked fast, sharp and dangerous in that fight, but said he’ll show on Saturday things never before seen from him.

“I wasn’t in there long, but I think that was the best Caleb Plant people had ever seen in the Mike Lee fight,” he said. “But believe me when I tell you, I’m on a whole other level now. People in boxing say that things change when you become the champion and you’re the hunted and not the hunter, and that may be how it is for most guys. That’s not how it is for me, though. No way.

“I’m still hunting. I’m still hungry. I’m not nearly at me peak and I’m constantly sharpening my tools. I’m fit all year round and I like the right lifestyle. I wanted to win that world title so bad because I promised my daughter I would, and so I did. But I want this more now than ever.”

He married his girlfriend, Jordan Hardy, last year, and she’s intimately involved in his career. She’s a reporter/interviewer on the Premier Boxing Champions broadcasts on Fox and has helped him to endure the many tragedies he’s faced.

He’s helped teach her boxing and help her with her interviewing, so it’s been a mutually beneficial relationship.

“She’s such a big part and an important part of my life,” he said of his wife, who is now known as Jordan Plant. “She’s not just my woman. She’s my best friend. We have that kind of relationship and we help each other. She’s always there for me when I need her and I’m always there for her, no matter what. She kept me going and kept me alive through all of the trials and tribulations. Sometimes, it seemed like it was too much to bear and too much to go on from, but she’s been awesome. ... We’re best friends and great partners.”

His dream, he said, is five years from now to be the undisputed champion who lives in a large home with a swollen bank account.

Given the quality of fights available in the super middleweight divisions — opponents like Canelo Alvarez, Callum Smith, David Benavidez and Billy Joe Saunders would all make lucrative and attractive opponents — that’s not going to be all that hard to do if he continues to win.

He is as confident as could be that he’ll continue to rack up victories.

“I’m blessed with a lot of talent and I haven’t really shown all of what I can do,” Plant said. “I’m still on that upward [trajectory] and I can see myself improving. I’m not taking anything for granted, either. I know what is at stake and I’m doing everything I can do to be better tomorrow than I was today.”

Unbeaten IBF super middleweight champion Caleb Plant. (Stephanie Trapp/TGB Promotions)