Last weekend Caleb “Sweethands” Plant defended the IBF super middleweight title with a 10th round stoppage of Vincent Feigenbutz on FOX. The Nashville, Tenn. crowd at the Bridgestone Arena didn’t mind watching Plant, fighting in his hometown for the first time as a professional, dance a veritable dodecahedron around the German.
David Benavidez, who holds the WBC super middleweight title, quickly threw shade at Plant on his own Instagram page, questioning Feigenbutz’ quality as a title challenger.
“The guy [Plant] fought, I don’t even know how he got ranked by the IBF,” Benavidez told Knuckles and Gloves. “Caleb did what he was supposed to do. I thought he was going to go in there and stop him. Feigenbutz was pretty much a punching bag with legs. I would’ve put him away way earlier, in about four rounds.”
A late 2018 failed drug test in conjunction with promotional issues slowed the 23-year-old’s momentum, but Benavidez nonetheless has 22 fights to his name in nearly seven years as a professional. At 22-0 with 19 knockouts, “El Bandera Roja” believes a clash between he and Plant, also undefeated, could thrill the masses.
“Plant did what he had to do [against Feigenbutz], and it makes the build-up for a fight between he and I more entertaining,” Benavidez said. “[Caleb Plant] doesn’t like me, I don’t like him. I can’t wait to get my hands on him in the ring. I’m definitely looking to hurt him.”
Casting aspersions toward potential opponents not only isn’t uncommon in boxing, but it’s literally how the sport got its sea legs in early days as matches wouldn’t come together absent some obvious and boisterous trash talk. In hundreds of years only the verbiage has changed; fighting words are fighting words.
But Benavidez’s pointed attack seems personal, like his animosity toward Caleb Plant runs deeper than the usual rude wordsmithing, and he’s fine divulging why.
“[Plant] runs his mouth a lot,” Benavidez plainly stated. “He thinks he’s the second coming of Floyd Mayweather. He talks too much. Even when we used to train at the same gym he ran his mouth a lot. Obviously he thinks he’s the best, I think I’m the best, so there’s a rivalry between us.”
Self-belief is essential to becoming a world champion. Or perhaps staying one. Either way, the fighter eagerly acknowledging their own lack of quality will soon find it affirmed. Snazzy predictions from fighters are easy to come by, but if both fighters make them, they can’t both be right.
Benavidez simply believes he presents stylistic challenges Plant wouldn’t be able to solve before the blood starts to flow.
“Caleb Plant is good,” said Benavidez, “that’s why he has the IBF title. But he’s never fought anything with relentless pressure like me, never fought anyone who can throw combinations or jab like me, and he’s definitely never fought anyone with power like me. He does have good defense, but I would catch him sooner or later. You can only run from me for so long before I catch you. I would either stop him or it would be a great fight.”
Is Benavidez-Plant even possible anytime soon, though? As Benavidez’s promoter Sampson Lewkowicz recently told Sean Nam of Boxing Junkie, it might be a fight that requires marination. That could be another way of saying risking either fighter’s unbeaten record against the other before there’s serious money to the idea isn’t in the cards.
Additionally, with sanctioning bodies more or less making up rules — and titles — as they go along, a champion could be occupied by a weird string of mandatory challengers produced by boxing’s maddest alphabet scientists. In other words, politics, event-building and The Art of Keeping Boxing Belts could aid in preventing Benavidez vs. Plant from happening until at least 2021.
For his part, Benavidez remains optimistic when asked about tangling with “Sweethands” sooner rather than later.
“I believe [a Caleb Plant fight] could happen soon,” Benavidez said. “I don’t think in 2020, but maybe by the beginning of next year. I was supposed to fight the WBC mandatory [Avni Yildirim] and he injured his shoulder, so we’re looking for an opponent for my next fight. That will be either mid-April or late-April, then I have to fight Yildirim, but I think we can make the Plant fight happen.”
Even as a veteran in his early 20s, Benavidez still could have plenty of adventure in his future. But for now he’s refusing to get ahead of himself.
“I definitely want to get to Caleb Plant, the sooner the better, but I have to take it one fight at a time.”