Caleb Plant Is the Best Instigator of Beef in Boxing

Boxing Scene

Some people are confrontational. Others avoid the slightest conflict like the plague and will apologize to those who have wronged them, instead of demanding the opposite. The boxing game is heavily populated with confrontational types, and understandably so.

Only in boxing can an aging HBO employee stand in a ring and confidently bark at a pound-for-pound king, “I wish I was 50 years younger, and I’d kick your ass!” (Never change, Larry Merchant.)

Still, even in this angst-riddled sport, there can be only one king of confrontation, and that man is Caleb Plant. Rarely have I seen someone so consistently and immediately capable of inspiring irritation in his peers. Many boxers are strategic in directing their ire, but Plant seems to despise everyone equally. He is a pure boxer with little finishing power (his highlight-reel knockout over Anthony Durell notwithstanding), but from the way he trash-talks, you would think Plant hits like George Foreman.

It’s a true marvel, really, so let’s take a closer look at a few of Caleb Plant’s many rivalries.

Saul “Canelo” Alvarez

Most fighters lack the gumption to brawl with Canelo in the ring, much less at a faceoff, but it was child’s play for Plant. At a news conference, he provoked Canelo’s ire with the classic insult “motherf*****,” causing Alvarez to take so much offense that he shoved Plant hard in the chest, then evaded a Plant left hand and countered with a slap to the face.

Alvarez apparently took Plant literally, which might explain his angry reaction if Alvarez himself hadn’t used the insult before. Plant, fairly, pointed that out later. So why did Alvarez get so angry? Possibly because Plant just has a way about him that doubles the power of every insult. You can’t help but be impressed.

But Plant didn’t stop there. After that mini-fight, in the same news conference, he maintained his steady stream of trash-talk. He came out swinging at the podium, “thanking” everyone from writers, social media users and YouTube watchers for underestimating him. There followed a seamless segue into a slight directed at Canelo: “Miguel Cotto’s brother can make you do the chicken dance, but I can’t? Yeah, okay.”

Pulling off a perfect transition between taking jabs at just about every boxing viewer on the globe and referencing the decade-old moment in which Canelo was wobbled for the only time in his pro career takes a special kind of talent. Set aside the fact that Plant wasn’t able to dent Canelo’s iron chin in the fight itself, this was a truly epic 60 seconds of trash talk. For good measure, Plant frequently called Canelo a “drug cheat,” referencing his two positive tests for clenbuterol in 2018.

David Benavidez

While the Canelo feud had a short fuse and burned brightly, this was a prolonged explosion. In an opening scene of Showtime’s “All Access” series for last March’s Benavidez-Plant fight, we see an argument between Plant, Benavidez and their respective teams. In what will become a theme in his beefs, Plant calmly tells Benavidez to shut up and says, “You’re not scary to me,” completely riling up Benavidez, who then insists he’ll knock Plant out.

Plus, the highlights of the promotion are glorious. Like with Canelo, Plant showed no hesitation in bringing up the lowlights of Benavidez’s career, quickly citing “The Mexican Monster’s” previous positive test for cocaine and inability to make weight. Plant never raises his voice and never even slights Benavidez unfairly, yet several times in the clip, Benavidez loses his cool and tries to get at Plant. You can also see him lean toward the microphone and get up at times, only to close his mouth or return to his seat when he realizes he can’t outwit Plant. Even when Benavidez’s father tried to help out by repeatedly calling Plant a “b****,” Plant shut it down quickly by saying Benavidez Sr. could only dump on a fighter because he had never been in the ring himself.

Therein lies the Plant verbal masterclass: he’s quick to blows if it comes to that, but when he speaks, he’s almost maddeningly calm and chooses his insults wisely. He had a quick counter for everything Benavidez said. Showtime’s Bryan Custer worked overtime separating the boxers as Benavidez raged and cursed. All the while, Plant just coolly repeated, “He ain’t gonna do nothing.” Kill ‘em with calmness.

Jermall Charlo

This one’s nice and simple: Charlo was touching Plant’s beard behind the scenes at the weigh-in for Terence Crawford-Errol Spence Jr., so Plant slapped him. That actually earned a Twitter shout-out from Spence for Plant helping to sell their fight.

Edgar Berlanga

With any luck, this is just the beginning of another of Plant’s rivalries. While in Las Vegas for the Canelo-Jaime Munguia fight, Plant got into it with Berlanga in a media scrum. What sparked the argument is unclear, but during the exchange itself, there was little doubt Plant got the best of proceedings.

At the beginning of the exchange, Plant asks Berlanga to confirm that if he doesn’t get the Canelo fight he will fight Plant instead. “Bro, I promise you,” Berlanga said, to which Plant pushed back, asking not for a promise but a confirmation that Berlanga had said this earlier. What’s the difference? Plant’s talent for making mountains out of molehills is off the charts, and as an added bonus, never fails to rile up his opponents.

Berlanga then started insisting that he would knock Plant out. Plant responded with “No, you’re not” no fewer than seven consecutive times, which naturally stoked Berlanga’s anger. Berlanga urged Plant to take his glasses off, but Plant again refused, asking, “For what?” 

The fighters were separated after that, but in just 30 seconds, Plant managed to frustrate Berlanga into a profanity-laden rant, principally by saying all of five different words without raising his voice. Berlanga has been floated as a possible Canelo opponent for September, which would be universally disappointing. But Plant-Berlanga? Plant has made that potentially interesting.

Eric Raskin

The scope of Plant’s natural abrasiveness can expand well beyond fellow fighters. Following his win over Jose Uzcategui in 2019, in which he had been a small underdog, Plant did a Radio Row interview with Eric Raskin and Kieran Mulvaney for the Showtime Boxing podcast at the Manny Pacquiao-Adrien Broner fight.

Raskin, who now writes for BoxingScene and is also a longtime gambling journalist, had put a bit of money on Uzcategui. Thinking it would be a good way to ease into the interview with Plant, Raskin admitted that he had bet against “Sweet Hands” and said Plant had proved him wrong. 

“He didn’t smile and chuckle and banter about it like I thought he would,” Raskin recalled to me. “He stared me in the eyes, deadly serious, saying, ‘You shouldn’t have done that. You shouldn’t have bet against me.’

“I tried to break the tension and said I wouldn’t make the mistake of betting against him again, and he said something to the effect of, ‘You’d better not,’ and that was that. We changed the subject.”

A feud at the level of Plant-Benavidez? Nope, just enough intensity and bluntness to make a well-meaning writer feel awkward as hell. Caleb Plant, everyone!

After the Alvarez and Benavidez fights, in both of which he lost and took heavy punishment, Plant showed his class in making up with his conquerors. He had touching in-ring moments with both men, telling Canelo that his own mother had passed away and squashing the longtime rivalry with Benavidez. This only serves to make Plant’s ability to stoke fierce feuds more appealing – he builds a fight, but after the final bell, he knows to leave the hatred behind. 

Plant hasn’t fought since his brutal decision loss to Benavidez in May 2023. I’m excited to see his return to the ring, but in the meantime, if he starts yet more delightful spats, I can wait a while longer.

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