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Column: Canelo Álvarez ready for the most personal fight of his career against Caleb Plant

Canelo Alvarez, left, exchanges words with Caleb Plant during their weigh-in at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Friday.
Canelo Álvarez, left, exchanges words with Caleb Plant during their weigh-in at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Friday. Four super middleweight championship belts will be on the line when Álvarez and Plant fight Saturday.
(Patrick T. Fallon / AFP / Getty Images)

Cash cows are generally treated as if they are sacred cows in boxing, which made how Caleb Plant addressed Canelo Álvarez noteworthy.

Plant called him a drug cheat.

The accusation led to an exchange of open-handed slaps at a news conference in Beverly Hills six weeks ago, the lingering animosity explaining why organizers kept the fighters from ever coming face to face at their weigh-in Friday afternoon.

Denied a chance to shove Plant again before their 168-pound championship match the next day, Álvarez settled for warning his opponent by paraphrasing Newton’s third law of motion in his second language.

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“For every action, [there’s] a reaction,” the 31-year-old from Mexico said in English.

The Lakers’ defensive rating fell to 27th in the 30-team NBA after blowing a 19-point lead in a loss to Oklahoma City on Thursday.

Álvarez said he initiated the fracas in Beverly Hills because Plant insulted his mother when they were nose to nose but, in reality, the relatively unknown challenger had already lobbed a grenade at him in cyberspace.

In late August, a couple of weeks after Álvarez and Plant agreed to fight, 130-pound champion Óscar Valdez tested positive for a stimulant. Álvarez and Valdez are stablemates in a gym run by trainer Eddy Reynoso.

Plant posted a message on his Twitter account that read in part, “All of them are suspect,” followed by an emoji of a raised middle finger. Plant also referred to how Álvarez tested positive for the growth-promoting substance clenbuterol and claimed he ingested the banned substance by eating contaminated meat.

For what it’s worth, the World Anti-Doping Agency has concluded an athlete can test positive for clenbuterol at low levels after consuming contaminated meat.

No matter to Plant. Nor did it matter to him that Plant’s team includes Victor Conte, a convicted steroid distributor.

And soon after Álvarez and Plant approached each other at their September news conference in Beverly Hills, Álvarez shoved Plant across the stage.

Plant continued his attack.

“He’s a cheater,” Plant said.

Unified WBC/WBO/WBA super middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez shoves undefeated IBF Super Middleweight Champion Caleb Plant
Canelo Álvarez, left, shoves Caleb Plant during a news conference in Beverly Hills on Sept. 21.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

He went on, “Did he get suspended for six months? So you don’t have to ask me. It’s not up for discussion. I’m not making this up. I don’t want this to be in our sport. It’s not what I said. It’s what the commission said.”

Reynoso shot back by calling Plant a gay slur in Spanish. The trainer went on to say that instead of talking, Plant should work hard and win fights.

“I do have the balls to work hard without testing positive [for] illegal substances,” Plant responded. “Why don’t you have the balls to work hard without testing positive for illegal substances?”

Álvarez lost it.

“Shut the f— up!” Álvarez shouted in English.

“Or what?” Plant asked.

“You will see Nov. 6,” Álvarez said.

The exchange generated buzz for a fight that otherwise might have encountered difficulty in attracting viewers. Plant is a 10-to-1 underdog.

Álvarez denied the scuffle was a ploy to sell the fight.

The significance of Canelo-Saunders might be getting lost in the hype around other gimmicky fights, but the matchup still holds substantial weight.

“I don’t like to do things like that to warm up a fight,” Álvarez said in Spanish. “I’m not like that.”

Álvarez said of Plant: “I think he’s an insecure person. That’s why he wants to start making excuses before the fight.”

Fighters as popular as Álvarez are generally shielded from the kinds of criticisms that were unleashed by Plant.

Directly or indirectly, draws such as Álvarez generate income for everyone involved in the sport. Especially cognizant of this are potential opponents, who know that angering a star could result in the star refusing to grant them a lucrative fight.

This imbalance in economic power is why Floyd Mayweather Jr. wasn’t called out by opponents for pleading guilty to domestic violence for which he was jailed 90 days.

A fight against Mayweather was worth millions of dollars. There was value in silence.

Gennady Golovkin was reminded of that. Golovkin and Álvarez fought to a draw in September 2017 and scheduled a rematch for May of the following year. The second fight was delayed because of Álvarez’s flunked drug test and subsequent suspension.

Canelo Alvarez defeats challenger Avni Yildirim in the third round of a super-middleweight title fight at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla.

The rematch was eventually rescheduled for September 2018. In the buildup to the fight, Golovkin and then-trainer Abel Sanchez made statements about Álvarez that were similar to Plant’s. Álvarez was furious. And when Álvarez was awarded a narrow decision, he refused to grant Golovkin a third fight, even though it didn’t feel the series produced a clear winner. Golovkin hasn’t been involved in a major promotion since then.

By mentioning Álvarez’s controversial history, Plant has placed a massive wager on himself.

“I think most guys go into the fight against him feeling like they’re already going to lose,” Plant said.

Plant doesn’t share that sense of fatalism, obviously. Álvarez has called the upcoming fight the most personal of his career. If he didn’t give Golovkin a third fight — a third fight the public wanted — he probably won’t grant Plant a rematch unless Plant somehow defeats him.


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