For Caleb Plant, boxing has always been a sanctuary to him.
Stepping into the ring has always been therapeutic for him and even as he climbed up the ranks all the way to winning the IBF super middleweight championship last January against Jose Uzcategui, Plant always came to fight with the same mentality, that of a hunter.
On July 20, Plant will finally get his opportunity to showcase talents on the biggest stage he's ever fought on when he takes on Mike Lee on a FOX-televised bout from Las Vegas. So when the idea of Plant treating every fight as the champion forcing to change his mentality from that of the hunter to that of the hunted, the 26-year-old (who turns 27 on July 8) scoffed at the thought of him ever changing his mental approach to a fight.
"Absolutely not. If [Lee] thinks that I'm not gunning for him like I was gunning for Jose, then he's sadly mistaken. So the mentality has not changed. I don't feel like I'm the hunted, I still feel like I'm hunting. I'm not satisfied. The goal was not just to become a world champion, that was just one goal. So in my eyes I'm 18-0. I'm only 26, I'm just getting started. I'm gunning for him more than I was gunning for Jose," Plant told Fightful in a recent media call.
Plant has fought on television before and even headlined boxing shows that were nationally-televised, but this will be his first fight as the main event on FOX. While that fight is technically part of a prelim card, the fact that it leads into a pay-per-view headlined by Manny Pacquiao will more than likely have more eyes on Plant than ever before and he knows that.
The undefeated champion is actually counting on that because he knows it's another opportunity to further make his claim that he is the best super middleweight boxer today.
"I know it's a bigger stage. There's going to be a lot of eyeballs on me. But I think they chose me for this event because they know I'm the guy who's not going to let them down. I think they know I'm the man for the job and that I'm going to put on the show July 20. At the end of the day, get in the ring, the bell rings and we fight so I don't really feel any added pressure just it's a little more excited to continue to show the world what I'm capable of," Plant said.
Fighting on such a big platform does make him a much more attractive fighter in front of a burgeoning 168-pound division. Fighters such as David Benavidez, Anthony Dirrell, Callum Smith and Billy Joe Saunders would all be opponents Plant would be interested in facing down the line. After all, winning the IBF title isn't the end of the road for Plant. In fact, it is just the beginning.
With all four of those boxers currently holding titles or preparing for title fights, Plant has his sights set on cleaning out the division and becoming the first undisputed super middleweight champion. It's part of the reason why Plant is still under a hunter's mindset. There are still more prey for him to catch and the prize at the end of the tunnel is winning every belt imaginable.
Yet, even Plant isn't so foolhardy to ignore the present task ahead of him. Lee might not have as much experience facing big-name boxers like Plant, but in a year that has already seen so many upsets, the IBF champion knows there is no margin for error, especially against someone coming from light heavyweight to super middleweight for this fight.
"Absolutely. If I'm not mistaken there's never been an undisputed super middleweight champion so that's my goal, to become the first undisputed super middleweight champion of the world. But first things first, handle business July 20. I don't care about any other fight. I don't care about any other champions or what they're doing or what they've got going on. The only thing I care about is July 20 and I'm focused on is handling business," Plant said.
Plant vs. Lee for the IBF super middleweight title will take place on July 20 in Las Vegas as part of a FOX-televised card that will lead into the Premier Boxing Champions pay-per-view event headlined by Manny Pacquiao vs. Keith Thurman.