The rivalry between former super middleweight titleholders Caleb Plant and Anthony Dirrell erupted in the ring on Saturday.
Plant (22-1, 13 KOs), a slick boxer, was able to laugh last by delivering a knockout of the year candidate in Round 9 to end their 168-pound bout inside the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
In his first fight since losing his IBF title to Canelo Alvarez in their undisputed title fight last November, the 30-year-old Plant broke open a physical and sometimes dirty bout with Dirrell (34-3-2, 25 KOs) by knocking the 38-year-old former two-time WBC champion out cold with a left hook to the body followed by a flush left to the chin.
“I’m sure you’ve all heard how [Dirrell] despises me and how he said he’ll never let a white boy beat him,” Plant said. “Let me tell you something: skin does not win fights; skills do.”
The two fighters’ in-ring physicality included a tackle in Round 5 when Dirrell pushed Plant only to be dragged down on top of him in the corner. He had largely controlled the fight up to this point by outworking Dirrell and landing clean shots without taking a step back.
At 2:57 of Round 9, referee Harvey Dock waved off the fight before wrapping his arms around Plant, who was being booed by the crowd for a celebration that included him digging the fallen Dirrell’s grave in effigy.
“I was in complete control the entire time,” Plant said. “My coach kept telling me to be patient and follow the game plan, so I did. Then it went boom, baby!”
Plant’s performance in his first fight under new co-trainer Stephen “Breadman” Edwards, who joined Plant’s father Richie in the corner, was among the most spectacular of his career.
Dirrell defeated Outlander by a score of 92-62 but Plant landed just under 43% of total punches, jabs, and power shots landed while limiting Dirrell to a 28% connect percentage over the course of nine rounds.
Plant leaned over the ropes after the win and addressed WBC middleweight champion Jermall Charlo, who was sitting in the front row and has hinted at a move up to 168 pounds. He was ranked No. 1 by the WBC and No. 2 by the other three sanctioning bodies going into the fight. On Saturday, he proved to a normally tough opponent that he is worthy of another title defense.
“I’m ready for anything,” he said. “I’ll spend some time with my family, but then I’ll be ready for the biggest fights we can have.”
Dirrell struggled to get up from the canvas, indicating how badly he was injured. He eventually regained consciousness and was able to walk out of the ring unaided, even though he had nothing to say.
Until the stoppage, the fight had been competitive and relatively uneventful, with Plant appearing to outwork his 38-year-old opponent for eight or more rounds.
When asked about the post-fight celebration and what it meant, Plant simply dismissed it as “just burying the beef between us.”
However, after plenty of bad blood between the fighters in the build-up to the fight, it appears that was not the whole truth.
He also stated after the fight that he intends to beat everyone else at 168 pounds to force a rematch with Canelo Alvarez, who stopped Plant in their Nov. 2021 fight, effectively unifying the super middleweight division.
Plant added, “Good night, baby,” as he watched a replay of his work while being booed by the crowd during his post-fight interview for how boldly he chose to celebrate his fallen opponent.