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Caleb Plant Battles Life Through Mike Lee

(Originally Published: July, 2019 @

To someone like Caleb Plant, Mike Lee, who will challenge for Plant’s IBF super middleweight title on FOX PBC Fight Night before this Saturday’s Manny Pacquiao-Keith Thurman PPV card, is the embodiment of everything unfair in this life.

While Plant grew up in a broken-down trailer in Tennessee, battling for basic necessities and desperately grasping at a dream to climb out of the abyss; Lee came up in relative affluence, with access to quality education and all the perks that go along with that.

Lee claims Chicago as his hometown, but in reality he was born and raised in Wheaton, Illinois, a far-out suburb of the Windy City selected as one of America’s “Best Places to Live” by Money Magazine in 2018.

Plant, as a young pro, struggled like most everybody else in the game. Money was tight, he often leaned on the kindness of others who supported his dreams. Lee, however, never struggled in that very real “I might starve” kind of way and always had a back door to a well-paid “real” job via his degree in finance from Notre Dame’s prestigious Mendoza College of Business.

No high-profile Subway commercial gig fell into Plant’s lap when he needed the money and exposure, the way it did with Lee.

None of Lee’s advantages in life are his fault, but a man born in a bakery will always draw the ire of those living without enough bread.

Life’s been a struggle every step of the way for Plant, nothing’s been easy. From extreme poverty to the horror of dealing with the death of his beautiful 19-month-old daughter, life has conspired to pull him away from his dreams, to stop him from becoming who he always thought he’d become. Even after beating tough-as-nails Jose Uzcategui for the world title, the 26-year-old had to deal with the tragedy of losing his mother, who was shot in an altercation with a police officer.

Through it all, Plant has held firm in his self-belief and rock-steady in his focus. He’s crawled his way through the broken glass of a shattered life and staked his claim to a spot on the world stage.

And now he shares that stage with Lee, a man he feels has not even come close to earning a spot there, someone getting a world title shot at 168 lbs. without ever having competed in the division or beaten any opponent of note.

While claiming to have disdain for any man stepping into the ring with him, there’s a special animosity shown to Lee, someone he paints as more of a boxing hobbyist than real prizefighter.

“He’s a jack of all trades. He’s been a football player. He’s been a basketball player. He has a financial degree. He’s an entrepreneur,” Plant told KSNV news in Las Vegas. “He does all these things, but he’s never really mastered any of them. Me, I’ve done one thing my whole life, and that’s fight…This isn’t a hobby for me. This isn’t something I endeavor in and out of…There’s no substitute for working on your craft.”

Lee’s path to this moment against Plant has not been pain-free. He has suffered through an autoimmune disease known as Ankylosing Spondylitis and lost 18 months of prime career time trying to find out why his body was failing him. He’s also had to deal with the derision from fans, media, and other fighters because he hasn’t “suffered” enough to get where he’s gotten.

“Today is the culmination of years of sacrifice, hard work and discipline,” Lee told reporters at a press conference hyping the bout. “I’m undefeated for a reason but I feel people underestimate me and I like that. I’ve been underestimated my whole career. I’ve thrived off people say I couldn’t do it.”

But Plant is not impressed with the Tony Robbins-like positivity coming from his opponent’s side.

“All the motivational videos that he watches and books that he reads,” Plant answered, nurturing the still-growing chip on his shoulder. “I’m the very essence and meaning of that. I’m the pinnacle of all those things he’s studied. You can’t learn mental fortitude in a book. Those things are earned, they’re not learned.”

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