Caleb Plant

Caleb Plant vs. Mike Lee Media Conference Call Transcript

Frank Micelotta/FOX Sports

Ray Flores
We greatly appreciate the media joining us from wherever they are around the world and we are very excited for Saturday July 20. We have the Super Middleweight Champion of the World Caleb “Sweethands” Plant putting his title on the line against unbeaten Mike Lee. It is the IBF Super Middleweight Championship of the World on the line from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. It is FOX PBC Fight Night live on FOX and FOX Deportes and it all starts at 7 ET/4 PT. Brought to you by TGB Promotions and Sweethands Promotions.

Tickets are available they are going quickly at AXS.com. You can also purchase them over the phone 866-740-7711 or in person at any MGM Resort International box office as FOX PBC Fight Night will proceed the Fox Sports pay-per-view, the PBC paper-view which starts at 9 ET/ 6 PT and that happens also at MGM Grand featuring the Eight Division World Champion Senator Manny “PacmanPacquiao taking on the WBA Welterweight World Champion Keith Thurman in our main event.

Now Saturday July 20 is going to be a historic night of boxing and we are off to a tremendous start for the summer when it comes to PBC and a catalyst for that has been the promotor and the President of TGB Promotions a man who in my opinion needs to be in the Hall of Fame sooner than later, please welcome my dear friend, the President of TGB Promotions, Mr. Tom Brown.

Tom Brown
Well thank you Ray and thank you for being with us for the Caleb Plant versus Mike Lee IBF Super Middleweight Champion Conference Call. It’s going to be a huge night of boxing in Las Vegas and a spectacular night for the sport of boxing and for FOX on pay-per-view as well.

Caleb Plant will be making the first defense of his title on FOX in primetime as the build-up to the Pacquiao vs. Thurman pay-per-view event. The fans are in for a great night of action.

Caleb Plant put the world on notice with his exciting title winning performance back in January. And now Mike Lee, in his first world title fight has a huge opportunity to prove he belongs with the best as both guys put their undefeated records on the line. So now I’ll throw it back over to Ray to introduce the fighters and get things going. Thank you very much.

R. Flores
Now let’s get an opportunity to meet the challenger who is undefeated, but first I want to acknowledge his terrific team, his trainer Jamal Abdullah also another trainer that he has Julian Chua, Tareq Azim, his strength and conditioning coach.

This man is undefeated. Twenty-one bouts, 21 victories, 11 of those coming by way of knockouts. Thirty-two years of age. He’s been undefeated since turning pro back in 2010. He typically campaigns at 175-pounds but now is going down seven pounds to the super middleweight division. He could not pass up this opportunity having most recently come off of a victory over Jose Hernandez by unanimous decision last year.

Not only is he a terrific fighter but he has accomplished a lot in academics, he’s a graduate of the University of Notre Dame where he earned a degree in Finance from the Mendoza School of Business. I’ve had the opportunity to get to know this young man for the past several years. He comes from a tremendous background and without a doubt, looking to make a statement and achieve his lifelong dream and become a world champion. Ladies and gentleman, please welcome the undefeated Mike Lee.

Mike Lee
I’m excited. I’m in California now feeling phenomenal. Training hard and sparring hard. It’s been the best camp I’ve ever had honestly. Weight is going down beautifully and I just feel fast and strong and ready to do this.

Q
Can you talk about what your goals were when you turned pro and how this fight fits into that?

M. Lee
Well the ultimate goal of any fighter or athlete is to compete at the highest level for a world title, a Super Bowl or whatever that may be. So for me this is a dream come true and I’m excited because you work so hard and go through all the days of training camps and injuries and surgeries and all that to get to this moment here. So it’s the pinnacle of the sport and that’s where I belong and I’m excited to show everybody that on July 20.

Q
What lead to the decision to take a fight at Super Middleweight?

M. Lee
My team and I have been talking about super middleweight if there was an opportunity for a big fight for a while so for me it didn’t necessarily come out of left field but when I got the phone call about this specific opportunity, I was all about it. I knew 168 wouldn’t be a problem and I knew I could bring my power and my speed down to this weight class and rehydrate the right way. So when a world title comes, you say “yes” and especially when I know that I can win. I knew 168 was a comfortable weight for me and here we are.

Q
Are you working with your nutritionist or doing anything different in your training?

M. Lee
Yes, I hired a new nutritionist. Normally I didn’t even really need one to make 175 but I think the key was starting to monitor and really, you know, get this stuff down early on and we had a lot of time to prepare so that’s been the key and he’s made me feel better than I’ve ever felt.

Q
2019 has really been the year of the upsets and I would say it’s fair to say you’re probably the underdog in this fight. Do you take some heart at seeing some of the upsets that have occurred this year in boxing and picture yourself being another one on the list?

M. Lee
Yes, I don’t really pay too much attention to it. Yes, people have been saying that a lot but at the end of the day I’ve just got to be the best me. Those fights and what people say and what anybody else says doesn’t dictate the outcome of this fight when the bell rings and so yes, obviously that’s something to know. That’s the beauty of the sport, it only takes one punch, especially when you have power like mine. It only takes one punch to win something so I like the position I’m in.

Q
How is the training, the preparation been for not just taking on Caleb and also losing the weight and still keeping the power that you had at 175 pounds?

M. Lee
Yes, I mean you just got to get scientific with it and that’s where I get smarter people than me around me and just trusting the team. It’s really about trust. Trusting that the weights I’m pulling are where it needs to be and you’re getting the right carbs, the right amount of fats, the right protein, all that stuff. So I have guys around me that have been doing this their entire lives and understand that. So in terms of preparation, everything gets ramped up for the world title fight. The hunger is increased, the training increases, you’re working harder and smarter so I’m just excited. I’m bringing this excited energy to all these training sessions and that’s what I’ve wanted for a long time. I’ve been top 10 in the world for my past three, four fights so this is what I’ve been waiting for.

Q
Has it been easy shaking off the ring rust during camp with the sparring and the training for this fight?

M. Lee
Yes, it really has been. We knew about this fight a long time ago. This wasn’t one of these things where I got a call four weeks before, six weeks before, so I’ve been training, I’ve been busy and we were just waiting for that phone call. That was really it, the right opportunity. And I’m really grateful my team gave me this opportunity here so yes we’ve had a long time to prepare for this.

Q
In your eyes, what do you think you possess that some of Caleb past opponents don’t have that would allow you to win this fight and become world champion?

M. Lee
Well I’m an entirely different fighter, that’s the beauty of the sport. Every single fight is different. And so it doesn’t matter. I don’t really care what his other opponents have done in or out of the ring. It doesn’t matter. On fight night, the bell rings, it’s just me and him. The best man will win so I never really look into that. I’m just telling you what my opponents say. I’ve been in so many press conferences where opponents either talk shit or they’re dismissive or they’re respectful, all across the board. I’ve beat them all. I plan on doing the exact same thing, so what comes out of his mouth doesn’t concern me whatsoever.

Q
In terms of separation training like you were just talking about, is there anything specifically that you’re changing or doing differently in preparation for Caleb Plant?

M. Lee
Not necessarily. I think, if anything, the weather has gotten better so we’ve done some more beach workouts and whether it’s shadow boxing or strength and conditioning — whatever it is on the beach, always helps. We’ve increased sparring. Listen this is my 22nd fight so we’re not trying to reinvent the wheel here so in a sense, it’s not like we’ve really added too much.

Q
From your surrounding team and the people in your corner, how important have they been in the weeks that you’ve been training and preparing for this fight?

M. Lee
It’s huge. It’s everything. That team is going to war with you and you’ve got to surround yourself with people that believe in the same mission, believe in the same value in anything in life, that’s all of us. We’re a brotherhood. I’ve had the team for a long time and Jamal and Julian are phenomenal and they see things I can’t see and they help me and push me and motivate me and this is a dream come true for the entire team.

Jamal and Julian have been in corners for world title fights already so it’s nothing new to them. Teamwork is everything and most importantly everyone having the same vision which is exactly what we have.

Q
You’ve worked with Ronnie Shields and now Jamal Abdullah. What are some of the benefits or the greatest takeaways that you can take from all three of them?

M. Lee
I’ve learned so much from them. Ronnie I’m still good friends with. I turned pro with Ronnie in Houston, Texas and I was down there with a bunch of world champions so at a very early part of my pro career I got to get in there with some of the world’s best and just learned. Ronnie is phenomenal. Big on the fundamentals and just a calm, cool, collective guy. He’s been in the ring himself and I love Ronnie to death. He’ll be a friend for life.

Q
Why the 13-month layoff between the Hernandez fight and the Plant fight?

M. Lee
If anything we were looking for the right fight. I wasn’t with a promoter and we were looking to sign and we were talking to a lot of different promoters and certain opportunities came up and then like always in boxing, they say it’s going to happen and it falls through. And you can’t believe anything until you sign the contract so obviously after that fight, I took some time off, got back in the gym and then it was a frustrating few months just kind of waiting for that phone call. But we got it, so we’re here.

Q
I would think that you would look at maybe some things there that previous opponents may have done with Plant that you may have seen to take advantage of?

M. Lee
Yes, of course, you watch film. You definitely watch film and you see what guys did well and didn’t do well all of that kind of stuff. I was just saying you don’t really take it to heart because those guys aren’t me. You take it to heart in terms of what you’re looking at or you’re staring at in terms of film study and what not but it’s the mentality of knowing that, yes, it’s good to have those specifics down and a game plan down and certain combinations and a strategy down but at the end of the day those guys aren’t me so that’s what I meant about that.

Q
Is there anyone you’ve faced whether it be sparring or were actually in the ring with that’s most like Caleb and why?

M. Lee
I don’t know, I haven’t fought him yet. No one specific comes to mind in terms of but I’ve been fighting since I was 8-years old. I’ve been pro for 21 fights. I’ve been in and out of pro camps sparring and I’ve sparred and been in the ring with so many different guys so yes, you see a little bit of everything.

Q
Have you had like a standard eight-week training camp or is it extended beyond that?

M. Lee
Yes, extended beyond that but, we didn’t want to burn out so it wasn’t like we were boxing every single day. We were just getting strength and conditioning. Just getting the timing and the rhythm down. I think that really helps as you ease into it because I think too often fighters come into a training camp and they’re 25 pounds overweight or they’re not in shape yet and we had the luxury of coming into camp in shape. So camp wasn’t about getting in shape necessarily and losing weight as much as it was just fine-tuning things and keeping the rhythm.

Q
How instrumental has Notre Dame been in this fight? What have they done to kind of champion you on and do you expect any Notre Dame Legends to appear at your fight?

M. Lee
Yes, absolutely. I’ve had a lot of Notre Dame guys call in when they had their Notre Dame Day and Media Day and support me whether it’s buddies that I have known through the Notre Dame community, guys that played football like Justin Tuck, Golden Tate or just so many amazing people that I’ve met through that community. Notre Dame has been phenomenal. They got a camera crew coming out next week to spread the message to the alumni network so I’m just super appreciative of that community. It’s taught me a lot. It’s really matured me and it’s taught me a lot about giving back too.

They’ve been involved in pretty much all my fights throughout my career involve in different children’s charities and Notre Dame charities and so it’s been exciting to be a part of that community and alumni network.

Q
Have you had any updates on Tavion or if he was planning on being at this fight?

M. Lee
Unfortunately, I don’t think he’ll be able to fly out to Las Vegas but he just had a birthday party that I sponsored and took care of and made sure people were there and I’m still in contact with him and I plan on seeing him after this fight, so he’ll be watching on TV but yes I got to bring him in the ring and he held my belt. And I mean, it’s a beautiful moment when I’ve been able to really connect with a lot of different kids whether it through Family Reach or different children’s charities and if I get a chance to do what I love which is boxing and also give back, it’s such a win-win. And there’s been many different cases of kids like Tavion that I’ve helped along this way.

And it makes me really grateful for where I am and that I have this platform and position to do it. So I’m still involved in (Tavion’s) life. Unfortunately, he got sick again and will be going through another round of chemotherapy so he won’t be able to make the trip up to Vegas which I was bummed on about but when I fly back to Chicago with the belt, I’m excited to let him hold it.

Q
What do you do differently for recovery and to kind of manage the pain throughout camp and actually fight night because of the auto-immune disease?

M. Lee
Yes, it’s known as ankylosing spondylitis. And yes when I got diagnosed it was after almost two years in and out of hospitals and even the fights that I had some layoffs where things were really tough there was a dark hole in my life and I never dealt with those moments and understand and my immune system just shut down and it really took a long time to really diagnose what was going on. And at the end of the day a lot of it came down to my diet, a lot of it came down to my mindset. I started changing the way I was thinking about things and what I was eating and how I was eating it and even getting off of all the medication that doctors had me on was huge.

There’s still days of pain. I still have to manage it but I’m so far from where I was a few years ago and it’s a beautiful thing. I think ultimately I want to show people that whether it’s doctors, whether it’s anybody, obviously you have to trust what doctors say but at the end of the day I think the human will is the strongest thing and so I think it’s beautiful and I’m grateful that I’m in this position to fight the world title. And doctors told me to my face, I’d never box again and here we are July 20. I get to fight in front of millions of people and win a world title. I’m so grateful and happy. I can’t even imagine how happy I’m going to be the next day with that belt, but regardless it seems like yesterday I was sitting in those hospital beds and so here we are. I’m very excited and grateful.

R. Flores
Mike, final comment, as you prepare for your showdown coming up in a few weeks’ time in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, as you collide against Caleb Plant.

M. Lee
Thank you for everybody’s time. Once again, I’m excited. This is an incredible opportunity and I will make the most of it and I think I’m going to shock a lot of people. I know that this is my moment and as moments get bigger and bigger, I perform better and better. So I’ll see everybody July 20 and thank you again.

R. Flores
Now let’s turn our attention over to the man that Mike Lee is going to be standing across the ring from. First of al,l we’re going to acknowledge when I mention it’s a family affair, it is certainly a family affair with Caleb Plant as well. His father Richie Plant, he’s his co-trainer. His lead trainer is Justin Gamber, who is constantly immersing himself in studying the sport of boxing and learning about the history and working on different methods that will benefit Caleb. Also Larry Wade who is a sensational and a world class strength and conditioning coach.

Eighteen bouts, 18 victories, 10 of those coming by way of knockout. Just 26 years of age, originally from Nashville, Tennessee and now residing and training in Las Vegas, Nevada. He has been undefeated since turning professional back in 2014 and after the world title in January where he knocked down Jose Uzcategui twice in round two on his way to a unanimous decision. I have had the very good fortune of getting to know Caleb Plant for the past several years and what I could tell you about Caleb Plant is that in my opinion he is so focused, so determined and the thing about Caleb Plant is when he says something, he follows through and it becomes a reality.

He knew years ago he was going to be a world champion. The determination on Caleb Plant is second to none. So ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, please welcome the reigning and defending IBF Super Middleweight Champion of the World, Caleb “Sweethands” Plant. Caleb, if you have opening comments then give us an idea of how training camp has been going. You look terrific in videos that we see but your initial thoughts.

C. Plant
I just want to thank all you guys for hopping on this call with us. Really appreciate all the media. This is how people know how we’re doing and what we’re doing and it gets us to the rest of the world so I really appreciate you guys.

I want to thank my whole team and FOX, a beautiful platform that we’ll be performing on July 20. Camp is sensational. It’s literally the best camp I ever had. I’m sure you guys get on the phone with a lot of fighters and they say that. But this camp, I literally became a new monster and that’s exactly what you guys want to see July 20.

Q
Is being on this type of stage going to add any extra motivation to go out and have the best performance of your career?

C. Plant
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.

Q
From your perspective have there been any change of mentality approaching a fight being the champion compared to being the challenger?

C. Plant
Absolutely not. If he thinks that I’m not gunning for him and 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.

Q
With winning the IBF title being a goal, is it safe to assume that the goal is to unify the division and win the other World Titles at 168 pounds?

C. Plant
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.

Q
Do you feel validated in a way as a fighter? Has your confidence increased, do you feel stronger as a fighter now knowing that you can beat a fighter at that top level?

C. Plant
I think it’d be hard to not be more confident after winning a world title and not just one that was an easy one to knock out of the park. Jose was considered the bogey man of the division, someone nobody wanted to fight. I came in after a year layoff, broke hand, hand surgery, no tune-up fight and I knew I could get the job done. But I don’t feel validated in a sense of what I’ve accomplished. I’m happy but I’m not content, so as I said, I’m gunning for him July 20. I’m focused, I’m zoned in but at the same time I’m definitely even more confident than I was before.

Q
Can you describe how you rate him in terms of other opponents you’ve faced? How would you compare him to some of the fighters that you have fought as you were coming up as a competitor?

C. Plant
I respect everybody as a man but if somebody wants me to respect their fighting skills then they got to make me do that. Just like my past opponents, they’ve respected me as a man but they didn’t think that I’d be able to get the job done and if I wanted them to respect my fighting skills then I had to do it when the bell rang. I’m not looking for validation from him and I’m sure hoping he is not looking for it from me because he is not going to get it unless he can maybe do it in the ring.

So as far as where I ranked with other fighters, I’m pretty sure we all agree that he’s not, he hasn’t accomplished or done some of the things that some of the other guys I fought have, but at the same time, he’s a different fighter himself, he’s a different guy. So as I’ve said before I’m taking him just as serious as I’ve taken any of these other guys. I’ve worked harder this training camp than I have in any other training camp in my entire life and I’m telling you, July 20 when the bell rings, you guys are going to see a difference. You guys are going to see a new Caleb Plant.

Q
Do you feel any added pressure not inside the ring but outside the ring character-wise upholding the responsibility of that title?

C. Plant
I’ve always tried to carry myself as a champion, talk as a champion and train as a champion. I’m not a grown man, I’m a growing man. So I’m going to continue to become better in the ring. I’m going to continue to become a better man outside the ring, but thus far I think I’ve done a good job of handling that responsibility. I think if I just continue to follow what I’ve done, I think I’ll be on the right path.

Q
Do you feel any animosity towards Lee personally or what are some of your perspectives on him as a person?

C. Plant
I think that Mike Lee is not someone who tells the whole truth. I have the inside scoop on a couple of different things and so I don’t know. But I have the same amount of respect for him as anybody else who I step in the ring with, which is none. If you want me to respect your fighting skills, then you’ve got to make me do that. I’m not just going to give you the respect that you want. July 20, when the bell rings, if he wants me to respect anything in his arsenal, then he’s got to make me do that because he’s not getting it.

To me, boxing is life or death. That’s it. So I don’t care about anybody in his village, I don’t care who lives there, I’m coming to burn it down. So unless he’s looking to do the same thing with me, it’s either going to be a long night or a short night.

On July 20 just tune in and something my father has taught me is the truth belongs to everybody and lies belongs to individuals. I’m going to give you the truth July 20.

Q
What were some of the things discussed from the mics between you two when they weren’t able to pick those comments up?

C. Plant
I don’t know. I honestly couldn’t even remember to tell you. I told him to sit down and he sat down so I turned the cameras and stood there with my belt. So but none of that is really important. What’s important is when we let our hands fly so. That’s all I care about.

Q
Listen, does this guy really know what he’s getting into? The reason why I ask this is one, he’s face off – it’s the first guys face in 13 months. Two, he’s dropping down in weight. Three, he’s fighting a World Champion. Does he really know what he’s getting into?

C. Plant
No, he doesn’t but that’s okay. It’s not my job. It’s none of our jobs to tell him otherwise. I’m going to let these hands do the talking on July 20, but no, he’s delusional. He’s never faced anybody like me. He’s never even come close. He just told you guys that he’s not even getting the sparring of anybody who even looks like me. How many people do you think I can spar that fights like Mike Lee? How many people do you think he can spare that look like me? And he answered it for you. I don’t even have to tell you. So no, he has no idea but that’s okay.

He’s going to learn a lesson July 20 one that he can’t be taught. One that can only be taught by me, so. I don’t like him that much. I don’t like anybody who’s in the ring with me. I don’t want to be friends. I don’t care about what they’ve got going on. To me, boxing is life or death so if I don’t win, I don’t get to go home because I won’t have a home.

Q
I don’t think you’ve ever had a pro fight in Nashville, have you? Would you like to do that at some point and bring professional boxing into Nashville, a big-ticket fight?

C. Plant
That’s something that I have not gotten to do yet but that’s something that we’re really looking forward to and we’re close to getting it done. When they approached me with this opportunity to fight here at MGM Grand, we were talking about a couple different spots one of them being Nashville, but I really loved this opportunity and they knew that I was the man for the job to handle it in fashion. But definitely I want to bring a big fight to Nashville at the big city. I think Jeff Lacy and Jermain Taylor, they fought in Nashville. There have been a couple of other big fights in Nashville but I think that I could be the one to make it a regular thing. So first thing is first, we’ll handle business July 20 and we’ll go from there, but that’s something definitely that we’re looking forward to in the future.

Q
Do you still feel that you represent Nashville as a fighter? Is that still an important part of your identity?

C. Plant
Nashville, that’s who I am. I may reside in Las Vegas, but Tennessee, that’s what made me. Ashland City, Nashville — those are the places that made me. I live in Vegas like I said, but Nashville is always home that’s the only important part of me and it always will be.

Q
How therapeutic has it been to go back in the ring and train and prepare yourself for such a big event here coming down here in a couple of weeks?

C. Plant
Boxing has always been like a sanctuary for me. It’s been a place that I could go and be somebody. I’ve said this in other interviews that as a kid I was somebody that nobody would want to be living in a place coming from a place where nobody would want to be in. So when I got to go to the gym, then I got to be somebody that everybody wanted to be. Even at a young age, grown men looking up to me. “Oohing” and “Ahhing” and I kind of got to be a superstar. And once I got back out of those doors I had to go back to being that kid that nobody wanted to be. And so that just kind of became like addicting. it became like an addiction for me to want to be there, want to be in the gym, not go home and just be a gym rat.

Through everything that came and left in my life, through all the things that I’ve lost, through all the things I’ve been deprived of or haven’t had, boxing has always stood by my side and boxing has always been there for me through thick and thin. Boxing is like a woman. If you treat her right and you do good by her, then she’ll stand by you and she’ll do right by you. But she’s a jealous woman as well and the difference between me and my opponent is I haven’t glanced off of her. I haven’t endeavored into other things. I haven’t. Fear not the man who’s thrown 10,000 kicks once but fear the man who’s thrown one kick 10,000 times. So that’s what I’ve done.

Q
What should they be anticipating when they see you in action here against Mike Lee for your championship? What do you want to showcase that new audience of fans who may not be too familiar with what you do or what you bring to the table?

C. Plant
They can expect fireworks. They can expect an entertaining person, an entertaining fighter and Mike Lee won’t make it out the final bell so either he’ll bail out before the final bell or I’ll bail him out myself but, either the way the white flag is coming out. I’ll wave it for him so it’s going to be one or the other.

R. Flores
Do you have any final words as you prepare to get back into training?

C. Plant
Again, I’m encouraging everyone to tune in. It’s going to be a great night of fighting. It’s going to be a spectacular. I’ll be defending my world title in a spectacular fashion, so this is something you guys aren’t going to want to miss, I can promise you.

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