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'I promised her': Boxer Caleb Plant wins world title four years after burying his baby daughter

Caleb Plant is undefeated in the ring, but suffered a grave loss en route to his crowning moment last night.

Caleb Plant is overcome with emotion as he's crowned IBF World super-middleweight champion.
Caleb Plant is overcome with emotion as he's crowned IBF World super-middleweight champion.

AMERICAN SUPER-MIDDLEWEIGHT CALEB Plant had quite the Sunday evening.

After nearly a year out of the ring, the Nashville native upset Venezuelan badman Jose Uzcategui at Los Angeles’ Microsoft Theater to claim the IBF world title at 168 pounds.

Plant scored two knockdowns en route to a unanimous-decision victory over ‘Bolivita’, defusing most of the feared puncher’s work with clever footwork and head movement while peppering the South American where opportunities presented themselves.

In his dressing room post-fight, it was Plant who took a knee: ‘Sweethands’ proposed to his sweetheart, an employee of promotional outfit Premier Boxing Champions and Fox Sports on whose card Plant had achieved his life’s dream. She said yes.

Plant’s purse of $150,000 might go some way toward paying for the wedding, but with a world-title belt now slung over his shoulder, bigger nights, fights and paydays lie on the horizon.

The six-foot-one stylist was born into poverty so severe that when he was brought home from hospital as a baby, he was placed in a dresser drawer which his father pulled out and lined with blankets. His parents couldn’t afford a crib.

Plant and his family lived in a two-bedroom trailer in Ashland City, a town situated some 40 kilometres from Nashville. He remained on the straight and narrow through kickboxing, firstly, and later boxing, but lost numerous friends to drink, drugs and crime; some of them imprisoned, some of them worse off.

These losses, though, would pale in comparison with what was to follow.

Plant became a father at 19. His daughter, Alia, was born with brain damage and fell gravely ill — at one stage in her young life suffering from roughly 200 seizures per day, feeding through a tube and sleeping with a heart monitor and oxygen per an interview with Plant in The Tenessean. She took eight types of medication twice a day, and Plant brought her to doctor’s appointments almost daily.

After she was placed on life support for a sixth time, however, Plant made the most difficult decision imaginable. Determining that his daughter had fought enough in her 19 months to last several lifetimes, he requested that she be taken off life support.

Aria passed away at 10:55am on 29 January 2015.

Just under four years later, Plant stood in the ring holding the IBF World super-middleweight title, the words ‘RIP Aria’ adorning the left leg of his black trunks, tears having cut loose from the corners of his eyes.

“Man… I’ve worked my whole entire life for this,” Plant said at centre-ring. “17 years straight.

I buried my daughter in the process of trying to get this belt. I promised her that I would become a world champion and that I would bring her this title, and that’s exactly what I’m going to go back to Tennessee and do!

Speaking afterwards, a conspicuously emotional Plant told reporters:

I come from the very bottom. I showed the world that no matter where you from, no matter what you go through, no matter what you’re born into — that you’re not bound or shackled to that; that you can go through anything and come out the other side.

“I told y’all that I’ve taken many defeats”, Plant added, “but not once have I ever been defeated. No matter what’s tossed my way, I always come out the other side: I don’t fold, bend or break for anybody or anything.”

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TJ Doheny to face another Japanese foe in first world-title defence at Madison Square Garden

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