LAS VEGAS, Nevada, July 19, 2019 – Muhammad Ali famously said, “It ain’t bragging if you can back it up.” Four men promised victory in their fights on Saturday night’s Fox PBC Fight Night card from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Two will be proven liars by the end of the evening. FOX PBC Fight Night on FOX and FOX Deportes begins at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT. These fights are free for all viewers with access to the regular Fox networks.
No love lost between Plant and Lee
There is no love lost between IBF super middleweight champion Caleb “Sweethands” Plant (18-0. 10 KOs) and “Irish” Mike Lee (21-0, 11 KOs). The pair traded barbs at Thursday’s final pre-fight news conference to the delight of their camps. Don’t call this simple trash talk. The dislike between this pair is genuine.
Lee, the Notre Dame grad, corporate spokesperson, and motivational speaker outside the ring, said he’s having fun, and fights best when he’s enjoying himself. Initially, he brushed the insults off. “The trash talking goes back and forth, that’s been as old as time. Nothing he’s saying is new. It’s all recycled stuff he’s heard on TV or heard in movies. It’s nothing new to me. It doesn’t even bother me. I laugh at it,” said Lee.
Plant said he doesn’t waste his time on distractions like Lee; he’s focused solely on boxing. “”There’s so much more to obtain, there’s so much more that I’m after. I am not at the peak of the mountain I feel like by winning the world title I just got to the base of the mountain. The goal is to be the first undisputed middleweight champion of the world.
“There are zoo lions and there are jungle lions, and the zoo lion will look at the jungle lion and think they are the same thing … Until it’s time to eat or be eaten.” Plant then asked Lee why he wouldn’t participate in a media event with him, accusing Lee of not wanting to face him.
“I keep grinding because if you don’t you will fail. With every decision you can take two roads. You can take the wrong one or the right one. Sometimes there are gray areas but when it comes to your question, there’s no gray areas, it’s either you work or you don’t eat. There isn’t a back-up plan for me,” said Plant, insinuating yet again that Lee’s other pursuits give him a back door exit if the going gets tough.
Sticking with the food theme, Lee is dropping down from light heavyweight to super middleweight for the bout, and he said he’s done so with ease. “You saw us standing next to each other. You saw how skinny and little he looked and how big I looked. We are going to get down to 168 the exact time we have to and then we are going to hydrate and come back up.
“You have seen me in media workouts. You see me working out. Here we are a few days away from weigh-in and I don’t look depleted at all. I am going to step on that scale with no worries and come fight night he is going to feel why I am a 175-pound fighter. Maybe I should have fought at 168 sooner because 175 wasn’t difficult and 168 isn’t too difficult right now. I think once I win this belt I will be happy to defend it at 168,” said Lee.
Plant asked his opponent how much he weighed Thursday, 24 hours prior to weigh-in. Lee snapped, “205,” well over the 168-pound limit. Plant said, “A lot of guys in the business are starving themselves to make weight but we don’t believe in that. You stay in shape all year and you do your job all year. This is not a seasonal sport. This is a lifestyle. If you aren’t going to make it a lifestyle, then don’t even get into it,” insinuating Lee’s various pursuits outside boxing constitute less of a commitment to the sport.
Lee said he’d love to get into a firefight with Plant. “I hope he exchanges. I have the power, speed and boxing ability. Whether I end it early or late, I am going to be there and on him. I hope he comes forward and exchanges. I would love that.
“Anything Plant says doesn’t concern me. You can see my speed, my power, my strength and my mindset. That’s what wins fights. So I’m here to win and take that belt and hear ‘and the new!’
“Taking the title away from me is a tall order. I know what I am willing and prepared to do to keep that title, I don’t know if there’s too many other guys in this sport who are willing to do the same thing,” said Plant.
Fight prediction: Plant prevails by decision
Expect an offensive driven fight that goes the distance. Neither Plant or Lee are among the knockout artists in their divisions. Lee’s last stoppage was in 2017; Plant hasn’t scored a knockout since he was fighting six rounds in 2015. Plant has fought the better opposition, looking strong against Jose Uzcategui and knocking him down twice on the way to winning the IBF title in January by a lopsided unanimous decision.
Lee has spent his entire career at light heavyweight, never dipping below 170 pounds on the scale. If he makes weight, retains any power and rehydrates up to be the bigger man in the ring, he’ll have an advantage. But will he tire in later rounds? Can Plant grind Lee down to roll up rounds in the second half of the fight? How much will their true dislike for each other play a factor?
In a tight call, fighting in his new hometown and as the promoter’s in-house man, you can’t bet against Plant to keep his title. This is Mike Lee’s best and probably last shot at a title. He needs to make the sense of urgency count.
Showdown of 2016 Olympic heavyweights: Ajagba vs Demirezen
In the co-main feature on PBC on Fox Sports, unbeaten heavyweight Efe Ajagba of Nigeria now fighting out of Texas (10-0, 8 KOs) reunites with a fellow participant in the 2015 London Olympic games, Ali Eren Demirezen of Turkey (11-0, 10 KOs). A knockout win is a virtual lock in this fight. Both men have been making quick work of their opponents. Ajagba has the better names on his resume. Both men say they took the dangerous fight because it will lead to bigger things.
The two big men were cordial and respectful as they posed for photos and a faceoff, shaking hands at the end. Bubbling under the polite veneer, the pair both expressed their determination to prevail on Saturday.
“Saturday night is going to be show time,” promised Ajagba. “I get to show what I do, because I train very hard. I train two hours a day, sometimes three times a day to get better. There’s no way this guy is going to beat me. I’m going to stop him in round one or two.”
“It is a huge fight for me and I will be the winner,” declared Demirezen. “Efe Ajagba is just another fighter in my way. If I cannot beat Efe Ajagba, then I don’t need to fight anymore.
“I know Efe Ajagba from the 2016 Olympics. The last two or three months I have watched his fights because Ajagba fought someone else from our team, Mike Wallisch. Ajagba is nothing special when you watch him. I fully believe that I will knock him out.”
“My opponent loves to fight. But, I do too,” said Ajagba. “I love to fight and I love to box. When I fight him, I will knock him out. Saturday night I’m going to focus on my head movements and make sure that I throw a lot of punches. Right now, I’m going to show the world what boxing is all about. When I use my head movements, he’s not going to be able to see or hit my face. The moment I move, I throw punches.”
Demirezen brushed it off. “Ajagba has too much pressure on him because everybody expects a lot from him. His opponents have not been very good. Ajagba wants to use me like stairs but I will use him. My final destination is the heavyweight world title.”
Prediction: The Nigerian freight train keeps on running; Ajagba by KO
This fight is scheduled for 10 rounds, but there’s not a chance these men will see the final bell. Ajagba has only been past the second round once. Demirezen has several early knockouts, but he’s also had to go into deeper waters several times to stop lesser opponents. If Demirezen demonstrates the ability to stay of our Ajagba’s way, he may survive a few rounds. But it’s not likely he’ll be able to avoid him for the entire fight. Ajagba has to do the same, but he has a decided height and reach advantage, and he should show some patience and learn how to use it. Should he win as expected, he’ll need those skills agains the top tier talent in the heavyweight division. We see a third round knockout for Ajagba.
FOX PBC Fight Night on FOX and FOX Deportes begins at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT. These fights are free for all viewers with access to the regular Fox networks.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
Please credit “Gayle Falkenthal for Communities Digital News” when quoting from or linking to this story.
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