The biggest fight of 2019 (so far) is tonight, in Las Vegas. It features the biggest name in boxing, Canelo Alvarez, who recently signed the richest contract in the history of sports with DAZN, a European subscription-based organization. Alvarez, 51-1-2, will put his middleweight titles on the line against Danny Jacobs, 35-2, who holds the IBF belt, so the fight will give us a unified middleweight champion.
Alvarez is the betting favorite and deserves to be, but Jacobs is one of the world’s top boxers. They have a common opponent in GGG, Gennady Golovkin. Alvarez lost to GGG in their first bout, but the fight was ludicrously scored a draw. He narrowly outpointed GGG last year. GGG outpointed Jacobs in 2017 in a superb fight that some thought Jacobs won.
Alvarez is Mexico’s most popular citizen. Jacobs is from Brooklyn. Almost miraculously, he is a cancer survivor. CBS Sports lists Jacobs’ 12th-round TKO of Minnesota’s Caleb Truax in 2015 as one of his notable wins. I happened to be in Chicago the night of that fight, and Truax is a family friend. So I slipped away from a dinner where a diversity consultant was about to give a speech and met a friend of my son at a Chicago arena to watch the fight. (Slight irony–the diversity speaker addressed a monocultural law firm audience. If you ever want to see real diversity, attend a live fight card.) I’ve seen some good fighters live, but Danny Jacobs is the best. He has a gear that few fighters possess.
Jacobs is also a little bigger than Alvarez–about as big as a middleweight can get. He has a two-inch height advantage and a 2.5 inch reach edge. Jacobs’ size has led to an unusual provision in the contract for the fight: neither boxer can weigh more than 170 pounds a specified number of hours after the weigh-in.
Tonight’s fight should be close. I expect it to go the distance. Neither fighter possesses a notable knockout punch (although Alvarez has scored 35 knockouts and Jacobs 29), and there are no tougher fighters in the sport. Both are terrifically skilled, although I think Alvarez’s defensive talent is superior. If the fight is close, Alvarez should have the edge with the judges. Two reasons: 1) fight judges love Alvarez’s skill set, and 2) he is in just the second bout of his 11-fight, $365 million deal with DAZN. If the fight is close, I think he will get the benefit of the doubt.
If you can tune in, I recommend it. There are no two fighters more certain to give fans an exciting match.
UPDATE: It was a very good fight, but not a classic. Neither fighter was knocked down, and neither was ever in trouble. Alvarez scored a unanimous decision, with two judges scoring the fight 7-5 and the third 8-4. I didn’t attempt to score the fight, but 8-4 seems more in line with the Compubox numbers and the flow of the fight.
At 28, Alvarez is a great fighter at the peak of his talents. His defensive skills, while not quite at the level of Floyd Mayweather, make him hard to outpoint. With Jacobs beaten and Golovkin on the downhill slope of his career, who can challenge him? Maybe Andrate or one of the younger generation, like Jermall Charlo. Only–wait!–Charlo at 28 is the same age as Alvarez. It may be that, like Mayweather, it will take Father Time to unseat Canelo Alvarez.
ONE MORE THING: Gennady Golovkin was in the crowd, looking youthful and cherubic as always. After the fight he tweeted:
I saw no emotions, nothing special today. It was a nice sparring match. Boring. They should have given more to the fans.
GGG can’t be blamed for thinking that his two fights with Alvarez generated better action than last night’s.