It wasn’t exactly action-packed or wildly entertaining, but, in his annual Cinco de Mayo weekend appearance, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez got the job done, defeating Daniel “The Miracle Man” Jacobs by unanimous decision at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas and adding another title belt to his growing collection. There are those who resent Canelo for different reasons, but it’s difficult to argue with success. Nor can anyone deny the skill which the Mexican put on display for fight fans and which has allowed him to become, currently, the biggest star in boxing.
Despite the animosity expressed during the weigh-in, which saw some pushing and shoving, emotions had calmed by the time the opening bell rang as Canelo and Jacobs engaged in a high-level chess match through much of the first half of the fight. Canelo, who was on the receiving end of the jab for much of the 24 rounds he fought against Gennady “GGG” Golovkin, utilized his own jab effectively in the early rounds, making frequent use of it to offset Jacobs’s offense. Jacobs, who chose to neglect the IBF 10-pound rehydration clause and forfeit the IBF title and $1 million of his $2.5 million dollar purse, chose to fight much of the first half of the fight on the back-foot, seemingly not intent on utilizing the size advantage that he had invested nearly half his purse in.
In the sixth round, Jacobs made a concerted effort to fight out of the southpaw stance, a look that he used against Golovkin with mixed results. While Jacobs wasn’t able to enjoy consistent success in the southpaw stance against Canelo, he was able to land hard left hooks in the seventh and ninth to get Alvarez’s attention. However, it was out of the orthodox stance that Jacobs really brought the fight to Canelo in round eight as the two went at it in the proverbial phone-booth, with Jacobs forcing Canelo to the ropes in spurts. Canelo, to his credit, utilized clever head movement throughout the fight, forcing Jacobs to miss 518 out of 649 total punches, many of which were launched in the pocket.
Jacobs appeared to be behind going into the championship rounds, and responded by carrying the fight to Canelo, targeting the head and body in an effort to make up for many of the rounds he gave away early on. While the aggressive posture gave Canelo opportunities to display his brilliant counter-punching ability, Jacobs was able to rough Alvarez up and connect with several notable body shots. If Jacobs was to do it all over again, a more concerted effort on the front foot with focus on the body may have led to more success, but it’s hard to imagine Canelo’s resourcefulness not leading him to victory. The scores of 115-113 (twice) and 116-112 reflected close competition, but it appeared to most that Canelo was the clear winner of the fight.
Canelo now has three of the four titles at 160, with only the WBO title yet to be annexed. The WBO champion Demetrius “Boo Boo” Andrade was seated at ringside during the fight, and following the victory Canelo stated that he wanted to unify the division against “Boo Boo” in his next fight. Andrade is set to defend his title against Maciej Sulecki later this year, and a victory would certainly put himself in contention for a showdown against Andrade. However, Eddie Hearn stated after the fight that “the fight to make in boxing” is a third clash with Golovkin later this year.
Interestingly, Canelo did not appear eager to give his Kazakh rival a third fight to complete a trilogy, perhaps because Golovkin does not hold a title, and Canelo is clearly interested in unifying the division. Canelo vs Golovkin III in September would be agreeable to just about any fight fan, but I don’t believe there will be much of an outcry if Canelo unifies the middleweight division against Andrade first, as that fight carries plenty of risk in its own right. Andrade is an unbeaten southpaw champion who appears to be peaking and would present different challenges to Alvarez than a now 37-year-old Golovkin. The boxing world will have to wait and see which path Golden Boy and Canelo choose for his annual September appearance, but if it’s between Andrade and Golovkin, it’s hard to imagine that fans will be disappointed either way.
On the undercard, we saw unbeaten Golden Boy prospect Vergil Ortiz Jr. become the first to stop veteran former title challenger Mauricio Herrera in round three. Landing a right hand that short-circuited Herrera and knocked him out standing up, Ortiz made a pronounced statement to the junior-welterweight and welterweight divisions as he improved to 13-0, all by KO.
Former 126-lb title challenger Joseph “JoJo” Diaz Jr. scored an impressive 7th round stoppage of Freddy Fonseca, dominating from the opening bell and calling out 130-lb title holder Tevin Farmer following the fight. Diaz, now campaigning at 130 after struggles to make 126, stated in the post fight press conference that he really wanted the Farmer fight on this card rather than Fonseca. Farmer stated before the fight that he did not consider Diaz to be deserving of a title shot yet, and was offended by the level of disrespect coming from “JoJo” in the buildup.
Also on the undercard, Lamont Roach Jr. scored a hard-fought unanimous decision over veteran Jonathan Oquendo after 10 rounds of gritty action. The stronger Oquendo brought the fight from the start, and Roach had to dig deep to stave off the former title challenger and pull out a close decision. Roach came into the fight ranked number two by the WBO at 130, right behind fellow Golden Boy promoted Ryan Garcia. It remains to be seen how Golden Boy proceeds with Roach, who faced plenty of adversity in his close, unanimous decision victory. — Alden Chodash