Big Fight Preview: Canelo vs Jacobs
By Rachel Aylett
Although Cinco de Mayo (5th May) is purely a Mexican celebration of, well, everything Mexican, it is looked forward to with glee by boxing fans as it inevitably brings us a showcase of the biggest star in the sport. Previously, for many years it was Floyd Mayweather who always fought on or around the date. Now, far more appropriately, it is Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, surely already one of the greatest of Mexican idols.
This year, actually on Saturday 4th, Canelo, 51-1-2 (35 kos), takes on one of his main rivals in the middleweight division, Daniel Jacobs. The fight takes place in the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas and is a co-promotion between Golden Boy and Matchroom.
Alvarez currenly holds the WBC and WBA belts, whilst Jacobs, 35-2 (23), brings the IBF trinket to the party. This is a serious unification bout therefore, with only the WBO belt, currently held by Demetrius Andrade, not on the line. Yet, are any of these three really the best middleweight in the world? Of course, the Gennady Golovkin issue will always raise its head whilst he is still active.
Barely a soul alive believes that Alvarez won both of his fights with Golovkin. Not too many think he even won one of them! Despite that, although the verdict in their second fight last September was disputed, Alvarez came out of it with real credit and respect. There were times in the middle rounds of that fight where it seemed Golovkin might just be overwhelmed, such was the intensity of the pressure that Canelo was bringing. I recall GGG sitting on his stool at the end of the fifth round almost gasping for breath. But he did come back and, for this writer and many others, should have got the verdict.
Jacobs himself has had a devilishly close fight with Golovkin. In March 2017, Jacobs also fought a unification match with the fearsome Kazakh. On this occasion Golovkin did get the verdict, but many viewers saw Jacobs edge a close fight. My scorecard had Golovkin just getting home by one point, but Danny put himself firmly on the map here. With his well-documented battle with cancer also on his resume, Canelo will hold no fears for Jacobs.
Will the real Danny Jacobs stand up? Since his wafer-thin loss to Golovkin, Jacobs has had three 12-round points victories, the last of which, against Ukrainian Sergey Derevyanchenko, brought him the vacant IBF belt. That fight, in October of last year, was a very close call for Jacobs and he only came through via split decision. In his fight immediately prior to that, Jacobs also had a very tough fight with Pole Maciej Sulecki. Although gaining a warranted unanimous decision in this fight, Jacobs found himself being outboxed in some of the middle rounds.
So is the real Danny Jacobs the man who took Golovkin to the wire, or more recently the man who struggled to beat two tough but not elite opponents? After the Sulecki fight last April, I questioned in my notes whether Jacobs was slightly on the slide. In the Derevyanchenko fight, he was outpunched by the Ukrainian in wildy exciting exchanges in the last three rounds, just hanging on to victory due to the early lead he had built. If Jacobs is indeed on the wane, Alvarez will most definitely find him out.
As for Canelo, with only his sojourn up to the super-middleweight division bringing an easy victory over Rocky Fielding on his record post-GGG, is it possible that those two brutal fights with Golovkin will have taken something out of him? Despite having already fought so many of the great and the good in his career, Canelo is still only 28 and I think this can be discounted. In fact, I can quite easily see him being at the top of the sport for many years to come.
This match is most welcome, as 2019 has been a real dud so far for boxing fans. It is probably the best match of the year so far, with only Spence-Garcia and Rungvisai-Estrada last week, bringing similar pre-fight expectations. Both of those fights fizzled out and were disappointingly one-sided. Will this one live up to the expected excitement?
With his high-ratio knockout record Jacobs can obviously punch. However, he has not scored a stoppage for coming up to three years. Surely, therefore, he will have to look to utilise his outstanding jab and good movement to keep Alvarez at bay. It’s true that quality boxers have given Canelo nightmares before, with Mayweather, Trout, Lara and even Khan for a few rounds, making the Mexican look very ordinary. One just has the feeling though that Alvarez will have grown from the Golovkin encounters and that his inexorable march towards boxing greatness will continue on Saturday. Alvarez on points, at around 116-112.
The chief support on Saturday features London southpaw, super-middleweight John Ryder, 27-4 (15 kos), taking on Australian Bilal Akkawy, 20-0-1 (16 kos), for the interim WBA belt. After several major disappointments in his career, things finally turned around for Islington’s Ryder in October 2017 when he stopped touted Dane Patrick Nielsen in five rounds. He followed this up last year with two outstanding stoppage wins over Jamie Cox and Russian Andrey Sirotkin to catapult himself into the world rankings.
Prior to that it had seemed that he was just going to come up short, with three wafer-thin points losses on his record to Billy Joe Saunders, Jack Arnfield and Rocky Fielding. John could reasonably say that he was unlucky in the latter two matches and it seemed as though he couldn’t catch a break. He has turned his career around though and has a further chance on Saturday on a massive stage.
Australian Akkawy turned pro in June 2011 so to say that his career is slow-burning is an understatement. He went under the radar in his homeland but started challenging for regional alphabet belts in 2016. Perhaps his most notable scalp during this period came against Welshman Kerry Hope, who had to retire after seven rounds with a broken jaw. His Australian campaign culminated last February with a virtual shut-out decision over former WBA champion Giovanni De Carolis.
Akkawy’s career took off shortly after that victory, when he was invited to North America by Canelo’s trainer Eddy Reynoso, to spar with the great one and to join his camp. Three victories later (including an appearance on Canelo’s undercard at Madison Square Garden in December) and here we are. This has been a busy year for Australians on the world stage so far, with Irish-Aussies Dennis Hogan and TJ Doheny just coming up short in big fights in recent weeks. Although Ryder is a slight favourite at 2/5, a lot of late money is going on Akkawy and he might just get the victory via disputed decision.
Golden Boy also features Joseph Diaz, Vergil Ortiz Jr., Sadam Ali and Lamont Roach on this card and none of them have soft touch opponents. This is probably the best line-up of 2019 so far. Let’s hope it provides the thrills and excitement we have been lacking so far this year.