Unified middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez and IBF middleweight world titleholder Daniel Jacobs meet Saturday in a highly anticipated unification bout at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Who has the edge? Let’s break down one of boxing’s most significant fights of 2019.
The first Canelo-Gennady Golovkin fight ended in a controversial draw — when most thought Golovkin did enough to win — but Alvarez showed he had the tactical brain to alter the outcome the second time around.
Golovkin doesn’t take a step back often, but Canelo was the aggressor in their rematch in September, which earned him a tight majority-decision victory to win the WBA and WBC world middleweight titles.
Alvarez (51-1-2, 35 KOs), 28, showed he can adapt, and Jacobs’ physical attributes clearly do not concern him.
“He [Jacobs] is a fighter who obviously will try to use his height and his reach, and that’s natural and normal,” Alvarez said. “But I’m a fighter that knows how to adapt, and I am very versatile. I have to get inside and do my fight.”
However, Jacobs (35-2, 29 KOs), 32, of Brooklyn, New York, is a different fighter than Golovkin, and Canelo will have to find another solution if he is not allowed to get inside. Jacobs has the advantage in height (3.5 inches) and reach (2.5 inches) and throws long jabs that will make it difficult for Canelo to attack and punch on the inside like he did against Golovkin in the rematch.
In Jacobs’ last fight, against Ukraine’s Sergiy Derevyanchenko, he switched to southpaw on occasion and may do so again. Jacobs floored Derevyanchenko in the first round of a split-decision win for the vacant IBF middleweight belt in October.
The pressure is on Canelo to show something different, or risk being outboxed on the outside — just as he was against Floyd Mayweather in his only professional defeat in 2013.
Alvarez has never been stopped, and he will not be afraid to turn this fight into a brawl, rather than allowing Jacobs to dictate behind his jab, which would allow him to take advantage of his physical attributes.
Canelo will be buoyed by the knowledge that he withstood the blows of one of boxing’s biggest punchers in Golovkin over 24 rounds in two fights.
Jacobs also showed he can take GGG’s power. Two years ago, Jacobs recovered from a knockdown to give Golovkin a close fight, losing a close decision in becoming the first opponent to take the then-undisputed champion 12 rounds. It ended a 23-fight knockout streak by Golovkin.
In contrast, Jacobs played the part of the aggressor against Derevyanchenko his last time out.
Jacobs believes his strength will be a problem for Canelo.
“I’ll definitely be one of the strongest guys he’s fought, and GGG’s not as strong as me,” Jacobs said. “I pose a different threat. I’m longer, I’m rangier.”
But can Jacobs resist Canelo’s punches when he does locate Jacobs’ body? Canelo relishes attacks to the body and will continue to target that area throughout the fight. If Alvarez does pull off the knockout, it could be by a body shot that comes when he’s fighting on the inside.
Canelo’s previous opponent, England’s Rocky Fielding, is not on the same level as Jacobs, but the Mexican fighter still comfortably beat a man who’s taller (by 4 inches) and has a 4.5-inch reach advantage.
Alvarez became a three-division world champion by stopping Fielding in three rounds to take the WBA “regular” super middleweight crown in December. Canelo closed the distance and attacked the body, chopping down Fielding three times.
Size won’t matter if Canelo can close the distance again and find a way through Jacobs’ jab to land the uppercuts and body shots that served him so well against Golovkin — but it’s still a hurdle he’ll have to clear to win this fight.
Jacobs has impressive hand speed, but it’s his quick footwork that could be a deciding factor in this fight — and he feels it’s an advantage he can exploit.
Jacobs pounces on fighters once he has them in trouble, just as he closed down Sergio Mora in a seventh-round win in 2017, and this could be something we see again if he is able to wobble Canelo.
“Canelo has great upper-body and head movement, but his legs and his knees don’t hold up well,” Jacobs said. “He doesn’t cut the ring off well like Sergiy Derevyanchenko or Golovkin. We look at things like that. I’m one of the longest fighters that he’s faced, too, and I’m so fast, so I think I can use all that to my advantage.”
Jacobs has worked on his footwork and cutting off the ring and says he will be faster with his hands and feet than he has shown in previous fights. That will cause serious problems for Canelo, if he is sluggish on his feet and does not show enough movement to close the distance so he can get inside to fight at close range.
Despite being four years younger, Canelo is more experienced in big fights and has better names on his record, including Golovkin, Miguel Cotto and Shane Mosley. He also fought the best of his era, Mayweather, six years ago.
Alvarez has experience winning big fights, but Jacobs has defeated three previously unbeaten boxers — Derevyanchenko, Maciej Sulecki and Luis Arias — on the spin.
Jacobs looked sharp against Derevyanchenko, and his accuracy was telling; he landed 31 percent of his punches compared to 24 percent from Derevyanchenko, according to CompuBox statistics.
Jacobs, who previously held a secondary world title (WBA “regular”) from 2014-17, impressively used his jab to control Derevyanchenko, who tried to get inside and attack the body, just as Canelo is expected to do.
But using GGG as the barometer, Canelo landed more punches against Golovkin than Jacobs was able to, and with more accuracy.