LAS VEGAS — Canelo Alvarez, boxing’s biggest star, scored one of his biggest wins on Saturday night.
In a performance in which he mixed offensive firepower, boxing skills and sound defense, Alvarez won a unanimous decision over Daniel Jacobs to unify three middleweight world titles — leaving him one shy of the undisputed 160-pound championship — before a wildly pro-Alvarez crowd of 20,203 on Cinco de Mayo weekend at T-Mobile Arena.
Alvarez won by scores of 116-112, 115-113 and 115-113 in the year’s biggest fight so far. ESPN also had Alvarez winning 116-112 in the second fight of his five-year, 11-fight, $365 million deal he signed last fall with the sports streaming service DAZN.
“It was just what we thought. We knew he was going to be a difficult fighter, but thank god we did things the right way, what we were going to do,” Alvarez said through an interpreter. “It was just what we thought because of the style of fight that he brings, but we just did our job.”
Jacobs, who came into the ring with a clear size advantage that was enhanced by the fact he missed weight for a contractual Saturday morning weight check, did not complain about the decision.
“I feel accomplished, l feel great. I have to go back to look at the tapes to see exactly what the judges thought,” Jacobs said. “They said to me [in the corner] that I was up, so I was still pushing forward because I wanted to finish strong. He’s a tremendous champion, and I tip my hat to him. I gave my all out there. You’ll see Daniel Jacobs bigger and better next time.”
The boxers made weight at Friday’s official weigh-in, Alvarez at 159.5 and Jacobs at 160, but they had a contractual clause that called for neither man to be over 170 pounds at the morning weight check or they would face financial penalties of $250,000 per pound over. While Alvarez checked in at 169 pounds, Jacobs was 173.6 pounds, meaning a $1 million fine of his more than $10 million guarantee.
“I didn’t feel any different. I’m just a naturally big middleweight,” Jacobs said. “I made the sacrifice of coming in 173 and paying a hefty fine for it, but end of the day, I made sacrifices. I got the short end of the stick, but to my fans, to all my [cancer] survivors out there who appreciate me and my story, for what I represent, I thank you. The journey is not over. I continue to strive for success and be the best I can be.”
Jacobs nearly died from a rare form of bone cancer in 2011 and was told he would never fight again; he not only returned, but he became one of the world’s best middleweights.
Jacobs’ size advantage was not an issue for Alvarez (52-1-2, 35 KOs), 28, of Mexico, who was making the first defense of the two belts he won from Gennady Golovkin by majority decision in September.
After Alvarez beat Golovkin, he went to super middleweight to face an overmatched Rocky Fielding in December and knocked Fielding out in the third round to win a secondary world title. But Alvarez always intended to return to middleweight, which he did to face Jacobs in the much-anticipated fight.
Alvarez, who earned $35 million with the win Saturday, dominated in the CompuBox punch statistics, landing 188 of 466 shots (40 percent); Jacobs landed 131 of 649 (20 percent).
The bout began slowly, with Alvarez coming forward and trying to make the fight, while Jacobs (35-3, 29 KOs), 32, of Brooklyn, New York, was content to go backward and fire only the occasional punch.
The crowd began to chant, “Mexico! Mexico!” in the second round, in which Alvarez continued to go after Jacobs and land body punches. Alvarez also connected with flush jabs, while most of Jacobs’ came up short of the target.
“It definitely took me a couple rounds to get my wits about me, to figure out his rhythm, because he’s a pop-shotter,” Jacobs said. “He was a fast guy, very slippery. It was a great contest. I look forward to the future. I feel like I gave enough to get the victory, so I’ll have to go back to the tapes to see exactly what happened.”
Alvarez landed a left hand that rocked Jacobs’ head back in the early moments of the fourth round in a fight he was controlling with his activity level and crisp punches, along with very sound defense. Jacobs, who claimed a vacant belt by split decision over Sergiy Derevyanchenko in October and was making his first defense, didn’t seem to have much of a plan. He missed with wild punches, could barely land his jab and spent stretches backing up.
Jacobs, who sometimes switched between right-handed and southpaw stances, finally got something going in the sixth round with a flurry that backed Alvarez up and continued to land more shots in the seventh, including a big left hand.
“It’s normal,” Alvarez said of Jacobs’ changing stances. “It’s obviously just a matter of adapting when they switch righty to lefty.”
There was fierce back-and-forth action in the eighth round, when both landed solid punches during lengthy exchanges, but it was Alvarez who seemed to stun Jacobs multiple times, including with a right hand and a hook behind it.
There was more sustained action in the ninth round when they took turns landing powerful shots. Jacobs landed his best punches of the fight when he connected with a pair of clean left hands, although Alvarez took them well.
Jacobs’ right eye was swelling by the 10th round, but he unloaded some heavy punches on Alvarez along the ropes in one of his best sequences of the fight. Alvarez appeared to bounce back in the 11th round. And they both came out for the 12th round firing.
Jacobs launched a left hook that he missed badly as he slipped to the mat on the wet canvas. Referee Tony Weeks called a timeout to clean up the moisture, and when the fight resumed, Alvarez landed a left hook to the head. With a minute left in the fight, Alvarez landed an uppercut. And they finished in a heated exchange that brought fans to their feet.
After the fight, Jacobs’ 10-year-old son, Nate, joined him in the ring.
“I asked him, ‘Do you think Daddy did a good job?’ He said, ‘Yes, Dad, you did a great job.’ That’s all that matters to me,” Jacobs said. “I’ll go home and be the best I can be.”
With Jacobs vanquished, Alvarez can look forward to more major fights, including a possible third showdown with Golovkin or an undisputed title fight with Demetrius Andrade. Both fights are very makeable, because Golovkin and Andrade also are signed to DAZN. Both also watched from ringside Saturday night.
Golovkin and Andrade have other business first with fights they need to win next month. Golovkin will take on Steve Rolls at 164 pounds on June 8 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, and Andrade will defend his belt against contender Maciej Sulecki on June 29 in the first fight of his career in his hometown of Providence, Rhode Island, at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.
Alvarez has said repeatedly he wants to unify the division this year, which would make Andrade the obvious choice. But a third bout with Golovkin, with whom he fought to a controversial draw in their first contest that many thought Golovkin won, would be a much bigger and richer event.
Alvarez wasn’t calling out anyone after the fight, electing to enjoy his moment of triumph.
“I’m just looking for the biggest challenge. That’s all I want. No, for me, it’s over,” he said regarding any unfinished business with Golovkin. “But if the people want another fight, we’ll do it again, and I’ll beat him again.
“That’s why I’m here. That’s what I was born for — to fight, to defend what’s mine. I’ll fight anyone.”