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Ringside Seat: Will Canelo unify three titles? Can Jacobs score an upset?

LAS VEGAS — If it’s Cinco de Mayo weekend, one thing is for sure: Unified middleweight world champion Canelo Alvarez is fighting.

Alvarez will square off with Daniel Jacobs to unify their three middleweight title belts in the biggest fight of the year Saturday (DAZN, 9 p.m. ET) at T-Mobile Arena.

“This fight is important because it will feature two world champions who will unify their titles to demonstrate who is the best at 160 pounds,” said Golden Boy Promotions CEO Oscar De La Hoya, Alvarez’s promoter.

When Alvarez signed a then-record five-year, 11-fight, $365 million deal with the sports streaming service DAZN this past fall, it remained to be seen if he would keep his promise to take on the biggest and best challenges.

Alvarez kicked off the deal in December with a mismatch against Rocky Fielding, whom he destroyed in three rounds to win a secondary super middleweight belt, and some questioned Alvarez’s commitment to fighting quality opponents, given the comfort afforded him by the contract.

But Alvarez, true to his word, made super middleweight a one-shot deal and is back at middleweight to face uber-dangerous Jacobs in one of the best fights possible in boxing.

“I want to be remembered as one the greats in boxing, and that’s why I continue to work hard and continue taking on these type of fights, so I can continue writing history,” Alvarez said through an interpreter.

Given Alvarez’s track record of fighting top opposition for years, including Gennady Golovkin (twice), Floyd Mayweather, Miguel Cotto and Erislandy Lara, it really is no surprise he went for Jacobs. The Brooklyn native, ESPN’s No. 3-ranked middleweight fighter, has won 15 of his past 16 bouts.

“I’ve always liked challenges, and this is not an exception,” said Alvarez, who claimed two belts from Golovkin this past September and is the favorite against Jacobs. “We know what Daniel Jacobs brings, his ability, his qualities, his talent. He knows how to move well in the ring. We’ll do what we always do to prepare ourselves to the fullest and to give the fans a great fight. This is not going to be an exception, and we’re going to come out with our hands raised.”

Jacobs, whose mere presence in boxing is unexpected given that he nearly died from a rare form of bone cancer in 2011, won a vacant title by split decision over Sergiy Derevyanchenko in October and is now getting the fight he has wanted.

“For a long, long time, since we signed Daniel Jacobs [in 2017], he has told me three special words: ‘Bring me Canelo.’ And on [Saturday], he finally has the chance,” Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn said.

Jacobs (35-2, 29 KOs), 32, gave credit to Alvarez (51-1-2, 35 KOs), 28, for taking what is very likely going to be a difficult fight when he did not have to.

“You hear people say that Canelo doesn’t want to fight the best guys out there, but I was confident in my team getting it done, and I take my hat off to Canelo and his team for taking the fight,” Jacobs said. “Now it’s time to put on something great for the fans. This is exactly what big-time boxing is all about, the best versus the best.”

This is your Ringside Seat for the fight:

Does size matter?

Alvarez is clearly the smaller man here, in height and bulk. It is obvious when the fighters are next to each other.

Jacobs is 5-foot-11½ with a 73-inch reach, and Alvarez is 5-8 with a 70½-inch reach. Given Jacobs’ boxing skills and size advantage, not to mention power and sound defense, some believe he has a perfect style to defeat Alvarez.

“He has one of the best skill sets that’s out there,” Jacobs said of Alvarez. “His sense of onslaught, his upper-body movement, his defense is really good. What I know is that I have the physical advantages, and I look forward to using my physical advantage, my reach, height, range, and being that I also have speed, power, ring IQ, as well. That’s what I feel like is going to make me victorious.

“I don’t necessarily think Canelo can bully me. I think that it’s going to be really hard for him, being the smaller guy, to dictate that. I’m a rough guy when it comes to being in the ring. From the outside looking in, it might look different. But in the ring, I’m a physically big guy with speed and power, so it’s more about the tactics that I choose to use to be victorious.”

Alvarez, however, has faced — and easily defeated — taller and longer opponents such as Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Fielding, though neither resides in the same ZIP code talent-wise as Jacobs. Alvarez didn’t sound worried about Jacobs’ physical advantages.

“I have the experience. I’ve fought taller fighters, longer, bigger,” Alvarez said. “That’s what we prepared for. We had the right sparring partners, with similar styles. I have the ability to adapt to any fighter, and that’s what I’m prepared to do.

“We know his style is going to be very difficult, very complicated, but at this level, that’s what you have to face. We’re prepared. I’ve faced the strongest fighters out there, and I’m prepared for that and more. I’m an elite fighter that can adapt to that.”

The judges

Judges are always under a microscope for their scoring, especially in major fights, but for this fight the attention will be even greater on the panel of Dave Moretti, Steve Weisfeld and Glenn Feldman. They are three of the best judges in the world without question. But many believe that Alvarez, right or wrong, gets preferential treatment in Las Vegas, where there were controversial decisions in his two fights with Golovkin (a favorable draw and a debatable majority decision win); wider-than-expected scorecards in a win over Miguel Cotto in 2015; a disputed split decision over Lara in 2014; and even a draw on one card in what looked like a Mayweather landslide in their 2013 megafight.

“You have to go in there and win a fight decisively,” Jacobs said. “I don’t want no controversy. I want to be victorious, and I want all the fans to know I’m the best middleweight in the world.”

Many wonder if Jacobs can get a fair shake in Las Vegas against boxing’s money man, who fills arenas, hotels and casinos whenever he fights there.

“It’s a little annoying to have to keep talking about the judges and Canelo getting favoritism, but it’s also a fact in most people’s mind, so that’s why it comes up so much,” Jacobs said. “I don’t mind answering the questions, but it can be annoying as I don’t want the mindset to be going in there to fight Canelo and the judges. I don’t need any more stress in this fight, as Canelo is a force in himself and it’s going to take a lot to figure him out.”

Alvarez brushed off the notion that he is the darling of the judges.

“No, I don’t think about it. Doesn’t bother me,” he said. “People are always going to have their opinions and thinking and criticize, but that’s part of it. That’s part of the game.”

Face to face

  • Alvarez: Making his first title defense at middleweight; first defense at any weight since 2016, snapping a five-fight streak in which he was either a challenger or engaging in an over-the-weight non-title bout
  • Alvarez: Looking to become first Mexican fighter to hold three belts simultaneously (WBA/WBC/IBF)
  • Alvarez: 14-1-1, 5 KOs vs. 14 current/former titleholders; 35-2, 29 KOs; 1-1 in title fights (excluding the WBA regular title he held from 2014 to 2016)
  • Alvarez: Lands 46.4 percent of his power punches
  • Jacobs: Nicknamed the “Miracle Man” after surviving cancer
  • Jacobs: Lands 42.4 percent of his power punches
  • Jacobs: 21.5 percent of his landed punches are body shots, below the CompuBox average (28 percent)
  • Jacobs: Opponents land 24 percent of punches against him

Golovkin looms

While Alvarez and Jacobs will take care of business Saturday, former unified middleweight champion Golovkin, who has faced them both and is the third member of the top three among middleweights, returns to the ring to face unheralded Steve Rolls on June 8 at Madison Square Garden in New York in the first fight of his nine-figure deal with DAZN.

If Alvarez defeats Jacobs and GGG defeats Rolls, it is highly likely Alvarez-Golovkin III will take place in September. They’ve already put on two blockbuster bouts, a hugely controversial draw in September 2017 that most thought Golovkin deserved to win and Alvarez’s majority decision win this past September in a fight many thought was a legitimate draw.

Alvarez said he would be happy to face GGG again but with a caveat. If Alvarez beats Jacobs, he would collect a third belt, leaving him one shy of the undisputed title. The fourth belt is held by Demetrius Andrade, who is also with Hearn and fights on DAZN, meaning a fight with Alvarez would be relatively easy to make.

“The objective this year is to win all titles. My goal this year is to have all the belts,” Alvarez said. “If Golovkin has a belt before the end of the year, then yes, we’ll gladly fight him. If he doesn’t, [we’ll] see where it falls later, how it plays out. Right now my first objective, goal, is to pick up [Jacobs’] belt.”

Alvarez said he was motivated to become the first undisputed Mexican champion in the four-belt era.

“For me, it’s the most important thing,” he said. “Nobody in Mexico has ever done that, won all four belts in one division, so that’s my motivation — to keep writing history.”

If Jacobs defeats Alvarez, don’t expect him to get a rematch with Golovkin, at least not right away. Jacobs lost a close and highly competitive decision to Golovkin in March 2017. If Alvarez loses Saturday, he holds the contractual option for a rematch with Jacobs.

Jacobs wants the rematch with GGG eventually, though, and believes a win over Alvarez will get him closer.

“Victory would truly show the fans that whether you think I beat Golovkin or not, I am the best middleweight in the world,” Jacobs said. “I’ve always said that I am the best, and I’ve also always been vocal that the win over Golovkin was taken from me. So, a win over Canelo puts a new idea in the fans’ minds that this guy is the best, as he’s proven it against a guy that beat Golovkin — and then I can give Golovkin the rematch and prove that I am better than him.”

Rafael’s prediction: Alvarez by decision.

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