Unified middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez and fellow world titleholder Daniel Jacobs will meet Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas in a matchup of two of the premier fighters in the division.
Alvarez is ranked No. 1 in the division by ESPN.com, and Jacobs is ranked third.
Canelo is the favorite over Jacobs and seems to be in his physical prime after two great battles against Gennady Golovkin and an easy TKO victory over Rocky Fielding. Jacobs, who has won three fights in a row since a close decision loss to Golovkin two years ago, is looking for a career-defining victory.
ESPN asked some leading trainers for their assessments of this fight and how they would plan to fight Canelo from the opposite corner.
Notable trainees: Manny Pacquiao, Miguel Cotto, Amir Khan, James Toney, Viktor Postol
Alvarez has come along since I faced him with Cotto [in 2015]. He’s getting better and better. He’s been working hard, but now he’s going against bigger opponents.
Jacobs has the attributes to make it difficult. He’s got a good jab, he’s long with that jab, he’s got a big reach advantage, and he’s a very good boxer. I don’t count him out of any fight. But in this fight, Jacobs needs to be more aggressive. I think he’ll have more of an advantage backing [Canelo] up because he’s very, very good coming forward with that long jab, putting you on the ropes and so forth.
I would try to get him to back up Canelo up on the ropes, push him back, because Canelo is a really strong guy. I think he’ll go right to Jacobs and try to take his boxing — make it into a fight. Exchanges favor Canelo, definitely, on the inside. Jacobs has a good jab, like I said, but he needs more room to use it.
Notable trainees: Michael Moorer, Donny Lalonde, Michael Grant, Tim Bradley, Oleksandr Gvozdyk
The obvious thing Jacobs needs to do is control range. He’s got to dominate for the most part on the outside, and he’s got to use his legs, get the proper extension on his punches, use his jab, set up some counter-punching opportunities if he can. He’s got to be smart.
But something that doesn’t get mentioned much: Jacobs has got to be more disciplined with his hand placement. He’s a good boxer, he’s a good kid, a good story, he’s a champion — he’s all those things. He’s good for boxing. But he gets a little reckless, careless, where he won’t initially have his hands in the position that he needs to have them, or he might start them in the right position, but he won’t bring them to the right position after he punches. He lets them wander too much. He lets them go off course, instead of back into a protective position.
I don’t know if you can do that with Canelo, who is physically strong. If he’s reckless with his hand placement, he’s going to pay a price for that.
Notable trainees: Cory Spinks, Devon Alexander, Robert Easter, Adrien Broner
Jacobs has pretty good boxing skills, and he’s got the height and reach advantage. I think that’s where he needs to be. He needs to use his really good boxing fundamentals. He’s got an excellent boxing background, from the amateurs through the pros.
So he knows his way around the ring, and he needs to control the distance and range, just pretty much control the fight from the outside.
But I’m telling you, Canelo is my No. 1B pound-for-pound boxer in boxing. Right now, I’ve got Terence Crawford No. 1A, Canelo No. 1B, so that’s what I think about Canelo. I mean, he’s been there, he’s seen it all, he’s been in with the best fighters in the world, and he’s gotten better year after year. He’s just a well-seasoned fighter, and he’s still relatively young. He can do it all. He can box, he can bang, inside, outside, he’s got power. He’s got excellent skills.
This is going to be a tough task for Danny, but on any given night, anybody can be beaten.
Notable trainees: Terry and Orlin Norris, Miguel Angel Gonzalez, Murat Gassiev, Gennady Golovkin
Jacobs is going to have to disrespect him. There’s no way he’s going to win a decision. He knows it. But even if he attacks him, disrespects him and tries to maul him, I think that Canelo is a better fighter. He’s got better skills, a little better hand speed.
But it will be a difficult fight for the first two-thirds of the fight, and I think Canelo takes it going down the end. Danny has got to do things that he’s not used to doing, attack in a way he’s never done before, because again, he’s not going to win a decision.
If he doesn’t attack him, Canelo can just dance on the outside and do his thing. Jacobs, being the bigger man, [should] attack him, hit him with big shots and attack the body a little bit. He may have a chance of beating him [if he does that]. But it’s going to be a difficult task for Jacobs, I think.
Canelo has fought a lot of very good fighters. He’s done very well. I don’t think he beat Golovkin, but I do think he’s very good. I think Canelo and GGG are the elite of the middleweight class.
Notable trainees: Gabe and Rafael Ruelas, Michael Nunn, Joel Casamayor, Diego Corrales, Sergey Lipinets
Before I get into the boxing details, it’s the betting line now that seems odd, but these guys [Las Vegas bookmakers] are really pretty good at setting the numbers for the really big fights. And they’ve got Canelo at -300 — in other words, you have to put 300 dollars to win one — and Jacobs is like +250. So I think they’ve got it right.
I think Canelo should be the favorite, as he is. Look, they’ve both had great outings versus GGG — that’s their common opponent, and they were close fights for all three fighters. So, look, they both have really good skills, but I do believe Canelo should be the favorite for various reasons. I think [Alvarez] is probably the stronger puncher at this point. He’s becoming a better puncher, and Jacobs really hasn’t had any knockouts in his last three fights. He’s been going to decisions.
And in the same breath, Canelo fought GGG twice, and those were decisions as well. So you’re talking about two guys who just don’t get stopped. Now, on the other hand, Danny Jacobs has been stopped before, and that was against Dmitry Pirog.
I like Jacobs. I think he’s got quick hands. He’s clever, which can help him. Look, this could turn into a tug-of-war like with GGG and Canelo. So I don’t see this as some sort of blowout on either side. I think Jacobs will put up a tremendous effort, and I see this going the distance. If there was going to be a knockout, it would probably be later in the fight, and it would be from Canelo. But my instincts tell me it’s a distance fight.
Notable trainees: Oscar Valdez, Jessie Magdaleno, Andy Ruiz
In my opinion, I think Jacobs is going to do a great job. I believe it’s going to be a great fight. I was there when he fought GGG, and that was a very close fight that could’ve gone either way. A lot of people feel he won that fight. He’s a total package: This guy can punch, he can box, he’s got the height and the length advantage. So it’s not going to be a walk in the park for Canelo.
Canelo’s more of a physical fighter, I believe. He wears you down, he likes to work that body, and he’s a pressure fighter. So obviously, he’s a skillful fighter as well, so he’s got to get to the body, has to fight inside and break him down. I believe Canelo is the favorite, he does have the edge, but I think it’s going to be an interesting fight.
If Canelo doesn’t close the space on Jacobs, then I believe Jacobs will have the advantage. I believe Jacobs has the better jab, but Canelo is a better fighter on the inside. Jacobs can go to the body. That’s something GGG never did [against Canelo].
Notable trainees: Ray Beltran, Chris Van Heerden, Albert Melian
Don’t count Jacobs out. He’s taken punches from guys like GGG, and he’s got that ability to make it a bad night for Canelo.
Jacobs has to be aggressive in his boxing. Canelo’s the big dog now. I don’t think going the distance will be in favor of Jacobs. He has to impose himself on Canelo, and if he does let him go all the way to the 12 rounds, I think Canelo is going to win on the scorecards. So he has to force the fight toward Canelo.
I think Canelo’s going to be too smart, and I think he’s a little faster than Jacobs is. If he does the same thing in staying focused and staying in the moment, like he did with GGG, he should be able to win.
Notable trainees: Chris Arreola, Mark Suarez, Marcos Hernandez
Jacobs has to box, use his length, use his athleticism, pick and choose his spots where he’s going to exchange. I think he’s going to fight smart. I hear what people are saying about fighting more aggressive because they’re in Las Vegas, but I think he believes he can box and frustrate Canelo with movement and basically be the type of fighter that Canelo has struggled with in the past, like [Floyd] Mayweather and [Erislandy] Lara.
I don’t know if Jacobs can box that good over 12 rounds, but he’s also a bigger threat, punching-wise.
Canelo is going to fight him in a similar way he did with GGG: coming to him, trying to walk him down. The good thing about Canelo is that he’s got that slick side-to-side upper-body movement as he pressures you at the same time, being offensive but not being reckless. Canelo’s got great reflexes.
I think it’s going 12 rounds. I just still can’t pick against Canelo at this point.