For all the bluster and shenanigans that typically comes with a major boxing match, Canelo Alvarez and Daniel Jacobs have played nice in the lead up to Saturday night's main event. That was until Friday during the staredown when the two fighters nearly came to blows on stage. Now, it's time to go.
The much-anticipated unification bout at 160 pounds headlines T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas (9 p.m. ET, watch exclusively on DAZN) as Alvarez (51-1-2, 35 KOs) puts his WBA, WBC and lineal titles at stake against the IBF crown of Jacobs (35-2, 29 KOs).
Although the 28-year-old Alvarez has stood firm as a strong betting favorite (at least in part due to his history of good favor from judges), the fight has all the makings to be one of the most dangerous of his career given Jacobs' combination of speed, power and athleticism.
"It's going to be a very difficult fight, especially in the first few rounds," Alvarez said. "Until the moment that I start adapting and imposing my style, it will be a difficult fight because of his style."
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Alvarez, the Mexican star who is rated among the pound-for-pound best fighters in the world, will give up three inches in height and nearly the same amount in reach to the 32-year-old Jacobs, who is among the biggest middleweights the sport has to offer. Yet it's Jacobs' ability to switch stances on the fly that makes him such a live underdog and helped him push Gennady Golovkin to the 12-round limit for the first time in their disputed 2017 bout.
"I don't know what we are going to do as far as switching to southpaw because we might not need to switch to southpaw," Jacobs said. "He may not be able to get past my jab. I might be very effective with staying orthodox and using my combinations from that stance. When I switch southpaw, sometimes it's just to give a fighter a different look and it's to get more of an advantage from that stance because it takes them so much longer to reach me.
"I'm such a long guy, and when I sit on that back foot, I'm even longer to reach. Canelo Alvarez has shorter arms. There are so many things we can go to. We have a plan A and plan B and all the way to plan Z."
To Alvarez's credit, he pointed to his close victories over Austin Trout and Erislandy Lara in junior middleweight title bouts to prove that southpaws "haven't been complicated for me" due to his ability to adapt to all styles. He also publicly doubted whether Jacobs, as a southpaw, could be as effective as he is orthodox, going as far as saying it's "impossible."
While Alvarez often touts how decorated his resume has been in terms of facing every style imaginable, it's worth debating whether he has fought someone in their physical prime who is this dangerous.
"We know the risk of this fight, and it is a high-risk fight," Alvarez said. "A fighter of my experience, of my level, has to adapt and know how to adapt to all the levels. I have the experience. I've fought taller fighters, longer, bigger. 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."
As the fight has drawn closer, Jacobs has become less willing to complain about Alvarez's judging history. Along with identifying activity as a key to swaying Saturday's judges, Jacobs has also shared his willingness to take the decision out of their hands should he be able to stop Alvarez.
The problem with that idea is that Alvarez has been extremely durable throughout his career, including an iron chin he showcased in two all-action fights against Golovkin. Jacobs has been stopped as a pro before, and Alvarez, who has effectively carried his power up to middleweight, believes it very well could happen again.
"In boxing, anything can happen. That's including the knockout," Alvarez said. "If it's there, trust me, I'm going to go for the knockout. I don't care if he's bigger, stronger, it has never bothered me. I have the capability. I have the experience to overcome that and more."
In the co-main event, Vergil Ortiz Jr. gets a chance to showcase his skills when he takes on Mauricio Herrera in a welterweight bout. Ortiz is 12-0 with all of those victories coming by way of knockout while Herrera is 24-8 and coming off a decision loss to Sadam Ali in December 2018.
Tale of the tape
|Fighter||Saul Alvarez||Daniel Jacobs|
51-1-2 (35 KOs)
35-2 (29 KOs)
WBA, WBC, lineal middleweight
Brooklyn, New York
Gennady Golovkin (MD, 2018) Miguel Cotto (UD12, 2015), Erislandy Lara (SD12, 2014), Austin Trout (UD12, 2013)
Caleb Truax (TKO12, 2015), Sergio Mora (TKO2, 2015), Peter Quillin (TKO1, 2015), Luis Arias (UD, 2017)
Floyd Mayweather (MD, 2013)
Dimitry Pirog (TKO5, 2010), Gennady Golovkin (UD, 2017)
What's at stake
Alvarez puts his WBC, WBA and lineal titles on the line against the IBF crown of Jacobs. Not only would Alvarez further his own case for consideration as the pound-for-pound best in the sport with a win, Jacobs would likely crack the top 10 should he be able to pull the upset.
From a business standpoint, there is surely no lack of pressure on Alvarez to win as the face of DAZN after signing a landmark 10-fight, $365 million deal last fall. An Alvarez victory would mean even bigger business for the all-sports streaming app in the likely form of a third fight between Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin this fall.
Should Jacobs pull the upset, Alvarez has the option of a rematch clause and would very likely run that fight back later this year.
Who has the edge?
1. Power: Both men possess fight-altering power although Jacobs, who has knocked out nearly 80 percent of his opponents, hasn't finished a fight in three years. Jacobs is the naturally bigger man, however, and certainly has enough pop -- particularly when throwing combinations -- to discipline Alvarez and force him to make adjustments. The X-factor in terms of power in this fight could become Alvarez's brutal body attack, which he used to finish the likes of Liam Smith and Rocky Fielding in recent years. Given the stakes of this fight and the toughness of both, a knockout isn't necessarily likely, especially since both fighters have gone the distance with a big puncher in GGG. But both have enough to end the night early should their opponent get reckless. Edge: Even
2. Speed: From the standpoint of hand speed, this is a category that might be closer than people realize. Although Alvarez was anything but speedy as a junior middleweight, his timing has improved tremendously and a move up to 160 pounds has allowed him to regularly beat opponents to the punch, including Golovkin. The difference in speed between the two, however, comes down to athleticism and footwork. Alvarez makes up for a plodding foot game by being so elusive with his upper torso to slip punches. But Jacobs, who can switch stances with ease, is the much more fluid and naturally explosive fighter. Edge: Jacobs
3. Technique: Alvarez's refusal early on in his career to fit the mold of a stereotypical Mexican star fighter like Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. by coming forward at will has allowed him to improve his craft as he has matured. As a counter puncher, he's brilliant by using angles and timing to land hard shots. His trainer, Eddy Reynoso, also deserves a ton of credit for Alvarez's evolution. Jacobs was a top amateur and is certainly one of the top boxer-punchers in the game. But he also gets sloppy at times and relies on his physical advantages to overcome. Edge: Alvarez
4. Defense: While neither fighter is considered reckless or short on technique from a defensive standpoint, Jacobs can fall too in love at times with letting his hands go with combinations in close and not protecting his guard. The edge in this case goes to Alvarez who is very underrated in his ability to slip punches and avoid his opponent's dominant hand. Edge: Alvarez
5. Intangibles: There's simply no debating who has more experience on a stage this bright as Alvarez has routinely headlined boxing's two biggest weekends in Las Vegas. But Jacobs proved against GGG in a PPV bout at New York's Madison Square Garden that he can raise his game to a higher level when the pressure is on. Yes, it's impossible to avoid the inherent advantage Alvarez routinely receives from judges in close fights. But it's also hard to overlook the inspirational journey Jacobs has been on since beating a life-threatening bout with cancer and willing himself to the top of the sport. Sometimes stories this good produce the kind of performances and happy endings that belie the odds coming in. Edge: Jacobs
Sometimes in sports, great stories that crave a happy ending simply will their way to fulfilling such a destiny. Boxing, from a historical standpoint, has been no different. Whether it's 45-year-old George Foreman rallying to knock out Michael Moorer, Evander Holyfield overcoming heart issues as a major underdog to upset Mike Tyson or Tyson Fury overcoming addiction and obesity to get up off the canvas to salvage a draw against Deontay Wilder, one could argue there was almost supernatural force in play to lift each fighter to performances that most didn't see coming.
Although Jacobs was able to beat cancer and become the first boxer to do so and win a world title, his career still lacks a defining victory and a performance in which all of his many talents blended together perfectly in one night.
From a physical standpoint, Jacobs has all the tools to give Alvarez trouble. Most importantly, he also has the type of power that Alvarez, even with his iron chin, will be forced to respect.
Alvarez isn't the first marketable fighter to benefit for a long stretch of time from favorable judging in close fights. Even Alvarez's promoter, Hall of Famer Oscar De La Hoya, received the benefit of the doubt in key early fights against the likes of Pernell Whitaker and Ike Quartey. Yet even De La Hoya eventually found himself on the wrong end of highly-disputed decisions against the likes of Felix Trinidad and in his rematch with Shane Mosley.
Should both the judging and the 170-pound rehydration clause that Alvarez negotiated into his deal play as small a role as Jacobs predicted during fight week, this fight could come down to which boxer can best balance activity with effective power shots. Given what's at stake and the incredible journey he took to get to a stage this bright, it's hard to ignore how much Jacobs possesses in terms of physical advantages in just about every category.
Nothing short of the fight of his life would give Jacobs such a storybook ending. But after watching him fight for his life with such courage, defeating Alvarez is a task that appears in reach. Make sure you clear your schedule for September because we will see this one again.
Pick: Jacobs via split decision
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