Daniel Jacobs commands respect for finally making Gennady Golovkin look human

NEW YORK -- In the broken world of boxing politics, unified middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin has spent the last five years on the outside looking in for a big-money fight despite blowing through opposition with staggering streaks of knockouts and title defenses. 

No one has been more deserving than Golovkin, whose reputation as the sport’s most devastating puncher made him both the people’s champion among fans and the most avoided among top fighters in the sport. 

But Daniel Jacobs did something no one else has been able to do on Saturday in losing a close unanimous decision to Golovkin in a middleweight championship bout at Madison Square Garden. Even more than becoming the first fighter to take Golovkin the full 12-round distance, Jacobs succeeded in making GGG look human. 

With advantages in size and speed, as well as enough power to make him -- on paper -- the most dangerous opponent of Golovkin’s career, Jacobs got up off the canvas from a fourth-round knockdown and kept coming. By constantly switching to southpaw and using his length to control distance, he forced Golovkin to hesitate and kept the champion off balance. 

It was a star-making performance from Jacobs (32-2, 29 KOs), who likely won over fans with his courage and game plan, only adding to his “good guy” mystique as the first cancer survivor to win a world title in boxing history. But despite a good portion of fans and critics feeling he had deserved at least a draw, Jacobs won’t be in line for a rematch any time soon.

Instead, he has just accepted the title from Golovkin as the new middleweight on the outside looking in. 

In an odd twist of fate that only boxing’s broken system can produce, it was Jacobs’ ability to expose GGG that just might help Golovkin secure the fights he has coveted the most. 

“We hope that the other fighters and promoters will think that Gennady’s not as dangerous now so maybe they will finally sign the contract instead of just talking,” Golovkin’s promoter, Tom Loeffler of K2, said after the fight.  

With Golovkin (36-0, 33 KOs) holding three recognized middleweight titles, talk after the fight instantly centered upon securing the WBO title from England’s Billy Joe Saunders in a possible June return in GGG’s native Kazakhstan. Unifying all four titles has long been Golovkin’s dream.

From there, talks will likely turn to a September showdown with Canelo Alvarez that has been talked about for two years and constantly delayed by the Mexican superstar. It’s a development that would be great for the sport. 

But it doesn’t fix the problem with Jacobs, 30, a PBC fighter represented by Al Haymon, who went out of his way to secure the fight with Golovkin when he didn’t have to by crossing the sport’s political and network battle lines. 

Golovkin had built such a mythical reputation as an unbreakable destroyer whose combination of devastating punching power and Olympic-pedigree boxing ability drew comparisons to boxing’s all-time greats. Jacobs severely altered that myth with 12 rounds of movement and the nasty, unyielding spirit that he fought with in the ring. 

He deserves a second chance to prove whether he exposed a weakness or can take down Golovkin, or the champion simply had an off night against a determined fighter who showed him a confusing set of looks. 

“[Golovkin’s power] definitely wasn’t what everybody made it out to be,” Jacobs said. “It definitely wasn’t this boogie man, knockout artist that everyone was saying. Even when I got dropped, I wanted to go trade with him right there because it really didn’t hurt me. I thought if he landed one of those shots it would be over.”

Jacobs outlanded Golovkin in power punches and had him appearing tentative at times, which Golovkin admitted after the fight, saying, “Maybe I waited too long.” 

“I knew he was going to come forward but he showed respect,” Jacobs said. “He didn’t come forward disrespectfully like he did with every other fighter, the 23 guys that he has knocked out. He showed respect and my boxing ability demanded that respect, as did my power.”  

Despite Golovkin having never been knocked down or even hurt once in over 400 combined amateur and professional bouts, Jacobs believes he became the first to cross that line, which went a long way in helping him dictate the action at times. 

“I hurt him maybe two times in the fight,” Jacobs said. “Not hurt him enough where he would go down, but I definitely saw him back up. When I hit him with a hard body shot, I definitely heard him go, ‘Oof.’ He’s just a man. When I was looking at him at the face off, that was all I could see. I didn’t see the man that you made him out to be. I saw a man that could get hurt and that’s the mentality that I had going inside that ring.  

“I trained my mind and my body to not give in. My idea was to go in there and mentally confuse him.”

With a close decision victory in hand and a pre-established timeline for his next two fights already in motion, Golovkin showed tremendous respect for Jacobs after the fight but quickly moved on to what’s next. It’s hard to make an argument that GGG isn’t deserving after the kind of run he has been on, which includes a streak of 18 title defenses that leaves him two shy of Bernard Hopkins’ middleweight record. 

But the same case can be made for how deserving Jacobs, who took everything Golovkin had to offer and kept coming, is for an immediate second chance. 

Boxing doesn’t always get it right when it comes to things being fair, as Golovkin has seen over the past five years. But even though GGG left with his perfect record and three world titles on Saturday, it was Jacobs who may have robbed him of his mortality.

CBS Sports Insider

Brian Campbell covers MMA, boxing and WWE. The Connecticut native joined CBS Sports in 2017 and has covered combat sports since 2010. He has written and hosted various podcasts and digital shows for ESPN... Full Bio

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