LAS VEGAS — Almost from the minute the news broke that the middleweight title unification bout between WBA-WBC champion Canelo Alvarez and IBF champ Daniel Jacobs would be held at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, the question began: Can Jacobs win a decision over Alvarez here?
Alvarez and Jacobs will meet on Saturday in the main event of a card streamed on DAZN, and there are more than a few neutral observers who believe that in order for Jacobs to win, he’ll have to stop Alvarez.
Alvarez is a healthy — almost a surprisingly big — favorite at the MGM Grand sportsbook. Alvarez is minus 450 while Jacobs is plus 350.
Unquestionably, Alvarez deserves to be favored. He’s one of the best fighters in the world, and it’s no stretch to suggest that he deserves to be regarded as pound-for-pound No. 1.
One person with several decades in boxing who didn’t want his name used said Jacobs’ team should have pushed for the fight to be held elsewhere, because Alvarez will have a strong home-court advantage in Las Vegas
“History would tell you that Canelo is going to get the benefit of the doubt in Vegas,” he said.
Much of that stems from four fights, in which Alvarez went 2-1-1 in Las Vegas:
His Sept. 14, 2013, majority decision loss to Floyd Mayweather at the MGM Grand Garden.
His July 12, 2014, split decision over Erislandy Lara at the MGM Grand Garden.
His Sept. 15, 2017, split draw with Gennady Golovkin at T-Mobile Arena.
And his Sept. 16, 2018, majority decision over Golovkin at T-Mobile.
There were two egregiously bad scorecards in those four fights. C.J. Ross had the Mayweather-Alvarez fight even, at 114-114, in what appeared to be a runaway victory for Mayweather. The other judges, Dave Moretti and Craig Metcalfe, had it 116-112 and 117-111, respectively, in favor of Mayweather.
The other was Adalaide Byrd’s 118-110 card in favor of Alvarez over Golovkin in their 2017 bout. The majority of people who watched that had it in favor of Golovkin. Moretti scored that bout 115-113 for Golovkin, while Don Trella had it 114-114.
Trella’s card was controversial because most believed the seventh was Golovkin’s best round of the fight, and both Byrd and Moretti scored it for him, but Trella gave the seventh to Alvarez. Had Trella scored the seventh for Golovkin and not Alvarez, he would have had Golovkin 115-113 and that fight would have been a split decision for Golovkin.
Lara gave Alvarez a tougher than expected time in their 2014 bout, and highly respected judge Jerry Roth saw it 115-113 for Lara, but most neutral observers believe Alvarez won a close bout. And while many believe that Golovkin deserved to win the second fight with Alvarez, as well, it was much closer than the first was.
Alvarez-Jacobs officials get rave reviews
Randy Gordon, the former chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission who along with former heavyweight contender Gerry Cooney hosts a boxing radio show on SiriusXM, raved about the officials who were appointed for Saturday’s bout between Alvarez and Jacobs.
Tony Weeks is the referee and Moretti, Steve Weisfeld and Glenn Feldman are the judges.
“I think this crew of judges is perfect for this fight,” Gordon said. “With Moretti, Weisfeld and Feldman, I’d say you have three of the top-10 judges in the world on this one. It’s going to be a close fight. I don’t think there’s going to be any doubt. The one thing I know for sure is that there will be a lot of close rounds, and I’m pretty certain these guys will get those right. Anyone can score the obvious rounds, where one guy is clearly controlling the fight. But it takes the best to keep their concentration and pick a winner when the rounds are so close.”
There was an initial furor raised when Bob Bennett, the executive director of the Nevada Athletic Commission, released the pool of judges from which he would recommend the selections. Included on that were both Byrd and Trella.
Members of each fighter’s team are given opportunities to express an objection. Keith Connolly, Jacobs’ manager, said he had concerns with some of the judges who were in the pool, but was pleased by the way Bennett addressed his concerns.
Connolly refused to say which judges and/or referees he objected to, but he said he has no issues with the group the commission appointed.
He was blunt, though, in noting Alvarez’s huge popularity in Las Vegas.
“It’s always a concern when you go to fight a big star in his hometown,” Connolly said. “I understand that Las Vegas isn’t Canelo’s home, but it’s become like a second home for him. When I saw the pool of officials, there were some concerns and I raised some alarms. I told Bob what our concerns were and he addressed those.
“I do think there should be as much scrutiny on the officials as there is on the boxers because if we get a bad decision, if Danny clearly outboxes Canelo and Canelo gets the win anyway, that would be horrible for the sport. But Bob Bennett did a tremendous job and he deserves credit. He addressed every concern we brought up and we have [officials] I can’t argue with.”
Vegas commission committed to level playing field
Scoring a fight is highly subjective, and many people aren’t aware of the scoring rules, which only adds to controversy in close fights.
Alvarez is a huge draw and he’s been involved in three of the five biggest gates in Nevada history. That drives revenue in terms of fees and tax money to the commission, but Gordon said he’s always disliked that attitude where some believe it’s pre-ordained that the big stars like Alvarez, Mayweather and Mike Tyson would get the benefit of the doubt from the officials because of how much money they generate for the state.
“I get offended by those kinds of comments, and they’re not backed up by the facts,” Gordon said. “What I always wanted was to be fair and set a situation where the fighters would decide it themselves and where, if it were a close fight, we had the judges who had the ability to make the right call.”
Bennett praised his boss, commission chairman Anthony Marnell, who is a former minor league baseball player. Bennett said Marnell was committed to making a level playing field for everyone and had taken many steps in order to do so.
He pointed out that he was an FBI agent who investigated a fixed fight between Richie Melito and Thomas “Top Dawg” Williams in 2000 in Las Vegas. Melito won by first-round knockout, but Bennett investigated the case and proved that Williams had taken a dive.
“I had 24-and-a-half years in the FBI and I indicted a boxing case for a fixed fight and I traveled all over the country to interview fighters who took a dive to get money under the table and it was proven in a court of law. Do you think for one second I would say, ‘Hey, we’re going to favor Canelo here because he comes here often and he gives us a lot of business?’ ” Bennett said. “Or, ‘We’re going to favor Floyd because he is here so often?’ Hell no. Floyd was a world champ and he worked hard. It’s not up to me whether Floyd wins or loses. It’s up to Floyd.
“If I felt any of my judges were prejudiced or biased and I could prove it, I would report them to the FBI. We have no vested interest in the outcome. The Nevada State Athletic Commission’s only goal is to be fair and to get it right. We employ officials who have performed well under pressure and come up with the correct scores even in the biggest, most important and closest fights. Fighters want to come here and fight because they know we will go above and beyond to do that. Any suggestion otherwise is bull s---.”
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