LAS VEGAS — Daniel Jacobs, the IBF middleweight champion, is known as “The Miracle Man” for beating cancer. It’s a stretch to say it will be another miracle if he defeats WBA-WBC champion Canelo Alvarez on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in their battle for the lineal championship, but it is more than fair to note that it will take an extraordinary performance for Jacobs to pull it off.
The line favoring Alvarez is surprisingly wide considering Jacobs’ stellar resume. At the MGM Grand, which is the host hotel for the fight, Alvarez is almost a full 5-1 favorite.
Alvarez has been in with so many good fighters for so many years that he’s become one of the sport’s most versatile and adaptable fighters He has proven to have a cast-iron chin after going 24 rounds with KO artist Gennady Golovkin the last two years and never coming close to getting dropped.
Since Alvarez was drubbed by Floyd Mayweather in 2013, his only loss, he has dramatically improved his boxing skills. His defense is much better and he’s become a master at dictating the fight’s tempo.
Proof of that came in his vastly difference approaches to his two fights with Golovkin. In their first fight in 2017, Alvarez mainly boxed and moved and fought Golovkin at a distance. In the rematch, Alvarez blunted Golovkin’s charge and was the aggressor and brought the fight to Golovkin.
Jacobs has a four-inch height advantage and a two-and-a-half-inch edge in reach. Coupled with his powerful jab and strong legs, he’s set up to box and move Alvarez from the outside.
Jacobs can win the fight, but he’s walking a tightrope and can’t afford any mistakes. He’s shown vulnerability in the past on the inside, and Alvarez is almost a genius in the way he’s able to get past the jab and move into that range where he’s able to hammer at his opponent’s body.
For Jacobs to win, he’ll have to continually pop that jab in Alvarez’s face and not allow him to get inside. He’ll have to use his legs to move away from Alvarez, but he can’t move in a predictable pattern, because Alvarez is so calm and so aware in the ring that if he does, he’ll cut off the ring and force a pitched battle on the inside.
Jacobs needs to stay off the ropes and out of the corners and keep the fight in the center of the ring.
It takes tremendous energy to fight that way, and if Alvarez is able to mount any kind of significant body attack, it will wear Jacobs down quicker and make his only viable path to victory more difficult.
Jacobs has a good punch, though he doesn’t hit as hard as Golovkin, and Alvarez had no issues dealing with Golovkin’s power. But if he keeps the rat-a-tat-tat with the jab going on Alvarez’s nose, it will eventually wear on the Mexican star.
And if Alvarez is vulnerable, it will be because he’s behind and trying to pressure to get back into the fight, and Jacobs catches him with a right counter.
Alvarez won a version of the super middleweight title in December against a vastly overmatched Rocky Fielding. Jacobs is 10 times the fighter that Fielding is, but Alvarez’s fixation on the body against Fielding is something he needs to duplicate in this fight.
He needs to tenderize Jacobs’ ribs with those thudding hooks to the body that made Fielding collapse. Because Jacobs will be expending so much energy by circling and moving, Alvarez needs to make Jacobs fight to create a physical toll.
The more Jacobs slows down, the better it is for Alvarez. Alvarez is deceptively quick, and it won’t take much decline in Jacobs’ speed for Alvarez to take advantage of it.
This is a fight that Jacobs can win, but one that Alvarez will win. He has more tools and more options, and figures to be the more relaxed fighter.
Look for Jacobs to get out to an early lead, but for Alvarez to slow him down with a vicious body assault and to claim a non-controversial unanimous decision.
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