This week former middleweight/light heavyweight champ Bernard Hopkins said the following regarding Golden Boy Promotions’ star client, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez 51-1-2 (35), who meets Daniel Jacobs 35-2 (29) in a middleweight unification bout this weekend at the T-Mobile Center in Las Vegas:
“That style that Jacobs has is a little bit more difficult for Canelo to do from what he did against GGG. GGG was there, right in front of Canelo. He rarely moved or slipped to get out of the way. Jacobs fights in an urban style, the way [US] amateur [coaches] teach you. He's not a brawler. He's going to move. He'll want to establish that in the early part of the fight and carry the fight into the middle and championship rounds. I've been studying,” said the part-owner of GBP.
Granted, sometimes Hopkins likes to hold court and bully some with his thoughts on ring combat because of his resume and overall greatness as a ring technician when he was a world class champion for the better part of the last 20 years of his stellar career. But this time he is right.
When Canelo puts up his WBA/WBC titles in the quest to capture Jacobs' IBF title, he'll be confronted with a tougher conundrum stylistically than he was when he fought former middleweight ruler Gennady “GGG” Golovkin for 24 rounds spaced over two 12-round title bouts.
In essence, when Canelo fought GGG he knew he'd mostly force the fight working his way in behind his jab in order to get inside and engage Canelo to trade hooks and uppercuts. When they met a year later in a rematch, once GGG realized Canelo was intent on bringing it and fighting as he put it “Mexican style,” Golovkin smartly changed tactics and fought less aggressively and boxed and countered more and had success in spite of losing a close decision. And this is where Hopkins' words apply… See the issue is, Jacobs can do both and in a more than moderately effective manner. In addition to that, Jacobs is bigger than GGG and can change his style of attack from round to round.
Most sophisticated fight observers see Canelo-Jacobs as a 50-50 fight, and for good reason – Canelo can probably win by out-boxing Jacobs… or due to his better chin and punching accuracy, he could also outright out-fight him.
Conversely due to Jacobs' greater height and reach supported by some pretty good wheels, Danny is cable of out- boxing Canelo. And because of his presumed strength and size advantage, Jacobs may be able to maul and weigh himself down on Canelo in close, thus wearing him down and eventually overwhelming him and possibly getting a stoppage win.
Due to the style, skill set and versatility of both fighters, there isn't much separating these two other than Canelo having an all-world chin. And Jacobs does not. Moreover, there is one thing Canelo will bring to the ring with him that could be a monumental factor and be the difference if the fight is a near-death struggle that has gone completely unmentioned anywhere…..and that's the hardness and confidence Canelo emerged with after 24 rounds going to war with Golovkin, without ever being hurt, shook or looking as if he wanted out.
Yes, Jacobs went 12-rounds with GGG too, but that was just once and the fight wasn't personal to either one of them. Whereas Canelo and GGG had two grudge fights and because of the controversy regarding the first clash ending in a disputed draw, the rematch was even more personal and vindictive…..and they traded bombs for the entire 36 minutes from the onset and Canelo more than survived it.
Canelo is perceived as a pretty boy – as were Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard. And after getting the title both Ali and Leonard were met by their moment of truth when they were confronted by fighters who were thought to be unbeatable, in George Foreman 40-0 (37) and Thomas Hearns 32-0 (30).
Heading into those bouts the pretty boys whose toughness was questioned before the showdown were presumed DOA. Only it didn't happen… and they both won by stoppage.
And the factor that was overlooked and really injected Ali and Leonard with supreme confidence and the belief they weren't going to be manhandled by anybody is, Ali spit two wars with “Smokin” Joe Frazier before fighting Foreman. And during those 27 rounds Ali found out just how strong, tough and good he was and he drew from that. And the same thing applied to Leonard due to him splitting two fights with Roberto Duran, batting 23 rounds, before he fought Thomas “The Hitman” Hearns. Against Duran, Leonard was mauled and worked over and then returned his own fire. And like Ali after Frazier, Leonard went into the Hearns fight thinking after Duran, nothing could be that bad again…….and that mindset and hardness served them for the remainder of their careers.
In regards to Canelo, Golovkin was his Foreman to Ali and Hearns to Leonard….the fighter who was supposed to crush him and shatter his image. When they fought the first time the bout ended in a draw with many thinking Golovkin won. And regardless of whether or not Canelo really thought he won, he found out that he was every bit the man GGG is and equally as strong and tough. He tweaked his style for their rematch and was able to do so with confidence because he knew he could deal with anything GGG sent back at him. He survived another knockdown drag-out war with GGG and won the decision. The experience and confidence gained fighting Golovkin has his confidence soaring.
So much so that he has mentioned fighting WBO light heavyweight titlist Sergey Kovalev, one of the biggest punchers in the 175 division, without a catch weight gimmick.
Three things are obvious going into this weekend's Canelo vs. Jacobs middleweight title clash…1) Canelo is peaking physically and emotionally……2) Jacobs has peaked and is maybe on a slight decline physically……3) Canelo, based on his two wars with Golovkin, has soaring confidence and it's easy to read from his projection that he feels he cannot be defeated by anyone in his division, regardless being faced with the bogeyman many have made Jacobs up to be.
This is a tough fight to call and both combatants are capable of defeating the other fighting varying styles. But one thing can't be glossed over, and that is Jacobs probably has the highest degree of difficulty any past Canelo opponent has ever faced…..simply because he's never been more formidable as a seasoned pro nor has his confidence and belief in himself ever been greater. And much of that growth was brought out during his two wars with Golovkin.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com