Surprises are rare within the boxing world, because it is a business where deals are made based on conversations, and people being how they are, often the parties involved can’t help themselves, and they chat about impending plans.
The sport enjoyed a heavy-duty ‘Oh wow’ reaction on Saturday night, when word leaked, in a Boxing Scene story, that Brooklyn middleweight Danny Jacobs would be signing on with HBO, and British promoter Eddie Hearn.
We usually get a preceding hint via at least some vague whispering, but this one came under hard under radar.
Jacobs made it official when he came on HBO, and chatted with Jim Lampley, before Jorge Linares defended his 135 title against Luke Campbell. “I’m with the family, I’m with HBO now,” Jacobs said, and told us that he signed a “multi-fight” deal with HBO, and also signed on with Hearn.
He will fight in NY, he said, in early November, on HBO. “You guys are going to see me on a constant basis, from this point on,” he promised. Mike Coppinger of RING Tweeted that the HBO first fight would come Nov. 11 against Luis Arias at the Nassau Coliseum.
Jacobs (32-2 with 29 KOs), who was and still is advised by Al Haymon, the behind the curtains move-maker who has more than 200 fighters under his advisor umbrella, was last seen in action in March.
He fought on an HBO pay per view, against Gennady Golovkin, and though he lost, by a total of seven points on three judges’ cards, his stock rose. His chin was checked and he passed the test against the fearsome sniper from Kazakhstan. Many watchers thought he won the bout, and among those who left Madison Square Garden impressed were the suits who run boxing for HBO. Peter Nelson, the youthful Harvard grad who has been buying the groceries and planning the menu at HBO since late 2015 was struck by the Brooklyners’ vibrancy, explosive and charisma. So much so, that talks were fashioned between Team Jacobs and HBO, and also Hearn.
Jacobs' manager Keith Connolly, who has a history in finance, told us that he and Haymon decided this move was the best thing for the 30 year old hitter, whose visibility grew in the leadup to the GGG bout, as mainstream press reported on his winning scrap with a particularly villainous strain of cancer in 2011 that left him on death’s door, but saw him battle back with the tenacity and willpower of a, yes, world-class prizefighter.
Connolly told us he didn’t want to delve into specifics, a press conference to announce Jacob’s next fight will take place shortly.
Off the top of our head, this move reads as a whip smart maneuver. In the 160 pound realm, HBO has men on the chess board, including Golovkin, the Mexican heart-throb Canelo Alvarez, and Canadian basher David Lemieux.
BJ Saunders, who holds the WBO title, is a free agent sort, not beholden to one side of the tracks or another, and you can throw Miguel Cotto in the mix, though one would think he’d not want any part of a fast-twitch sniper like Jacobs in his going away bout. You will also recall that before Jacobs snagged that GGG date, he admitted some frustration that his visibility wasn’t where maybe you’d expect it to be. He seemed to crave more regular outings, understanding that visibility is built through frequent appearances, because once out of site, boxers are too much out of the mind of fans. On the HBO side of the street, there are more “play-mates” who are free to frolic, so we’d think he’ll get his wish as far as staying busier.
Fans are wondering what other shoes may drop. They saw Top Rank and Bob Arum go all in with ESPN, and folks wondered where Peter Nelson and HBO would find content and athletes to replace TR stablers. Also, this reads like a major move by Hearn, the charming son of a promoter who goes against the grain in appearance and temperment when one ponders the archetype of a “boxing promoter.” Swooping in and snagging an American A lister like Jacobs you can bet sent a shock wave through offices of many people in and around that realm.
Yes, the game just changed with this announcement. How much, and how many more shoes might drop, we will have to wait and see.
HBO SENT OUT SOME QUOTES FROM THE PLAYERS…
“I'm truly excited to be joining Matchroom Boxing and HBO,” said Jacobs. “This is a new beginning for my career and I get a chance to showcase my skills to the world. I can't wait to return to the ring in November, being active and recapturing the World middleweight title.”
“It's an honour to welcome Danny Jacobs to the Matchroom Boxing team and to join forces with HBO boxing to showcase his fights,” said promoter Eddie Hearn. “I believe Danny has proved himself as the top Middleweight in World boxing and has one of the most inspirational stories you will ever see in the sport which must be told. We plan on keeping Danny nice and busy kicking off in November, then back in the spring with the obvious target of the Canelo vs GGG winner.
“This signing marks the first of many in the US market as we look forward to building on our success in the UK, raising fighters’ activities levels and profiles and providing fans with atmosphere and drama from this great sport.”
“Inspiring and electric in the ring, Daniel Jacobs is a true ambassador for boxing,” says Peter Nelson, executive vice president, HBO Sports. “Daniel is a force to be reckoned with in the stacked middleweight division. We look forward to watching his exceptionally bright future unfold as part of the HBO family.”