Daniel Jacobs executed a terrific game plan against middleweight king Gennady Golovkin. Switching constantly between orthodox and southpaw, Jacobs confounded Golovkin through large stretches of their fight. From both stances, he fired sweeping hooks, sharp crosses and short uppercuts. Jacobs' approach kept Golovkin from applying consistent pressure; he didn't know where the punches would be coming from. In numerous occasions, Golovkin connected with shots at close range and then voluntarily backed off after receiving Jacobs' counters. For boxing spectators, Golovkin in temporary retreat was certainly a new phenomenon.
What won the fight for Golovkin in my opinion (Golovkin prevailed by 115-112, 115-112 and 114-113 – I scored it for him 115-113, having it six-five for Golovkin with one round even) was his lead right hand. That shot sent Jacobs to the canvas in the fourth round and staggered him at a couple of other points during the fight. The only other punch that seemed to work for Golovkin was his jab, which wasn't the consistent weapon that it had been in previous fights but it was still effective enough to help him win rounds.
However, the big story of the fight was Jacobs. Having been knocked out in his only previous loss of his career and dropped recently by light-hitting Sergio Mora, Jacobs wasn't expected to make it to the final bell. However, not only did Jacobs survive all 12 rounds, but at many points in the match he was clearly the superior talent. Using his height, reach and athleticism, he mostly stuck to a disciplined game plan of quick flurries, angles and switching stances. He didn't engage in a war and kept Golovkin from timing him or walking him down on a consistent basis.
Jacobs' trainer, Andre Rozier, devised a clever game plan that accentuated his fighter's size, boxing skills and athleticism to keep Golovkin from fully asserting himself. At times, Rozier voiced his displeasure with Jacobs pulling straight back or losing concentration at the end of rounds but Rozier should certainly be pleased with his fighter's execution. Jacobs' and Rozier's work introduced a boxing god to mortality. Sure, Golovkin may have won the fight but he'll never be looked at with the same trepidation by potential opponents. It's not that future boxing foes will, or even can, duplicate Jacobs' game plan, but there no longer will exist the aura of invincibility around Golovkin, a factor that has helped him dominate the top levels of boxing prior to Saturday.
But let's not disparage Golovkin's effort against Jacobs. He earned a tough victory when things weren't necessarily working well for him, a demonstration of significant intestinal fortitude. Facing an athletic, rangy, skilled boxer with power, Golovkin landed what he could and was successful at hurting Jacobs with strafing right hands. It wasn't his best performance but not all opponents are compliant in the ring. Golovkin beat a determined, talented fighter. His offense was just a tad more consistent and his blows were the better shots.
At 34 and with over 350 amateur bouts, it's certainly possible that Golovkin's physical prime is behind him. However, let's not discount that Jacobs' approach might have given Golovkin problems earlier in his career as well. Yes, there were moments on Saturday where Golovkin couldn't pull the trigger like he had in previous fights but that could also be attributed to Jacobs' tricky style as much as Golovkin's potential physical decline. In short, both Golovkin's age and Jacobs' effectiveness should be given significant weight when assessing GGG's performance on Saturday.
What was most telling about Golovkin was how he reacted to Jacobs' power. Instead of staying in the pocket and banging with multi-punch combinations, Golovkin often got out of range to reset. Although his chin held up wonderfully throughout the fight, it was clear by how he reacted to Jacobs' shots that Golovkin didn't feel safe to stand and trade. Jacobs' body work, specifically his left uppercut out of the southpaw stance, sent Golovkin away on numerous occasions. These moments should give future GGG opponents hope. Golovkin has always seemed unflappable but now doubt has finally started to creep in. I'm not saying that he necessarily loses his next fight but now one can see how he will struggle in the future. If GGG no longer feels comfortable exchanging like he did in the past, he becomes a much different and far more beatable fighter.
Ultimately, Golovkin-Jacobs may not have been a spectacular bout, but it was an engrossing and memorable one. We learned important things about both fighters. Jacobs removed all doubts about his physical and psychological makeup and Golovkin had just enough savvy and offense to defeat a gifted and determined opponent. The scores could have gone either way and in the final analysis Golovkin-Jacobs was one of the few occasions in boxing where both combatants exited as deserved winners.
Pound-for-pound king Roman Gonzalez and former junior bantamweight titlist Srisaket Sor Rungvisai engaged in an epic war on the Golovkin-Jacobs undercard. Sor Rungvisai, a little-known, hard-hitting southpaw from Thailand immediately announced his presence with a hard left hand to the chest that dropped Gonzalez in the opening round. By the end of the second round, Gonzalez had successfully battled back with expert displays of combination punching, throwing almost every punch imaginable and landing with pinpoint precision.
Rounds three through six were vintage Gonzalez displays. He blasted Sor Rungvisai around the ring with a relentless offensive attack. Although Sor Rungvisai continued to land, Gonzalez's clean punching repeatedly snapped his opponent's head back and forced him into retreat. In particular, Gonzalez had sustained success with a right hand/left uppercut combination, of which Sor Rungvisai couldn't find a proper defense.
However, as the fight progressed, a series of head butts (from my vantage point, none of them intentional) opened up two cuts over Gonzalez's right eye and as the bout continued, Roman's face was a bloody disaster. Rungvisai's consistent sharp left hands didn't help matters either as Gonzalez's cornerman, Miguel Diaz, couldn't contain the bleeding.
From my perspective, Gonzalez started to fade in the seventh round and struggled in the back half of the fight. Although he continued to march forward, his offensive attack lacked its previous dynamism. With Gonzalez not fighting at his same ferocious clip, Sor Rungvisai became increasingly emboldened. Earlier he had retreated after feeling Gonzalez's power but in the latter rounds, he remained in the pocket, firing hard left hands and withstanding Gonzalez's forays.
Gonzalez rallied with a huge 12th round, where he unloaded his arsenal attempting to end the fight. Although, Sor Rungvisai made it to the final bell, he was in survival mode at several points in the round. On my card, I had the fight a draw, as one of the judges had it. However, the other two saw Sor Rungvisai winning by two points, acceptable scores in my opinion.
Nevertheless, the decision was wildly unpopular in the arena and very few on social media had Sor Rungvisai winning. I certainly think that the fight could've played much differently in the stands at Madison Square Garden than how it did on television (where I was watching). Gonzalez was clearly the aggressor throughout the majority of the fight. He continued to press forward and fire shots. However, Rungvisai countered very well off the ropes. Those shots are far easier to see on television with multiple angles than in an arena hundreds of feet away. In the second half of the fight, Sor Rungvisai seemed to be connecting with the stronger blows.
Ultimately, Glenn Feldman, Julie Lederman and Waleska Roldan turned in defendable scorecards. It should be noted that East Coast judges are far less inclined to score aggression than those in other jurisdictions. To them, clean punching matters more than other scoring criteria such as ring generalship and effective aggression. I'm not saying that Saturday's judges were right or wrong, just that different regions in the U.S. look at scoring fights differently. I'm fairly confident that Gonzalez would've won Saturday's fight had it taken place in Nevada or California, jurisdictions that seem to place more emphasis on the fighter who comes forward.
Gonzalez may have lost his "0" on Saturday but his effort only helped build his legend. Overcoming an early knockdown and gushing blood throughout the bout's second half, he demonstrated why he has endeared himself to fight fans the world over. He sought no excuses and refused to look for a way out of the fight. He faced a rugged, hard-hitting, proud opponent and refused to yield.
Although clearly acknowledging Gonzalez's courageous display on Saturday, it should be stated that he hasn't looked comfortable at junior bantamweight (115 lbs.). Against Carlos Cuadras and Sor Rungvisai, he took significant punishment. Gonzalez started his career at 105 lbs., and three divisions north – and a whole lot of ring wars later – he seems to have met his physical limit. At 29, he's also at an age when many smaller fighters tend to decline rapidly.
Unfortunately for American boxing fans, most of Gonzalez's best moments in his career transpired in Japan, Nicaragua and Mexico. Until 2015, his fights weren't consistently broadcasted in the U.S. Thus, the overwhelming majority of American fight enthusiasts were deprived of watching Roman's awesome peak. And while HBO deserves belated credit for bringing Gonzalez stateside, a lack of imagination and a bias against smaller fighters kept him away from U.S. airwaves for far too long (again, I do credit HBO for eventually committing to Gonzalez).
Hopefully, U.S networks will become more imaginative with their boxing programming. There will be other smaller-weight fighters who can captivate American audiences if given the proper exposure. Luis Nery, a 22-year-old Mexican bantamweight knockout artist, may be one such fighter. He's in line to fight Shinsuke Yamanaka, the bantamweight king, later this year. If Nery emerges with the title, and it's certainly a possibility, a U.S. network should jump on him; that could be a wonderfully fruitful relationship.
If he wants them, Roman Gonzalez still has several attractive fights on the horizon. Alluring rematches against Juan Estrada, Cuadras and Sor Rungvisai would be welcome at HBO and there's always the big-money option against Naoya Inoue in Japan. It's certainly possible that Gonzalez can reclaim a title for a final coda to his memorable career.
Gonzalez will be remembered as a can't-miss fighter. As offensively gifted as any in the sport, he plied his trade with a technical mastery and ferocious zeal unmatched in contemporary boxing. Ultimately, it's unfortunate that so many fight fans were deprived of seeing his best in the ring, but even in the autumn of his career, Gonzalez demonstrated why he was such an extraordinary talent.
Adam Abramowitz is the founder/head writer of saturdaynightboxing.com.
Adam Abramowitz is the founder/head writer of saturdaynightboxing.com.
He's a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.