Sunday, May 5, 2019

Opinions and Observations: Canelo-Jacobs

Before the days of fancy foreign imports, Cadillacs were the gold standard. A genuine status symbol, Cadillacs indicated wealth and refinement. Although Cadillacs certainly didn't accelerate like muscle cars and it took them a while to go from 0 to 65, they were the smoothest ride on the road. With a powerful engine and superior craftsmanship, 85 miles per hour felt like 40.   

About 10 years ago I was in Southern California and all that was left at the LAX rental lot was one of those Cadillac sedans that could have passed for a small boat. After the initial snickering of driving around posh L.A. in a grandpa mobile, I took that Caddy on the 405 and suddenly I understood. There was a certain majestic feeling of cruising the freeways while barely touching the pedal. Gliding around town, I felt a certain panache. 

Saul "Canelo" Alvarez was the Cadillac in the ring on Saturday. Barely breaking a sweat, overcoming an opponent in Daniel Jacobs who was taller, bigger and more athletic, Canelo gently put his foot on the gas without much of a care in the world. In the final rounds of the fight, with the bout seemingly in balance, Canelo was still cruising, finishing strongly, while Jacobs fought tentatively because his "check engine" light had switched on. 

To extend the car analogy, if Canelo was the Cadillac on Saturday – regal, high-performing, dependable – then Jacobs was an Audi from the '80s – sleek, decent acceleration, cool gadgets and toys, but ultimately lots of time spent stuck in the shop for needed repairs. 

Photo Courtesy of Ed Mullholland

With the fight potentially on the table in the final third, Jacobs was still tinkering. Although he had so many toys to play with, he couldn't settle on a style or an approach that would get the best of Canelo when he needed it most. Furthermore, he didn't really go for it in the championship rounds. Canelo countered beautifully in the 11th, often against the ropes, and the 12th wasn't a definitive round for either boxer. As the "away" fighter and well aware of Canelo's history of favorable scores from the judges, Jacobs needed to do more. 

Overall it was a strange fight, not necessarily a bad one, but a bout that won't soon be remembered. To switch to a baseball analogy for a second, both fighters were hitting singles, a few doubles and quite a few lazy pop ups to right field. Neither fought with much urgency or had success imposing himself consistently. 
Canelo was correctly awarded the fight on the scorecards, winning via unanimous decision 115-113, 115-113 and 116-112, but it was not one of his better performances. He didn't bite down and slug it out like he did against Golovkin or track down an elusive target as he had against Lara. There were very few menacing power punches, like the ones that dropped Trout and stopped foes such as Kirkland and Khan. On balance, he was more accurate, sharper and more consistent. 

With all of that said, Jacobs certainly had his moments. He neutralized much of Canelo's offense and didn't let him fire off too many of those million-dollar combinations that get the crowd oohing and aahing. In the ninth he landed a pulverizing hook that was the single best shot in the fight. Jacobs switched from orthodox to southpaw often, changing looks and the style of the fight, never giving Canelo sustained periods of momentum. He also worked the head and body well at times, having some success driving Canelo back to the ropes. 

In a number of ways Jacobs fought his fight. He was never hurt. He was able to move in and out, incorporate lateral movement and keep Canelo's ferocity in check. To my eyes, he had to dig deeper in fights against Golovkin (in which he lost a close decision) and Derevyanchenko (in which he squeaked by with a win). But he ultimately might have been lulled by Canelo's modest approach to the fight. Canelo didn't really push Jacobs and in turn Jacobs didn't push himself harder than second gear. As a result, Jacobs lacked intensity for much of the first half of the fight, choosing to dip his toes into the bout instead of diving right in. 

With all of Canelo's myriad offensive weapons and combinations, what perhaps contributed most to his win were single jabs. At mid-range Canelo surprisingly had the faster hands and his shorter, more direct shots landed with more impact. Canelo's sharp left stick continually snapped Jacobs's head back at points in the fight and while his landed jabs didn't lead to scintillating action, they were the definition of clean, scoring blows. Canelo did sprinkle in left hooks and straight rights to the body, but his jab won him the fight.

However, let's not pretend that Saturday was Canelo at his best. So many of the rounds were close – 1, 3, 5, 10, 12. Canelo won the majority of these rounds, but a Jacobs victory wasn't beyond the realm of possibility. Canelo was in cruise control throughout the fight, and it was enough on the judges’ scorecards to win, but where was his desire to go for the jugular, to confirm his greatness? More often than not, he was happy enough to nick rounds, seemingly assured that it would be enough. It proved to be a winning approach on Saturday, but not a particularly inspiring one. 

As for Jacobs (and head trainer Andre Rozier), at a certain point a fighter has to understand his strengths. Jacobs often switches from orthodox to southpaw during a fight, but I never have a sense of purpose with the move like I do with Terence Crawford. Crawford switches to take away an opponent's straight right, or to remain more defensively responsible. Jacobs will go southpaw for a round or two and then revert back, like he's trying out things in the gym. Crawford understands what he needs to do win and what tactic will take him there. If something is working he sticks with it. I don't get the same feeling from Jacobs and Rozier. Jacobs is a capable and versatile fighter, but he doesn't have a firm understanding of what he needs to do to win. (And it wouldn't hurt if he had more of "Bud" Crawford's killer instinct as well.)

Photo Courtesy of Ed Mullholland

For Canelo the gravy train continues. At 28 he has already defeated many of the top challengers of his era. He is a bona fide star in a sport with few of them. He has every punch in the book, a high ring IQ, and a willingness to improve. Clearly he's among the top fighters of the world, but he sure does give opponents chances. 

As good as Canelo is, many, perhaps the majority of fight fans, believe that Golovkin defeated him twice. Others thought that Lara or Trout did enough to prevail over him. Whether or not Canelo won these fights is not the point I'm trying to make right now. Ultimately, his bouts against top opposition have all been competitive. Several have been coin flips, and his side happened to come up. In a legitimate enterprise, if you toss a coin enough times eventually the other side will land. Perhaps Saturday's fight against Jacobs wasn't exactly a coin flip. On second watch I thought that Canelo won seven rounds, as two of the judges did. But this is a subjective sport, and it's conceivable to cobble together seven rounds for Jacobs, or Trout, or Lara, or Golovkin. Canelo's cruise control was just enough to get the job done on Saturday's scorecards. Certainly he had more to give if needed, but his self-satisfaction in the ring was a bit underwhelming. The scorecard gods won't support him forever.


In the second round of the DAZN broadcast of the fight, analyst Sergio Mora suggested that Jacobs turning southpaw was a wise tactic. When Mora and Jacobs fought previously, Jacobs had knocked down Mora in the southpaw stance. Again when Jacobs switched in the fifth, Mora asserted that it was a good decision. By the ninth round, Mora stated that one reason that Jacobs was losing the fight was his ineffectiveness in the southpaw stance. In the 10th round, after Jacobs just had his best rounds of the fight, Mora suggested that Jacobs was making a last hurrah stand, a comment made when a fighter makes one final push before getting stopped. To my eyes, Jacobs was never seriously hurt throughout the fight. 

Brian Kenny, DAZN's play-by-play man, stated after each of the first three rounds that the action was close and perhaps could be scored either way. Jacobs performed well in rounds seven, eight and nine, but by then Kenny was already saying that it was a vintage Canelo performance and that Jacobs seemed adrift in the fight. He believed that there was a huge gulf in class between the two fighters. Conceivably, Jacobs could have been down 5-4 after nine rounds (or even, if bending over backwards, slightly ahead). As Chris Mannix's score started to tighten in the back third of the fight, Kenny stated that the fight didn't feel close at all. Kenny, perhaps overcompensating, realizing that the bout may have been closer than he was seeing it, then said that Jacobs had a strong 11th, when that was clearly one of Canelo's best rounds of the fight.   

Needless to say, Mora and Kenny didn't really know what they were watching on Saturday. Kenny was a complete homer for Canelo, the crown jewel of DAZN's boxing program. Shots that were clearly blocked by Jacobs were called emphatically for Canelo. When Canelo was doing very little offensively at certain points in the fight, Kenny compared Canelo's defense to Floyd Mayweather's. Kenny asserted that Canelo was at his peak and few had a chance to beat him while he was in such fine form, but then why was Canelo just edging rounds?  

It was an awful broadcast from DAZN. To be fair, awful broadcasts in boxing are frequent occurrences; 99% of the time they don't affect my scoring of a fight. But Canelo-Jacobs was different. My agitation while watching the broadcast may have led to some bad decision making. To my eyes, the DAZN crew ignored or discredited much of Jacobs's work while every twitch of Canelo's muscle fiber was praised; I grew even angrier. Although I had picked Canelo to win, I knew I wasn't watching an excellent version of him on Saturday. He was adequate, capable, but less than enthralling. I started to overcompensate for Jacobs.

Initially I scored the bout 116-112 for Jacobs, but had it for Canelo on second viewing 115-113. Watching the fight live, I was too eager to give Jacobs the 12th. The 10th was another round for Canelo that flipped for me when I re-watched it. Ultimately, I had an off night, which happens, but I'm certainly not thrilled about it. Canelo was just a little bit sharper and more consistent. He built up several small advantages in the fight that demanded close attention. Jacobs did perform much better than the broadcast indicated. He deserved more respect. But he didn't win. 

And with Kenny and Mora, the fans aren't winning either. DAZN's broadcast needs a major overhaul. Big fights should feel like a legitimate sporting contest not shameless propaganda for the favorite son. Canelo was a deserved winner on Saturday, but he was pushed, challenged and in a competitive fight, and DAZN's broadcast was too enamored with its meal ticket to call it square.  

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of
He's a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook.


  1. This is a good read. Both echoes some of my thoughts and makes me see some things different.
    Thanks for the solid article. I will start to follow and read your articles.

  2. AnonymousMay 06, 2019

    At the end of the article you state..."Ultimately, I had an off night, which happens, but I'm certainly not thrilled about it." Could it be that DAZN had the same?