Opening Bell: The complete Canelo
LAS VEGAS -- It's a measure of a top fighter when he can win against a high-quality opponent -- and do so without any controversy -- on a night when he is perhaps not at his very best.
That was the case on Saturday night with Canelo Alvarez, who unified three middleweight world titles with a decision win over Daniel Jacobs, who could not overcome a very slow start in their big-time showdown before the pro-Canelo crowd of 20,203 on Cinco de Mayo weekend at T-Mobile Arena.
Alvarez earned every bit of his 116-112, 115-113 and 115-113 decision in a fight that, unlike his majority decision win over Gennady Golovkin in their rematch to win two belts in September, was not at all controversial. Even Jacobs could not muster any anger or true shock over the outcome, gently saying afterward that he thought he did enough to win but not really pushing the issue at all or even mentioning the word "rematch."
"I'm not one of those guys. Even in a close decision I tip my hat to the man," Jacobs said at the post-fight news conference.
Alvarez, boxing's most bankable star and an elite pound-for-pound talent in the ESPN top three (behind only Vasiliy Lomachenko and Terence Crawford -- for now), racked up yet another very big win. It came on a night on which I didn't think he had his best stuff, like a pitcher who didn't have his best fastball but still got the job done on guile and good-enough secondary pitches.
The bottom line is Alvarez is a great fighter and continues to prove it against the best opposition. Although he is known for his offense, he is very well-rounded boxer.
Yes, he landed many crisp punches (and outlanded Jacobs 188-131, according to CompuBox), but he is not the prototypical Mexican brawler some make him out to be. He can get in there and bang with the best of them and he has a great left hook to the body that most young Mexican fighters are taught from Day 1 in the gym -- but Alvarez has so much more.
Alvarez (52-1-2, 35 KOs) has a great chin, too. Jacobs is a tremendous puncher and Alvarez walked through his shots, including two dynamite left hooks in the ninth round that probably would have dropped most middleweights. Alvarez didn't even budge.
The first time I saw Alvarez fight live was when he faced Jose Miguel Cotto (Miguel's older brother) in 2010 on the Floyd Mayweather-Shane Mosley undercard. Alvarez nearly got knocked out in the first round when Cotto very badly rocked him and had him staggering all over the place. Although Alvarez survived that life-and-death moment and eventually won by ninth-round knockout, many of us left ringside that night believing the big-time prospect was nothing but a hype job and would get drilled when he faced a better level of opponent.
Well, that was nine years ago this month, and Alvarez has faced a slew of high-level opponents since and not even been remotely close to being knocked down again. So he has an elite chin.
"I wasn't surprised he was able to take some pretty good shots," Jacobs said.
A great thing for Alvarez is that he doesn't have to rely on that great chin too often because he is also a very, very underrated fighter defensively. Obviously, the less a fighter gets hit, the longer he's going to last, and at 28, Alvarez looks like he is going to be around for quite some time.
He's no Mayweather or Pernell Whitaker defensively, but he can stand in the pocket and make opponents miss with head and body movement, like he did with Jacobs time and again. I don't live and die by CompuBox stats, but I am a strong believer that they're a very useful tool that illustrates trends in a fight. While Alvarez landed 40 percent of his punches -- a total that typically leads to victory -- he also got hit with only 20 percent of Jacobs' punches, and usually a connect percentage that low isn't enough to get it done without one of those shots resulting in a knockout. That means Alvarez also showed excellent defense, and I wasn't the only one who thought it was a major reason Alvarez won.
"The defense was a huge factor," Golden Boy Promotions CEO Oscar De La Hoya said. "I loved the way Canelo moved his head from all those punches in bunches that Jacobs was throwing. His combinations, as you witnessed, were lighting fast, but Canelo was able to dodge them, to bob and weave. He did an excellent job."
Jacobs (35-3, 29 KOs), 32, of Brooklyn, New York, came into the fight knowing that Alvarez was very sound defensively and acknowledged his difficulty penetrating it.
"He was a little tricky," Jacobs said. "I've always known that Canelo had a great upper-body movement, and that's exactly what he had and that's what he displayed. I've been vocal about that this whole press tour. His upper-body movement is exceptional. I knew what we were facing."
What Jacobs was facing was a future Hall of Famer in his prime.
Light heavyweight titlist Artur Beterbiev (14-0, 14 KOs) looked good in his fifth-round knockout of solid challenger Radivoje "Hot Rod" Kalajdzic (24-2, 17 KOs) on Saturday night in the main event of the Top Rank Boxing on ESPN card in Stockton, California.
The fight was Beterbiev's first on his new promotional agreement with Top Rank, which had promised him a fight before the start of Ramadan, which began on Sunday -- the primary reason the fight was on opposite the higher-profile Alvarez-Jacobs card.
Beterbiev, 34, a two-time Russian Olympian fighting out of Montreal, ended his second title defense the way he has all of his other fights -- by knockout. It was a dominating performance for Beterbiev, who was a little shaky in his previous defense against Callum Johnson, who knocked him down in their October slugfest.
Beterbiev was credited with a knockdown of Kalajdzic, 27, the Bosnia native fighting out of St. Petersburg, Florida, in the third round when a flurry of punches sent Kalajdzic into the ropes, which held him up. And then, as Beterbiev continued to dish out a beating in the fifth round, referee Dan Stell stopped it at 13 seconds.
The next step: Beterbiev wants major fights and the opportunity to unify titles, which he likely will get before the end of the year. In addition to Beterbiev, Top Rank promotes world champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk and co-promotes titlist Sergey Kovalev. They also promote super middleweight titlist Gilberto "Zurdo" Ramirez, who recently moved up in weight, and co-promote former titleholder Eleider "Storm" Alvarez. There's a rivalry with his countryman, Kovalev, whom Beterbiev twice beat in the amateurs. "I want unification fights. It doesn't matter who it is," Beterbiev said. "Of course, Kovalev is somebody I want to fight, but I want all of the champions at 175."
Prospect of the weekend: Vergil Ortiz Jr.
Golden Boy president Eric Gomez continually said leading up to Vergil Ortiz Jr.'s welterweight fight with Mauricio Herrera, in the Alvarez-Jacobs co-feature, that he believed Ortiz was the No. 1 prospect in boxing. Promoter hype, right?
Perhaps, but then again, maybe not. Not after the way Ortiz (13-0, 13 KOs), 21, of Dallas, who is trained by Robert Garcia, absolutely annihilated Herrera, who is at the end of his career, yes, but had never previously been stopped. And Ortiz, who moved up from junior welterweight as an accommodation to Herrera, dropped him late in the second round and then ruthlessly knocked him out cold with a crushing right hand at 29 seconds of the third round. Write it down: Ortiz is going to win a world title and be a force to be reckoned with.
The next step: Even though he looked very strong and solid at welterweight, Ortiz said he would go back to junior welterweight, where he wants to challenge for a title. He won't get that shot right away, and he is so dangerous that Golden Boy is probably going to have to maneuver him into a mandatory position before any titlist will give him the shot.
Fights you might have missed
Saturday at Stockton, California
Junior bantamweight Jerwin Ancajas (31-1-2, 21 KOs) TKO7 Ryuichi Funai (31-8, 22 KOs), retains a world title.
Ancajas, 27, a southpaw from the Philippines, retained his 115-pound belt for the seventh time in a dominating showing against mandatory challenger Funai, 33, who was fighting outside of Japan for the first time. Ancajas, who looked a lot better than he has in recent defenses (including a draw with Alejandro Santiago in September), basically beat Funai up for six rounds. He pressured him, cut and bruised his face and landed his straight left hand at will until the ringside doctor, after examining Funai, called for the fight to be stopped one second into the seventh round.
Lightweight Gabriel Flores Jr. (13-0, 6 KOs) KO3 Eduardo Pereira dos Reis (23-6, 19 KOs).
Flores, a prospect who turned 19 on May 1, was fighting in his hometown and largely responsible for bringing out 10,105 to the Stockton Arena for his scheduled six-rounder. He's a popular figure at home and gave the fans what they wanted: a big knockout. He took the fight to Reis and put him away with a sensational left hook to the chin that flattened him at 1 minute, 14 seconds of the third round.