By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – Daniel Jacobs didn’t do quite enough to beat Gennady Golovkin, but by finishing 12 rounds Saturday night and winning his fair share of rounds he accomplished more than most fans and media expected.
Ultimately, though, the heavily favored Golovkin landed more overall punches, was effective with his jab, dropped Jacobs in the fourth round and won a unanimous decision before a crowd of 19,939 at Madison Square Garden. All three judges – Max DeLuca (114-113), Don Trella (115-112) and Steve Weisfeld (115-112) – scored the fight for the defending middleweight champion from Kazakhstan.
Golovkin (37-0, 33 KOs) retained his WBC, IBO and WBA middleweight titles by beating Jacobs (32-2, 29 KOs), but his knockout streak ended at 23 fights and he went 12 rounds for the first time in his 10-year pro career. His decision defeat of Jacobs marked the first time Golovkin didn’t win a bout by knockout or technical since he out-pointed Amar Amari by unanimous decision in an eight-rounder in June 2008.
“He did a very good job, a very clean job,” Golovkin told HBO’s Max Kellerman in the ring. “I give him respect.”
According to unofficial CompuBox statistics, Golovkin landed 231-of-615 overall punches, 56 more than Jacobs (175-of-541). Jacobs was credited with landing more power punches (144-of-371 to 126-of-259) and Golovkin connected with many more jabs (105-of-356 to 31-of-170).
The 34-year-old Golovkin was a 7-1 favorite just before their HBO Pay-Per-View main event started, largely due to questions about Jacobs’ chin.
Jacobs’ lone loss prior to Saturday night was a one-punch knockout defeat to Dmitry Pirog 6½ years ago in Las Vegas. He also was knocked down by Sergio Mora, who’s not known as a puncher, in the first round of a bout Jacobs came back to win by second-round technical knockout in August 2015 at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.
His questionable chin aside, Jacobs was widely viewed as the most complete combination of boxer and puncher that Golovkin has fought since he turned pro in May 2006. That was evident as the highly competitive fight unfolded.
Jacobs fought mostly a smart fight against a pulverizing puncher. He let his hands go at times, but usually boxed, often out of a southpaw stance, as he tried to keep Golovkin off-balance.
“I think I won the fight,” Jacobs said. “I think the fans will support me on that. … I think I’ve gained a lot of fans with this fight.”
A tiring Jacobs kept trying to pull off the upset in the 12th round, when he connected a couple good left hands. When the final bell sounded, Jacobs collapsed to his knees near his corner, as if he realized he had done something significant just by surviving all 12 rounds against the powerful, relentless Golovkin.
Following a ninth round in which he landed a tremendous uppercut, Golovkin spent much of the 10th round following Jacobs around the ring. When Jacobs finally came forward, he hit Golovkin with a hard right hand to the side of his head toward the end of the round.
Golovkin hurt Jacobs with a right uppercut late in the ninth round. The punishing punch made Jacobs retreat after his attempt at holding failed.
Golovkin landed a couple more power punches as Jacobs moved toward Golovkin’s corner, but he survived the round.
Golovkin connected with a hard right hand with about 40 seconds to go in the eighth round. Unlike in the fourth round, Jacobs took the flush punch well.
With Golovkin pressuring him, Jacobs, again fighting from a left-handed stance, landed a sneaky right uppercut early in the seventh round. Golovkin came back soon thereafter to land a combination as Jacobs backed into Golovkin’s corner.
Golovkin and Jacobs seemed to throw punches after the bell to end the seventh round. An animated Jacobs then pumped his fists as he walked back to his corner.
Jacobs started the sixth round in the southpaw stance he employed in earlier rounds. He eventually switched back to an orthodox stance and landed a hard right hand to the side of Golovkin’s head that Golovkin took well.
Jacobs just missed landing a right uppercut toward the end of the sixth round
After dropping Jacobs in the fourth round, Golovkin seemed to stun Jacobs with a right hand to the side of his head early in the fifth round. Jacobs switched to a southpaw stance for the second time in the fight later in the fifth round, which appeared to keep Golovkin at a safer distance for the rest of the round.
Jacobs also landed a couple powerful body shots during the fifth round.
Golovkin’s power became a factor when he drilled Jacobs with back-to-back right hands that dropped Jacobs near the ropes, about 30 seconds into the fourth round. Jacobs got off the seat of his trunks to answer referee Charlie Fitch’s count and was animated in waving Golovkin forward shortly after he got up.
Jacobs boxed well enough for the remainder of the fourth round to make it until the bell sounded.
Following two rounds in which neither fighter landed noticeable power punch, Jacobs connected with a left hand in the third round to fight out of Golovkin holding him down with his arm.
Jacobs opened the second round in a southpaw stance and spent about the first minute fighting out of it. Neither fighter landed anything big during the second round, but Golovkin was aggressive and spent much of those three minutes trying to cut the ring off as Jacobs stayed out of harm’s way.
Both boxers were tactical in a first round that lacked action as they felt one another out.
Golovkin’s victory continued to build momentum toward a pay-per-view showdown with Mexican superstar Canelo Alvarez.
Golovkin first is expected to face WBO middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders (24-0, 12 KOs) in a full 160-pound title unification fight June 10 in Kazakhstan. If Alvarez (48-1-1, 34 KOs) defeats Mexican rival Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (50-2-1, 32 KOs, 1 NC) on May 6 in Las Vegas and Golovkin beats Saunders, they could fight sometime in September.
The 30-year-old Jacobs lost for the first time since conquering cancer in 2011 and 2012, and for the first time since Russia’s Pirog knocked him out in the fifth round of their WBO middleweight title fight in July 2010. Jacobs’ grandmother, Cordelia Jacobs, died the weekend before Jacobs boxed Pirog at Mandalay Bay Events Center and the former New York Golden Gloves champion admitted later that the personal situation should’ve resulted in him pulling out of the fight.
He had no such distractions entering the Golovkin fight.
Jacobs left New York for two months to train for this daunting challenge at trainer Virgil Hunter’s gym in Oakland, California. He also hired former WBO super lightweight champion Chris Algieri as his nutritionist and chef for this training camp.
A fully focused Jacobs entered the ring Saturday night with a decided size advantage, but it didn’t deter Golovkin from being aggressive against a taller, powerful opponent.
The 6-feet Jacobs is believed to have weighed at least seven pounds more than the 5-feet-10 Golovkin by the time their fight started. Jacobs skipped the IBF’s second-day weigh-in Saturday morning, at which he was not supposed to weigh more than 170 pounds, 10 more than the middleweight limit of 160.
Jacobs also refused to allow HBO to weigh him Saturday night.
Golovkin weighed in at 169.8 pounds Saturday morning and weighed 170 on HBO’s scale Saturday night. He retained his IBF title before the bout started because Jacobs couldn’t fight for it after missing the IBF’s mandatory second-day weigh-in.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.