By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – Daniel Jacobs went 12 rounds again Saturday night, but this fight was much more entertaining and competitive than his previous performance.
Jacobs beat Maciej Sulecki by unanimous decision, but not before the largely unknown contender from Poland tested Jacobs at times in the main event of an eight-fight card that drew an announced crowd of 7,892 to Barclays Center in Brooklyn. All three judges – John McKaie (116-111), Carlos Ortiz Jr. (117-110) and Steve Weisfeld (115-112) – scored their competitive WBA middleweight elimination match for Brooklyn’s Jacobs (34-2, 29 KOs), who knocked down Sulecki early in the 12th round.
The previously unbeaten Sulecki regularly landed his right hand, particularly during the first 10 rounds, but he didn’t have enough power to hurt the former WBA middleweight champion. Sulecki also displayed a good chin, as he, too, was able to withstand Jacobs’ most powerful punches until Jacobs drilled him with a well-timed overhand right early in the 12th round.
Jacobs said following his victory that Sulecki didn’t truly hurt him at any point in the fight, but that he took notice of several of the hard right hands Sulecki landed. The heavily favored Jacobs also didn’t think he was close to being behind on any of the scorecards before recording an impressive knockdown in the last round.
“He was a tough customer,” Jacobs told HBO’s Max Kellerman in the ring. “Sometimes things don’t always go your way inside the ring. He was able to prove that he was a tough customer and that he belonged in here tonight. … I came in prepared for everything that he had. Looking at his fights, I knew he was a tough customer.
“I think we abandoned the jab a little bit. But other than that, [I was] trying to go for the knockout because I knew the fans wanted a good show. But, at the end of the day, I thought I did very well to grab a unanimous decision.”
Jacobs took risks at times and seemed determined to entertain fans more than he did when Jacobs beat Luis Arias by unanimous decision five months earlier.
Sulecki, of Warsaw, Poland, lost for the first time as a professional (26-1, 10 KOs). After three straight fights at or around the super welterweight limit of 154 pounds, Sulecki moved back up to middleweight for the opportunity to fight Jacobs.
The 28-year-old Sulecki has mostly fought at or near the middleweight limit of 160 pounds during his seven-year pro career.
The 31-year-old Jacobs finally floored Sulecki with a perfectly placed, crushing right hand early in the 12th round. The resilient Sulecki got right up, though, and tried to hurt Jacobs with hard shots of his own.
Sulecki’s initial resistance when he reached his feet probably prevented Jacobs from knocking him out.
“I believe I caught him in between punches,” Jacobs said regarding the knockdown. “He was throwing his right hand and there we go, ‘Boom!’ Those type of shots, when you’re throwing and you’re putting your weight into my power, it’s hard, I mean, it’s hard to take those shots.
“And he was coming up from junior middleweight. He was a tough, durable guy, and he belongs at middleweight and he belongs at the top of the division. So much respect to him and the Polish fans.”
Sulecki didn’t throw as many punches in the 10th and 11th rounds as he had thrown earlier in the fight. Jacobs drilled him with an overhand right with just under 30 seconds remaining in the 11th round.
Referee Harvey Dock warned Jacobs for a low blow late in the ninth round.
Sulecki clipped Jacobs with a picture-perfect, overhand right after Jacobs unloaded a combination late in the eighth round. Jacobs wasn’t affected by that punch and kept coming forward.
As he had done in several other rounds, Sulecki landed a solid overhand right around the 1:40 mark of the seventh round. Jacobs took it well, but Sulecki connected with another one a little less than a minute later.
Jacobs flush overhand right stopped Sulecki briefly late in the sixth round, which wasn’t as action-packed as the fifth round.
Sulecki landed a good overhand right with just under two minutes to go in the fifth round. That round concluded with Jacobs and Sulecki winging wild power punches at one another, several of which landed for each fighter.
Jacobs boxed out of a southpaw stance early in the fourth round, something he had tried during previous rounds, too.
Jacobs clipped Sulecki with a right uppercut with just under a minute remaining in the fourth round. Jacobs also connected with a solid left hook to the side of Sulecki’s head just before the fourth round ended.
Jacobs began banging away at Sulecki’s body late in the third round. They traded power shots over the final 20 seconds of the third round as well.
Sulecki countered a Jacobs combination with a solid overhand right with just under two minutes remaining in the second round. An accidental clash of heads caused a brief break in the action at the 1:17 mark of the second.
Sulecki connected with a solid overhand right that got Jacobs’ attention about 50 seconds into their fight.
Sulecki’s loud, proud Polish fans were very vocal in the first round. Eventually, though, a pro-Jacobs chant of ‘Brooklyn!’ drowned out the cheers for Sulecki.
His win Saturday night made Jacobs the WBA’s mandatory challenger for Gennady Golovkin, who beat Jacobs by unanimous decision in a closely contested, 12-round title fight 13 months ago at Madison Square Garden. Jacobs hopes to get another shot at Golovkin (37-0-1, 33 KOs) in the foreseeable future, but Golovkin, assuming he beats huge underdog Vanes Martirosyan on May 5, appears headed toward a lucrative pay-per-view rematch against the suspended Canelo Alvarez on September 15.
Jacobs’ victory over Sulecki also amounted to a much more appealing performance than the first fight of Jacobs’ multi-fight contract with HBO. The former WBA champion defeated Arias easily, but Milwaukee’s Arias (18-1, 9 KOs) fought cautiously and claimed a blister on the bottom of his foot hindered him throughout that 12-rounder November 11 at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, New York.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.