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Canelo Checkmates Jacobs in Another `Chess Match’ (Translation: Rather Boring)

Bernard Fernandez

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Canelo vs Jacobs

Gennady Golovkin was in the house, of course. So was Demetrius Andrade, as well as a raft of other boxing celebrities and famous non-fighters in the sellout crowd of 20,203 in Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena. The biggest of big-time boxing always packs the sport’s most prestigious venues, and Saturday night’s  middleweight unification matchup of Canelo Alvarez and Daniel “Miracle Man” Jacobs was hyped, with ample justification, as the biggest bout of 2019 to date.  Who knows? Maybe the fight – Alvarez (52-1-2, 35 KOs) retained his WBC and WBA middleweight titles, while annexing the IBF version held by Jacobs (35-3, 29 KOs) on a unanimous decision — will still merit that designation at year’s end, particularly if heavyweight kingpins Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder continue to glare and preen at one another from afar, as is likely to be the case with welterweight superstars Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr.

But for the beautiful people who paid premium prices to be there live and in person, as well as the many DAZN subscribers who no doubt wanted to believe that the action in the ring would match their inflated expectations, what was actually delivered, while technically proficient and entertaining enough when framed by that perspective, was somehow emotionally uninvolving. Perhaps that even was the case for obsessed Mexican and Mexican-American fans who might pay good money to watch their idol, Alvarez, chew bubble gum.

Boxing is indeed the sweet science, but there is a reason relatively limited but relentless and risk-taking action fighters like the late Arturo Gatti and Matthew Saad Muhammad generated electricity as if they were human versions of Hoover Dam. Ask any of the paying customers filing out of the T-Mobile Arena if they’d rather have seen an updated version of Hagler vs. Hearns or another pugilistic chess match and the overwhelming sentiment would be for what Golovkin likes to refer to as a “big drama show,” the kind frequently promised but only occasionally produced.

For a fight, particularly at an elite level, to be described as a “chess match” is code for it being, well, a tad boring. The last time chess commanded truly global attention among non-partisans was in 1972, when quirky American genius Bobby Fischer ended 24 years of Soviet domination of the world championship by defeating Russia’s Boris Spassky, 12½-8½ in a marathon contest in Reykjavik, Iceland, that stretched from July 11 through Aug. 31. Even then, however, the intensity of interest was not so much rooted in the now-deceased Fischer’s brilliant and unconventional play as in the U.S. vs. USSR aspects of a confrontation steeped with Cold War connotations.

Whenever a boxing match is described in chess terms, it’s usually time to rummage through the attics of our minds for the tortoise shell glasses, pocket protectors and bow ties that are the universal symbols of Big Bang Theory geekdom. But there was blow-by-blow announcer Brian Kenny, after the 12th round had concluded and waiting for the official decision to be announced, advising viewers that it was “a chess match early on,” and color commentator Sergio Mora adding that “when you have that much power and that much skill, it’s going to be a chess match.”

Golovkin (38-1-1, 34 KOs), who returns to action on June 8 in a stay-busy fight against Canadian mystery man Steve Rolls (19-0, 10 KOs) at Madison Square Garden, professed to be unimpressed by what he’d seen of Canelo, against whom he is 0-1-1, and Jacobs, whom he defeated on a close unanimous decision on March 18, 2017.

“Frankly, I was expecting much more,” GGG said, dismissively. “It was just like a sparring match. It was a little boring because they’re both high-level boxers. They should give more to the audience. I didn’t see any emotion. I didn’t see anything special.”

To be fair, there were some decent exchanges that never were sustained long enough to appreciably elevate spectators’ pulse rates. But it was Alvarez who moved his pawns, knights and bishops around with greater efficiency, well enough to get the nod by a 116-112 margin on judge Glenn Feldman’s scorecard, which seemed about right. Cohorts Steve Weisfeld and Dave Moretti had it closer, maybe too much so, at 115-113, suggesting a nail-biter that wasn’t borne out by the punch statistics, which showed Canelo connecting on 188 of 466, a solid 40.3 percent, and 120 of 204 power shots, an even more impressive 45.5 percent. Jacobs – who didn’t do himself any favors by too often switching back and forth between orthodox to southpaw stances, proving only that he doesn’t do it as well as, say, Terence Crawford – had corresponding figures of  131 of 649 (20.2 percent) and 89 of 309 (24.8 percent).

Did Alvarez, who is third on most knowledgeable observers’ pound-for-pound lists behind Vasiliy Lomachenko and Crawford, do enough to make the jump up to No. 1? Probably not off of this fight, but the red-haired Mexican national hero is only 28 and has a compendium of weapons, most notably superior counterpunching ability and excellent body work, and there are times when, when he gets an opponent in trouble, that he has shown good finishing instincts. And as the unified middleweight titlist who also holds a super middleweight belt (the secondary version from the WBA), his career options are numerous and attractive.

Will Canelo try to fully consolidate the 160-pound division by fighting the winner of the June 28 bout between WBO champ Andrade (27-0, 17 KOs) and Poland’s Maciej Sulecki (28-1, 11 KOs) in Andrade’s hometown of Providence, R.I.?  Mix it up for a third time with Golovkin, which probably is the highest-interest fight out there available to him, particularly since there are more than a few GGG supporters who believe he deserved to win one or both of the two previous meetings?  Or move back up to super middle, where he could begin another unification process against WBC champion Anthony Dirrell (33-1-1, 24 KOs), IBF titlist Caleb Plant (18-0, 10 KOs), WBO ruler Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez (40-0, 26 KOs) or WBA “super” super middleweight champ Callum Smith (25-0, 18 KOs)?

“I just want the biggest challenge,” Alvarez said after he’d whittled down the larger Jacobs. “That’s all I want.”

That seemingly suggested another pairing with Golovkin, which is not of paramount concern at this moment, but something that Canelo was not prepared to discount altogether. “For me, we’re done,” he said of a rivalry that has not been settled to everyone’s satisfaction. “But if the people want another fight, we’ll do it again and I’ll beat him again.

“That’s why I’m here. That what I was born for – to fight, to defend what’s mine. I’ll fight anyone.”

For Jacobs, the future is a bit murkier. Although he officially weighed in at the middleweight limit of 160 pounds, the cancer survivor from Brooklyn came in at 173.6 pounds at 8 o’clock the morning of the fight, costing him $250,000 per pound for violating a contractual clause that stipulated he could not rehydrate to more than 170 at that time. It is entirely reasonable to believe that Jacobs purposefully decided to take the nearly million-buck hit to his purse to come at the higher weight, presumably improving his chances of pulling off the upset.

“I feel like I gave enough tonight to get the victory,” Jacobs said, the standard response of nearly every fighter who loses on points and isn’t beaten to a bloody pulp. His promoter with Matchroom Sport USA, Eddie Hearn, raised the possibility that Jacobs might be better served going up to super middle. But at least Hearn didn’t go far enough to say that the decision was a miscarriage of justice.

“I thought it was a good fight, a very technical fight, cagey at times,” Hearn said. “I  thought Danny started a little bit too slow. I had him winning five rounds. But to beat Canelo, you got to do more. At times (Jacobs) looked flat. Maybe he didn’t have as much spring in his step he might have at a higher weight.”

Chess matches can be like that.

Bernard Fernandez is the retired boxing writer for the Philadelphia Daily News. He is a five-term former president of the Boxing Writers Association of America, an inductee into the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Atlantic City Boxing Halls of Fame and the recipient of the Nat Fleischer Award for Excellence in Boxing Journalism and the Barney Nagler Award for Long and Meritorious Service to Boxing.

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Ryan Garcia, Canelo’s Protege, Announces Fight With Manny Pacquiao

Kelsey McCarson

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Ryan Garcia has just about everything he needs to become the next Canelo Alvarez, even the champ’s terrific training team led by Mexico’s Eddy Reynoso.

“It’s great, man. They support me. They stay by my side. They believe in me. They know what they see, even Canelo,” Garcia told me before his last fight.

So, it should come to no surprise that the 22-year-old lightweight contender would be attempting to pull off the same kind of trick that led to Alvarez’s first and only loss in the professional ranks, but the same one that probably helped the Mexican more than any other as a learning experience inside a boxing ring.

Just as Alvarez did in securing his 12-round dance with boxing legend Floyd Mayweather Jr. back in 2013, Garcia wants to sign up for the same kind of tango with boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao.

“I’ve been boxing my whole life, and I’ve been ready for the biggest fights,” Garcia said.

Lots of fighters say things like that, but almost nobody actually attempts to do it.

Alvarez does.

Now, Garcia does, too.

“Canelo brings me to the side at times out of nowhere and says ‘you’re one of the most talented fighters I’ve ever seen in my life. I just want you to work as hard as I do and you’re going to have the world’,” Garcia said.

On Sunday, Garcia posted via Instagram that his dream fight vs. Pacquiao was a done deal, though it’s important to note no other confirmations of any kind have followed that post.

Additionally, the promotional poster used by the social media superstar in his announcement didn’t look official, and Pacquiao has remained eerily silent about the matter publicly.

Still, Garcia seems to believe his next fight will be against Pacquiao, and it must be a near-enough reality that everyone else involved with the matter has decided to remain silent until everything is sorted out.

“I want to leave a true legacy when I’m done with the game,” Garcia said.

That Garcia even wants to face Pacquiao right now testifies to that truth, and it’s absolutely something worth celebrating.

The undefeated Instagram idol might have over 8.3 million followers for many reasons, but the most notable claim Garcia has to the mantle of being boxing’s next big thing is less about those attributes and more about the talent, skill, and ability he possesses inside a boxing ring.

To put it another way, it’s one thing to be as handsome as Oscar De La Hoya. It’s quite another to actually fight like him.

Case in point, Garcia is coming off the most important win of his career.

Making good on his pre-fight promise to stop Olympic gold medalist and world title challenger Luke Campbell on January 2 was an important rung to take on the ladder to success, and that became especially true after Campbell dumped the prodigy to the canvas in the second round of the fight.

But Garcia weathered that early storm and eventually came back to pull the stoppage win over Campbell five rounds later.

Nobody had done that before. Campbell went 12 full rounds with both Vasyl Lomachenko and Jorge Linares in previous losing efforts against world-class lightweights, so Garcia’s stoppage win was more evidence that he’s legitimately special where it matters most.

After his viral knockout, Garcia was lauded by some of the most notable sports celebrities on the planet. The kid can barely purchase alcohol in all 50 states and his massive fanbase already includes the likes LeBron James, Damian Lillard, and Carlos Correa.

In some ways, that puts Garcia way ahead of Alvarez’s early all-star pace, at least at the level of notoriety.

Say what you want about Garcia’s social media-centric fanbase, the incredible level of fame the American has already achieved was previously only reserved for the likes of specific Olympic gold medal winners with a perfect mix of qualities.

De La Hoya comes to mind again, and that type of talent only comes around once a generation in our sport.

Look, Garcia isn’t ready for Pacquiao.

In fact, one can easily argue that the 23-year-old Alvarez that lost to Mayweather eight years ago was way more prepared for that fight than Garcia is right now for Pacquiao.

And we all know how that one went.

But Garcia’s daring attempt at making such a huge splash at such a young age is a wonder to behold.

A rising superstar like Garcia choosing to go against the conventional wisdom that would otherwise tell him to steer clear of fights he’ll probably lose is a breath of fresh air.

The reason he wants to do things like that is just as great.

“I have a gift. I’m a true talent. I can’t let all that go to waste,” Garcia said.

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Fulton Wins Inside War to Win WBO Title and Other Results from Connecticut

David A. Avila

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This time Stephen Fulton passed the Covid-19 test and then out-worked Angelo Leo in a brutal inside war to take the WBO super bantamweight world title by unanimous decision on Saturday.

Philadelphia’s Fulton (19-0, 8 KOs) was supposed to box and move against the body puncher Leo (20-1, 9 KOs) of Las Vegas but instead banged his way to victory with an artful display of inside fighting at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn.

When Leo won the world title during this past summer, he was supposed to fight Fulton, but Fulton showed positive on a Covid-19 test and was forced out of the fight. Not this time. Instead, the Philly fighter would not be denied.

Fulton planted his feet and banged to the body against body shot artist Leo and kept it going toe-to-toe for most of the 12 rounds.

Leo had his moments and was able to start slightly quicker, but by the sixth round it seemed Fulton was the stronger fighter down the stretch.

“He started breathing a little harder,” said Fulton. “I pushed myself to the limit in training.”

It showed.

Fulton took control for the last four rounds and just seemed fresher and more active to win by unanimous decision. Despite fighting primarily inside, the Philly fighter seemed comfortable.

“The game plan was to box at first. But I had to get a little dirty,” Fulton said. “I made it a dog fight.”

All three judges scored it for Fulton: 118-110 and 119-109 twice. TheSweetscience.com scored it 115-113 for Fulton who now holds the WBO super bantamweight world title.

“I’m the only champion Philadelphia has,” said Fulton.

Aleem KOs Pasillas

A battle between undefeated power-hitting super bantamweights saw Ra’eese Aleem (18-0, 12 KOs) knock down East L.A.’s Vic Pasillas (16-1, 9 KOs) multiple times before ending the fight in the 11th round.

“I believe I put an exclamation point in my victory,” said Aleem who trains in Las Vegas but is a native of Michigan.

Aleem showed off his quickness and power in both hands that resulted in knock downs of Pasillas in the second, sixth, ninth and 11th rounds. It seemed that Pasillas never could figure out how to combat the awkward looping blows and quickness of Aleem.

Pasillas had a few moments with his ability to score with counter lefts and right hooks from his southpaw stance. But every time he scored big Aleem would rally back with even more explosive blows.

As Aleem mounted a large lead, Pasillas looked to set up a needed knockout blow but was instead caught with an overhand right to the chin and a finishing left that forced the referee to stop the fight at 1:00 of the 11th round.

Aleem picks up the interim WBA super bantamweight title. It’s basically a title that signifies he is the number one contender.

Lightweights

Rolando Romero (13-0, 11 KOs) floored Avery Sparrow (10-3, 3 KOs) in the first round and then exhibited his boxing skills to win by technical knockout.

It looked like the fight was going to end early when Romero caught Sparrow with a left hook. But Philadelphia’s Sparrow survived the first round and the next few rounds to slow down the attacking Romero. Things settled down but Romero kept winning the rounds.

Sparrow dropped to the floor during an exchange of blows in the sixth round which the referee quickly ruled “no knockdown.” Noticeably in pain Sparrow was under full assault from Romero and resorted to firing low blows. The referee deducted two points from Sparrow for the infraction.

The Philadelphia fighter limped out with a still gimpy knee to compete in the seventh round but within a minute Sparrow’s corner signaled to the referee to stop the fight. The stoppage gave Romero the win by technical knockout at 43 seconds into the round.

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Boxers Fighting the Best and Doing It Again for the First Time: Part Two

Ted Sares

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Boxers Fighting the Best and Doing It Again for the First Time: Part Two

As mentioned in Part One, the phrase “cherry picking” gained meaningful traction during the time “Money” Mayweather was making his run. A new and very simple business model seemed to fuel it; namely, make the most money the quickest way with the least amount of risk and that translated into fewer fights. The change was almost imperceptible.

WBC featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr. (31-1) has fought once a year sine 2014. WBO middleweight king Demetrius Andrade (39-0) started out fast but then fell into a less active mode. Wlad Klitschko began to pick his spots with more caution as he met the likes of Francesco Pianeta and Alex Leapai. Shane Mosley slowed down towards the end and even Guillermo Rigondeaux (20-1) has faded from the headlines after being stopped by Vasyl Lomachenko.

Back to the Future

Suddenly, however, a twist has emerged that suggests a new model may well be in the offing; to wit: make the most money the quickest way but with lesser regard to risk. Perhaps Daniel Dubois fighting Joe Joyce last November was an example. Translated, it could mean that the best will fight the best as they did in days of yore. If so, Mega- possibilities await.

“I Want All The Belts, No Easy Fights, I Want To Face The Best.” –Virgil Ortiz

Ryan “King Ry” Garcia (21-0) has called out everyone and anybody and it appears he might get his wish in Devin “The Dream” Haney (25-0) or maybe the exciting Gervonta “Tank” Davis (24-0).

The new breed of Davis, Garcia, Haney and Teofimo “The Takeover” Lopez is being is being compared to the “Four Kings” (Leonard, Hearns, Hagler, Duran) but a flattered Devin Haney wisely notes “those guys fought each other.”

In this connection, writer James Slater nails it as follows: “Right now, in today’s boxing world, Haney, Lopez, Davis and Garcia could all do well, they could win a title or two and they could pick up some huge paydays, without fighting each other. This is the state the sport is in these days. It’s up to the fighters to really WANT to take take the risks, to take on their most dangerous rivals. The ‘Four Kings’ did it, time and again, and this is what added enormously to their greatness.”

Teofimo Lopez did it. After shocking Richard Commey, he beat Vasyl Lomachenko in an even more shocking outcome and now wants George Kambosos, Jr. to step aside for a Devin Haney fight.

It doesn’t get any better than the specter of Errol Spence Jr. (27-0) fighting “Bud” Crawford (37-0) unless it’s Tyson Fury (30-0-1) meeting Anthony Joshua (24-1.) If Covid 19 is under control, they could do this one in front of 100,000 fans.

Josh Taylor has talked about challenging Lopez even if it means dropping down to lightweight, and then moving up to 147 to challenge Crawford or Spence.

Dillian Whyte rematching with Alexander Povetkin is another highly anticipated fray and has the added dimension of being a crossroads affair. Oleksandr Usyk will likely face off with Joe Joyce in Usyk’s first real test as a heavyweight.

In late February there’s a big domestic showdown in New Zealand between heavyweights Joseph Parker and Junior Fa. On that same date In London, Carl Frampton squares off with slick WBO 130-pound champion Jamel Herring.

And Juan Francisco Estrada rematching with a rejuvenated Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez has everyone’s attention.

Super exciting Joe Smith Jr. meets Russia’s Maxim Vlasov for the vacant WBA light heavyweight belt. What’s not to like?

The showdown between Miguel Berchelt (38-1) and Oscar Valdez (28-0) is the best on the February docket and could end up being a FOTY.

Speaking of FOTY’s, the prospect of Naoya “Monster” Inoue vs. Kazuto Ioka is as mouthwatering as it can get and has global appeal.

Meanwhile, Artur Beterbiev looms and it’s not a question of opponents as much as it’s a question of who wants to contend with his bludgeoning style of destruction.

Claressa Shields, Marie Eve Dicaire, Katie Taylor, Amanda Serrano, Delfine Persoon, Jessica McCaskill, and Layla McCarter are prepared to make female boxing sizzle. In the final analysis,  when Vasyl Lomachenko becomes an opponent, you know something is very different.

You can read Part One HERE

Ted Sares can be reached at tedsares@roadrunner.com

Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel 

To comment on this story in the Fight Forum CLICK HERE

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