Golovkin vs Jacobs is not the fight boxing fans have been clamouring for. That status belongs to the prospective bout between him and Canelo Alvarez, who until recently has been unwilling to ‘identify’ as a middleweight, despite the fact he is barely capable of weighing less than 155 pounds. Billy Joe Saunders, the other belt holder in the division has conspired in his own irrelevance, having fought only once since winning the IBO belt in 2015. Hence we have Golovkin Jacobs, which though not optimal, is definitely not to be sniffed at.
For, whatever his perceived shortcomings, Danny Jacobs is one of the best in the division and more than capable of posing a threat to anybody. Just recently he blew away Peter Quillin, a man thought to be one of the main rivals for GGG, a fellow belt-holder and unbeaten in 33 fights. Jacobs dispatched him in one round. Make no mistake, at 8-1 Jacobs is an underdog in this fight, but a very live one, and one that Golovkin knows he can’t treat with complacency.
The danger presented by Jacobs is best expressed numerically. 150 amateur fights (with only … defeats, 33 fights as a professional (only 1 loss), 29 knockouts. No opponent of his has heard the final bell in 6 years. It is abundantly clear that Jacobs lacks neither skill nor experience nor power.
It is evident that in certain departments he holds an advantage over GGG. He is taller, with longer reach, and no doubt on the night of the fight, will substantially outweigh the Kazakh. It is also evident that his punches will reach the target more quickly than Golovkin’s. His faster hands and longer reach will definitely constitute a challenge for Kazakh. One thing that stands out from the media training sessions is that Jacobs throws a much shorter hook than Golovkin. In his fight against the Kazakh, Brook was able to hook with the hooker and land his shorter cuter punch first. Jacobs may also be able to do the same.
Stylistically too, there’s an argument to be made that Jacobs can have his way with Golovkin. Golovkin isn’t the most defensively astute of fighters. It’s debatable whether his propensity to take punches is voluntary. He insists it is. Other fighters are adamant that no man, no matter how tough, ever willingly accepts a punch in the face. Whatever the case, he is no Pernell Whittaker. His head is stationary and is there to be hit for the fighter who is willing to stand in range and can spot the opportunity. It was noticeable in the Kell Brook fight that Kell was able to land punches around the guard of Golovkin, and one thing Jacobs does well is land his power right hand in that manner. With his hand-speed, reach and height, Jacobs will almost certainly land on Golovkin.
One other asset Jacobs has going into the fight is the backing of a strong camp. For this fight he has enlisted the help of Virgil Hunter, the man who in part masterminded Andre Ward’s victory over Sergey Kovalev last October. Hunter’s experience in preparing his charge is likely to be of benefit in equipping Danny for his challenge. Golovkin, like Kovalev, has the Mike Tyson factor; his power and knockout ratios have the effect of cowing the opponent. Virgil and Andre were convinced that Kovalev’s past opponents were too much in awe of his power, and were subconsciously defeated before they ever set foot in the ring. Reminding Jacobs that he is fighting a fellow mortal and not the incarnation of Mars will be a significant part of the strategy for the fight. Moreover Jacobs will have had the opportunity to refine his tactical approach to the fight, which, in fights of this magnitude, can be the deciding factor.
Yet with all that being said, there’s no denying that Jacobs is an underdog in this fight. Doubts as to his punch resistance have dogged him since his knockout loss to Dimitry Pirog in 2010. Those doubts surfaced again when he was knocked down by Sergio Mora in their first fight in. It could be that the significance of both of these is exaggerated. Jacobs was 23 years old when he lost to Pirog, and the stoppage itself was questionable. The referee waved off the fight before completing the 10 count, thinking Jacobs to be unconscious, when in fact, as his vociferous protests revealed, he was not. Vulnerabilities were exposed by Pirog undoubtedly- even before the knockdown, Jacobs seemed unsettled by the educated pressure applied by the Russian. Before the fateful punch landed, he had backed off in a straight line onto the ropes and kind of froze. It could be down to inexperience as much as anything and plenty of fighters have taken a loss in their stride and learned from it. In the case of Mora, it was a case of being overzealous and leaving himself open. It was certainly not a heavy knockdown and Jacobs finished the round in the ascendancy.
That said, there is no doubt that Golovkin possesses the advantage in punch resistance. He has yet to visit the canvas in fight career spanning 15 years. His defence is not the best in the business but landing a punch on his chin is not as easy as that fact might imply, because he keeps his chin tucked firmly into his chest. The 8-1 odds are a reflection of the consensus that Golovkin will be able to take Jacobs’ blows but not vice-versa.
This impression of Jacobs is based almost entirely on the Pirog fight. But let’s suppose that the Pirog knock down was an anomaly. After all, he hasn’t shown similar vulnerability in any of his recent fights any, apart from the Mora fight, which, is of questionable significance.
We will not know for sure until March 18th whether he is still that same boxer that hit the deck and unravelled under the educated pressure of a Russian boxer puncher. If he is then he must find a way to deter the constant forward momentum of GGG. For if he retains any of his former fragility, Golovkin will eventually get to him and stop him, if not immediately then by gradual attrition. Only if he makes Golovkin understand that every step forward entails the risk of being hurt, then he will relieve himself of pressure that is both physically and psychologically debilitating.
However if in fact he is not as fragile as the Pirog loss and the Mora knockdown suggest, if he does in fact prove able to take a punch or several punches from GGG without losing consciousness or nerve, well then things could get very interesting. The technical advantages that Jacobs enjoys over Golovkin could definitely come to fore and lead to an unexpected result. He has longer reach, faster hands and arguably equivalent single punch power. Golovkin is not the most elusive of targets. A lot hinges upon his physical and psychological fortitude and discipline. On March 18th we’ll see whether the Golden Child has grown into the Miracle Man in the boxing ring.