Defiant Jacobs shocks us all
Paul D. Gibson
Paul D. Gibson reports from an electric Madison Square Garden, as Daniel Jacobs shocks the boxing world with his display against Gennady Golovkin, but doesn't quite sway the three judges who mattered...
Daniel Jacobs shocked us all tonight in Madison Square Garden. Against one of modern boxing’s great intimidators, the 'Miracle Man' was steadfast and defiant and, on many people’s cards, he deserved the nod that never came his way.
I was one who had given him little chance of the upset. And as he bounced about the ring in fits of nervous energy, while Gennady Golovkin winked and smiled slyly in the opposing corner, I expected the first bell to usher in a set of seven or eight rounds akin to those suffered by the equally heavy-handed, though slower-witted, David Lemieux in 2015. GGG’s gestures were those of a fighter entirely comfortable in his own skin and fully aware of what is around every corner in a boxing match. Jacobs appeared to be whistling in the dark.
The opener was cautious as both men sought to instil the idea that they would not be easy to hit clean. An early chant of "Triple-G" echoed around the arena in an apparent display of Eastern European/Northern Central Asian strength. Cries of "Dan-Yill Jay-Cubs" did respond but, despite it being the American’s home city, his fans were in the minority.
As the bout warmed up it looked like Jacobs’ plan was to keep it long where his three-inch reach advantage should make him favourite to be the boxer landing his jab. But Golovkin, blessed with the patience of a measured and meticulous serial killer, was happy to keep stalking his prey. The relative lack of action actually drew some half-hearted boos from sections of the crowd expecting the two knockout artists to be swinging for the bleachers.
It was the third before the first meaningful punch landed when Jacobs threw a hopeful left hand while GGG held him in a loose headlock. The American enjoyed the little victory, but his Kazakh foe was not in the slightest bit bothered about the direct hit.
Not physically bothered anyway, but perhaps a little mentally chastened by the blow. Golovkin had a little bit more intent in his work throughout the fourth and he was rewarded by decking and stunning his man. It was a messy barrage of blows that precipitated a clash of bodies and the felling of Jacobs, but at least one of the right hands was clean enough to ensure the declaration of a legitimate knockdown by referee Charlie Fitch was a fair one.
Jacobs seemed a little dulled now as Golovkin’s jab suddenly began finding a home more often than not. Many around me in the press corps nodded sagely and waited for familiar unravelling of a GGG victim, slowly coming apart like a nest of dry tagliatelle in a pot of boiling water. But then, midway through the sixth, Jacobs had success with a series of arcing hooks to the head and body. That success lead to an increase of confidence and a demonstration of superior hand speed in multi-punch combinations. But concussive power was sacrificed to achieve that rapidity and though the American took the round on account of what he landed, Golovkin’s head was still as clear as an early morning dew drop.
Jacobs displayed some strut and swagger in the seventh, but a surge in recklessness naturally hitched a ride. Surely he’d be caught sooner or later. Surely he’d soon be another dazed statistic of the Kazakh terror...
The end of that stanza was tetchy as Jacobs landed late and was ticked off for the mild indiscretion. In reply, GGG allowed a final exchange to roll over into time added on. Maybe we still had a fight on our hands after all. Golovkin was still sticking to his monotonous but highly nuanced forward march, cutting off the ring and putting himself in his optimum range with subtle steps that the untrained eye may call a plod. His rivals are normally broken by this point, mentally if not physically, but Jacobs was gaining heart not losing it as he nodded vigorously to himself after each bright moment.
In the ninth the American seemed buzzed by a couple of uppercuts. His hands dropped low and it looked like the end was nigh. His fans around me gasped, but a killer blow never landed. Was he playing us all? By luck or design he stayed afloat in the storm and ended the session swinging. At the bell he got nod from Golovkin that was open to interpretation. For my money it was a sign of a level of respect that no previous opponent had yet earned from the middleweight king.
Into the championship rounds it felt as if there was a 'stick or twist' dilemma for each combatant. Jacobs’ mouth hung open now, but Golovkin was sucking in constant rapid breaths as well. Jacobs beat him to the jab and followed up with a cuffing right behind the ear. Enough to nick the round?
Another "Triple-G" chant emerged from the rafters and swept down to the ring in the eleventh, but Jacobs ended the three minutes pumped up and with the more vocal in the crowd on his side. He held his ground and stared at the bell. I’m not going away Gennady.
Both were surely pushed out for the climax with the instruction that they needed to win it, but the busier Jacobs did enough for me. With ten seconds to go the entire Garden rose to applaud until the final bell when an exhausted Jacobs turned and sagged onto the ropes. The two stars met in the centre of the ring and, if my lip-reading skills can be trusted, Jacobs mentioned the words "respect" and "rematch".
Around me in press row, not many sounded convinced either way. I heard Jacobs by two, draw, and GGG did enough in the first half to scrape over the line. My gut feel was somewhere between the latter two opinions.
Jacobs appeared warily hopeful while Golovkin just looked subdued as they awaited the final tallies. The Kazakh’s expression didn’t change when his name was announced as the victor. As I said at the start, maybe he already knew what was coming. Maybe he always knows. But this was his toughest shift for a very long time.