Danny Jacobs and Fernando Guerrero are two young prospects who have been getting a lot of recent face time on ESPN and major undercards. Jacobs, 22, was a three-time national Golden Gloves champion who was signed by Golden Boy as an amateur. Guererro, 22, also had a decorated amateur career of 160 fights, and has been packing 5,000 person houses in his hometown of Salisbury, Maryland despite just starting out his career. Both have started their careers at a frantic pace, each averaging about a fight a month early in their careers. Both will likely campaign as middleweights once they reach the elite level, although Jacobs has been floating just above the middleweight limit in most of his fights, and Guerrero has the potential to fight at 154, which looks like it might be more stacked in the coming years than middleweight.
Note - This is NOT a hypothetical analysis of how I think an actual fight between Danny Jacobs and Fernando Guerrero would turn out. This is also not necessarily a comparison of where the two fighters are at this moment in time. Instead, I'm taking a page out of John Sickels's book and comparing where I think the two are as prospects, and based on what tools, skills and attributes they have now, trying to project where their careers might be heading, and where they might stumble into roadblocks in the future.
For a discussion of the factors I'm looking at, please go here - discussion of tools, skills and attributes.
Handspeed - Jacobs has very fast hands, but when he throws his quick punches, he doesn't follow through that well, so he tends to get more power into it when he throws slightly slower punches. This is probably a mechanical issue that can be fixed by a good trainer. You don't want someone with good power to turn into a slappy fighter just to show off their quickness. Also, he doesn't really snap his jab at this point, which is something he can probably be taught. When he gets on a roll with a combo, his hands can get very fast, but that might mean he's going on autopilot. Good handspeed, but doesn't utilize it properly. Guererro also has good handspeed. His fastest punches aren't as quick as Jacobs, but he doesn't vary the consistency of his speed, and he gets his body behind even his quick punches. Jacobs - B+, Guerrero, B, Slight Advantage: Jacobs
Chin - Jacobs has yet to be knocked down, while Guerrero's been down once, although it was more of a footwork issue than a chin issue in my estimation. Neither one has been tested by a particularly big puncher yet. To the best of my knowledge, neither one was particularly chinny as an amateur, with Jacobs going down only once in his amateur career (by Shawn Porter, another recent ESPN staple) and Guererro going down only a few times (twice by Porter as well, in the Olympic trials). So we know that neither one has an iron chin, but we also know that neither one has any massive red flags. Jacobs - Inconclusive, Guerrero - Inconclusive, Probable Advantage: Jacobs
Relfexes - Both have sneaky quick reflexes. No exaggerated movement in trying to avoid blows, but one second they're there, and by the time the punch gets to their heads, they're both just out of the way. Neither one is Roy Jones, but neither one will be hurt here either. Jacobs - B, Guererro - B, Advantage: Push
Power - Both have good power. Jacobs has 13 KOs in 14 fights, Guererro has 11 KOs in 13 fights, and most of them for both are of the actual knockdown variety. A lot of it has come from overwhelming their opponents rather than concussing them with a single punch or combo. They do have one common opponent, Tyrone Watson. He went the distance against Guererro and was knocked out in the first by Jacobs, but that doesn't mean too much simply because the Jacobs fight was literally less than two weeks after the Guererro fight. After getting busted up pretty badly by Guererro, one would expect Jacobs to be able to take him out quickly, since he was almost certainly still hurting from the previous fight. Anyway, Jacobs seems to have more wiry and quick power, almost like a Kelly Pavlik, while Guererro needs to get his weight into a punch to give it a lot of power. Slight edge to Jacobs, but I wouldn't be surprised to see both of them knocking a lot of guys out in the future. Jacobs, A-, Guererro, B+, Slight Advantage: Jacobs
Size - Jacobs has good size for a middleweight, at 6'1". However, his reach is a hair below average for his height, and he may run into some reach problems down the line. Also, he probably doesn't have the build to bulk up to much more than super middleweight. Guererro would be quite small for a middleweight, at 5'9". Guerrero doesn't have an official reach listed, but his arms don't seem particularly long, although his shoulders are extremely broad for a boxer. He's really built more like a safety than a boxer. With his build, he could probably boil down all the way to 147, if he wanted to, but probably will never be able to fight above 168 either. Jacobs - B-, Guererro - C, Advantage: Jacobs
Hand - Jacobs is orthodox. Guererro is southpaw. Advantage: Guererro
Skills and attributes come after the jump.
Defense - Jacobs holds his guard up fairly tight, but does so in a way that doesn't expose his body too much but is wide enough that the guard could be split pretty easily by someone with a powerful jab. He's not much of one for picking off punches, but he has the reflexes to get out of the way of shots that are coming at him. Guerrero has a habit of holding his lead hand low in order to take advantage of his handspeed, but he does cover up well when his opponent is on the attack. He too has enough slickness that he's able to get out of the way of a lot of his attacks, though when he's in an offensive flurry, his feet are wide enough apart that it really leaves him as a sitting duck for a counter. This has already burned him a few times. Jacobs - B, Guerrero - C+, Advantage: Jacobs
Ring Generalship - Both guys have shown an ability to box both on the outside and the inside, although Jacobs is better on the outside and Guerrero is better on the inside. Neither guy has had much of a problem with controlling the action so far, although Rosado was able to push Guerrero back at times. Since he'll often be the smaller fighter in the ring, he should learn how to get inside without getting hit a bit better, so he can take full advantage of his style. Can't really tell too well, but preliminarily I'll give Jacobs - B, Guerrero - C+, with more potential for Jacobs to keep improving than Guerrero due to his size and foot speed, Advantage: Jacobs
Footwork - Jacobs has quality footwork. He keeps his feet moving, he doesn't get so wide that he gets stuck in position, and he stays up on the balls of his feet. He does bounce a bit, which has pros and cons (pro - it sort of works like mild head movement; con - it will wear you out a lot faster than good movement without bouncing). His feet do move very quickly, and he's able to get his body into punches despite moving around a lot. To top it off, his feet are very quick. Guererro has okay, but not great, footwork. He has a very wide stance, and does an okay job of keeping his feet moving, although he'll remain fairly flat footed for stretches, often when he's moving his body, as if he can't move both his body and his feet at the same time. A chunk of this probably comes from focusing his athletic talents on wrestling when he was in high school rather than devoting his full attention to boxing. This seems like the kind of issue that's eminently fixable. He was already burned by this in his last fight, getting knocked down by someone when his stance was just too wide and he lost his balance. Jacobs - A-, Guererro - C, Advantage: Jacobs
Head/Body Movement - For everything he does well, Jacobs keeps his head and body pretty stationary. As I mentioned before, he bounces and stays on his toes, so he's still able to move effectively, and he has good reflexes, so he can get out of the way of some shots, but when he doesn't see something coming, he can be there to be hit. When he does see something, he is quick enough to get out of the way. Guererro does a little bit of a better job of moving his head and body, but isn't great at it either. One glitch is that he does turn his head into his punches, so if he gets beaten to the punch, he could suffer a lot of damage. Jacobs - C, Guerrero, C+, Slight Advantage: Guerrero
Endurance - There's just no way to grade Jacobs' endurance yet, since he's only gone past 4 once, and then he only went 6. That's the downside to knocking everyone out. Guerrero went a hard 8 against both Watson and Rosado, and didn't really lose much in either fight. No red flags for either guy, but right now it's just Advantage: Inconclusive
Punching Ability - Both guys mix up their punches very well, though Jacobs' tendency is to throw more straight punches and mis in the occasional hook and uppercut (especially when he's throwing a combo), while Guerrero's tendency is to throw lots of hooks and uppercuts while mixing in some straight punches to throw off his opponent's timing. As mentioned before, Jacobs' actual technique leaves something to be desired, simply because he doesn't get the same mustard or the same speed on all of his punches. While it can be useful to lull your opponent by throwing slower punches, he's going to need to throw power shots quicker if he's going to keep knocking guys out at the highest levels. Guerrero has the opposite problem, which is that when he goes on the offensive, he leaves his middle open to a good straight shot, because his natural tendency is to throw 3 or 4 roundhouse hooks in a row. However, not everything Guerrero throws is a hook. He has a very good 1-2 jab straight combo that is very quick and very straight, and he's quick enough that he's been able to land it on his limited opposition before they even know what's coming. As Randall Bailey recently showed us, having a good combo like that with power behind it can be quite the asset against a chinny opponent. For all of the difference between the two, Guerrero is probably the more accurate puncher. Both guys have shown a tendency to headhunt and not throw enough to the body, but that's something that should be fixed over time. Jacobs - B+, Guerrero - B, Slight Advantage: Jacobs
Heart - Neither guy has faced too much adversity. Guerrero was down, and came back to hurt his opponent later in the round and puff up his eye later in the fight. Jacobs really hasn't been challenged at all yet. Once they get thrown in with more legitimate opponents, we'll know more about this. Advantage: Inconclusive
Desire - It's a little early in their careers to pin down exactly where either of these guys' head is at. There certainly is a difference in where they came from. Jacobs comes from a tough part of Brooklyn, where other fighters like Mike Tyson and Zab Judah grew up. Guererro was born in the Dominican Republic, but grew up in the relatively small and middle class town of Salisbury, Maryland. I do know that Guererro has some absolutely absurd workout routines, and that he's a complete gym rat. If you don't believe me, check here, here and here. Both guys have shown improvements in their last few fights, although Jacobs has probably taken the bigger steps, becoming more consistent with his punching power and handspeed. Advantage: Inconclusive
Durability - Neither of them has had any injury or cuts issues. Advantage: Push
Overall, while both of these guys ooze athleticism, Jacobs is just that much better, both in natural talent and current abilities. Still, it's possible that Guerrero could be the better fighter long-term. A lot of it will come down to what we don't already know - who can take a punch, and more importantly, whose head is in the right place. Both of them are on whirlwinds that are moving so fast that they probably haven't had time to think about what to do between fights. Some of these intangibles will start to show when they're only fighting three or four times a year, as well as when they step up their class of competition.
On a more personal note, these are two of my favorite prospects in all of boxing right now, and I think both of them have the potential to be stars. Jacobs has spectacular natural talent, and he has the Golden Boy promotional machine behind him. Guerrero has fantastic charisma. He oozes charisma, even when he's just in the gym (just check out the workout videos I linked above). He packs the house with 5,000 faithful when he fights out of his hometown of about 25,000 (with a metro area of maybe 100,000). When someone can literally get 5% of the population to leave their house to come see them, you know they have something special in terms of charisma. If both of them live up to their potential, and the blanks get filled in positively, Guererro could be a solid beltholder, while Jacobs could be a future pound for pound #1. Really, they can be that good, if they have good heart, desire, chin and stamina.