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Canelo vs Jacobs preview: What’s at stake, how they got here, and how the fighters match up

Canelo Alvarez and Daniel Jacobs are just days away from their showdown in Las Vegas on DAZN.

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Canelo Alvarez v Rocky Fielding - Weigh-In Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images
Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

This Saturday night, May 4, streaming live on DAZN from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Canelo Alvarez meets Daniel Jacobs in the middleweight main event. It’s a highly-anticipated fight and easily the biggest event that DAZN has had to date, the first fight they’ve aired that you can truly say would have otherwise been a $70-100 pay-per-view in the United States.

What’s at stake?

Alvarez (51-1-2, 35 KO) isn’t just boxing’s current biggest star, he’s also the WBC and WBA middleweight titleholder, while Jacobs (35-2, 29 KO) is the current IBF middleweight titleholder. This fight — if there is a winner — will unify three of the four major titles at 160 pounds. (The WBO title is currently held by Demetrius Andrade.)

How did Canelo Alvarez get here?

Alvarez, now a seasoned young veteran at 28, made a name for himself in his native Mexico before breaking through in the United States. Turning pro at age 15 in 2005, he began his career at 140 pounds and first settled in consistently at 147 pounds, where he won some of his earlier more significant bouts, including victories over future lightweight titleholder Miguel Vazquez in 2008 and Detroit veteran Lanardo Tyner in 2009. With his fighting style and his red hair, Alvarez picked up a lot of fans very quickly in his native country.

Canelo got his major break in the U.S. in 2010, still just 19 years of age, when he was placed onto the Mayweather-Mosley pay-per-view undercard in the co-feature slot against Jose Cotto, the older brother of Puerto Rican boxing star Miguel Cotto.

By that point, Alvarez was outgrowing the welterweight division and he moved up to junior middleweight. He impressively stopped Cotto in the ninth round, and followed that up with wins over Luciano Cuello, Carlos Baldomir, Lovemore N’dou, Matthew Hatton, Ryan Rhodes, Alfonso Gomez, and Kermit Cintron. The win over Hatton in 2011 netted Alvarez his first world title, the WBC belt at 154 pounds.

Starting with the fight against Hatton, Canelo was headlining his own HBO events, except for the fight with Gomez, which aired as part of the Floyd Mayweather-Victor Ortiz pay-per-view, a split site broadcast that saw Canelo main event in Los Angeles while Mayweather and Ortiz headlined in Las Vegas.

Canelo was featured on another Mayweather pay-per-view in May 2012, beating Shane Mosley, then moved to Showtime for wins over Josesito Lopez and Austin Trout, the latter giving him the WBA title, as well.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. v Canelo Alvarez Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

He defended both belts in Sept. 2013 in a huge pay-per-view main event against Mayweather, losing by decision, but his career didn’t miss a beat, as he was still seen as the next big star in boxing. He moved up to middleweight, technically at least — he began fighting with 155-pound catchweights and campaigning as a middleweight officially, though still five pounds south of the middleweight limit.

He was the A-side of a pay-per-view main event for the first time in his next outing, where he beat down Alfredo Angulo, and followed that with a narrow split decision win over Erislandy Lara.

Alvarez went back to HBO in 2015, and knocked out James Kirkland on the Saturday following Mayweather-Pacquiao. In November of that year, he won a decision over Miguel Cotto in a pay-per-view main event. Wins over Amir Khan, Liam Smith (back at junior middleweight for one fight) and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr (at a 164-pound catchweight) followed.

Finally, in Sept. 2017, fans got a long-awaited fight between Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin at the full middleweight limit. The two fought to a hotly-debated draw. They were scheduled to do it again in May 2018, but Alvarez failed a drug test, testing positive for clenbuterol, which he blamed on tainted beef from Mexico. Ultimately, the fight was postponed until September.

In the rematch, we again saw a very competitive fight, and again got a very controversial decision, with Alvarez claiming a majority decision win and the WBC and WBA middleweight titles.

With HBO leaving the boxing game at the end of 2018, Alvarez signed an 11-fight, $365 million deal with the new streaming service DAZN, and made his debut on the platform in Dec. 2018. He moved up to super middleweight to face WBA “world” titleholder Rocky Fielding. (For any confused newbies or more casual fans, the WBA has a “super world” titleholder in Callum Smith, so Alvarez was fighting for a secondary belt.)

Canelo tore through the larger but completely overmatched Fielding, dropping him in both of the opening two rounds and two more times in round three before the fight was called off. The main story of that fight mostly wound up being that it was Alvarez’s DAZN debut, and his first fight at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

How did Daniel Jacobs get here?

Daniel Jacobs v Maciej Sulecki Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The 32-year-old Jacobs, a native of Brownsville, Brooklyn, New York, went 137-7 as an amateur, winning the National Golden Gloves championship at welterweight in 2004 and middleweight in 2005, while the younger Alvarez was about to turn professional. He was a four-time New York Golden Gloves champion, and won the United States Amateur middleweight championship in 2006.

Nicknamed “The Golden Child,” Jacobs turned pro on Dec. 8, 2007, deep on the undercard of the big Mayweather-Hatton card at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. He got his record to 17-0 before a test against crafty veteran Ishe Smith in 2009, which Jacobs won by decision.

After two more victories, he was matched with unbeaten Russian Dmitry Pirog in July 2010, part of the Juan Manuel Marquez-Juan Diaz II HBO pay-per-view in Las Vegas. At the time, Jacobs was 23 years old and thought to be banging on the door to get a middleweight title shot in the near future.

Both fighters showed their talent through four rounds, but then Pirog landed a blistering right hand that knocked Jacobs out in the fifth. After the fight, Jacobs said he didn’t feel like he had his legs like normal, but he scaled back the competition (quite significantly) and regrouped with wins in Dec. 2010 and March 2011.

Then Jacobs was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, and his career took a backseat. After treatment and 19 months out of the ring, Jacobs returned to boxing with a win over Josh Luteran in Oct. 2012.

He stayed about the same level for his next couple of fights, beating club-level fighters to try and get himself back on track after the cancer scare and long layoff, then stepped it up a bit in Aug. 2013 with a third round stoppage of former middleweight titleholder Giovanni Lorenzo.

The newly-dubbed “Miracle Man” followed with wins over Milton Nunez, Jarrod Fletcher, Caleb Truax, and Sergio Mora, with Jacobs picking up the WBA “world” middleweight title by beating Fletcher. He defended that belt against unbeaten Peter Quillin in Dec. 2015, the first fight that was seen as a truly serious test for the comebacking Jacobs.

85 seconds after the opening bell, it was over, as Jacobs had rocked and stopped Quillin in a Showtime main event.

Gennady Golovkin v Daniel Jacobs Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

After a rematch win over Sergio Mora (their first fight had ended due to an injury to Mora), Jacobs set up an HBO pay-per-view main event with Gennady Golovkin.

For the first time, Golovkin was truly tested as a pro. Jacobs was able to match skills with Golovkin and mostly withstand the Kazakh’s thunderous power, though he did go down in round four. Golovkin won on close scorecards, but Jacobs halted GGG’s celebrated 23-fight knockout streak and made him look human for the first time in a while.

After the close loss to Golovkin, Jacobs picked up wins over previously-unbeaten Luis Arias and Maciej Sulecki, and then won a split decision last October over Sergiy Derevyanchenko to claim the vacant IBF middleweight title.

How do the fighters match up?

Jacobs, listed at 5’11½” with a 73-inch reach, is longer and taller than Canelo, listed at 5’8” with a 70½-inch reach.

There is some belief that Jacobs’ natural size advantages along with his footwork, movement, and athleticism, could give Alvarez trouble. But Alvarez has also gotten better at dealing with things like that over the years, so it may not be the advantage Jacobs in particular hopes it to be.

Both guys can punch, but frankly their power probably isn’t going to be a determining factor. Against his better opponents — Trout, Mayweather, Lara, Cotto, and Golovkin — Canelo has never scored a stoppage win. And on the other side of that, he’s done 24 rounds with Golovkin without showing any problems taking the punches of one of the hardest hitters in boxing.

Jacobs, meanwhile, was dropped by Golovkin but also got through the 12 rounds. He was stopped once, but it was a long time ago, and against a guy in Pirog who really might have gone on to make a major name for himself had his own career not been cut short due to a major back injury, which canceled his own scheduled fight with Golovkin in 2012 and ultimately forced his retirement.

Bottom line: both guys can box, both guys can punch, both guys can deal with a punch. There’s a lot to like about this matchup.

Who’s the favorite?

As of Monday, Canelo was listed as a strong but not ridiculous favorite. This is not another boxing main event with a massive, overwhelming favorite like Lomachenko-Crolla or Crawford-Khan. (I’m not picking on Top Rank or ESPN here, those are just two recent big fights that had a big-time favorite going in, with the fights playing out exactly as expected.)

This fight has some real intrigue. It’s Jacobs’ return to Las Vegas for the first time since the loss to Pirog in 2010, and it’s a big one for Canelo, too. There is, as always, some concern about the judges and all that, but we’ve been over it.

Who will win?

Check back on Friday at Noon ET for our staff predictions!

Bad Left Hook will have full live coverage on Saturday night, starting at 7:30 pm ET.

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