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Daniel Jacobs needs to find the spark after lackluster showing against Gabriel Rosado

Daniel Jacobs did not impress on Friday night, though he did win. He now looks for what’s next, with a lot of options, but also a need for some type of change.

Sergiy Derevyanchenko v Daniel Jacobs Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images
Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

“In the perfect scenario, I would love to KO Gabe Rosado. I don’t want to do it in a brutal way where he gets hurt, I want us both to continue to have good careers, prizefight, make the most money for our families and ride off into the sunset. But as a competitor, I want to be able to create as much damage as I can, so he knows his words, he’s eating them — period.”

That was what Daniel Jacobs said just ahead of Friday night’s main event on DAZN with Gabriel Rosado. To say the least, the “perfect scenario” did not pan out, as Jacobs ultimately settled for a split decision win following a listless performance where one could quite easily argue he was out-boxed by the rugged Rosado.

Jacobs (37-3, 30 KO) did not come close to living up to his own hype here; in all candor, if he “accomplished” much of anything, it was making the months-long trash talk from Rosado (25-13-1, 14 KO), who consistently boasted that Jacobs is an overrated fighter, look pretty good.

Jacobs is a two-time former middleweight titlist and a contender at super middleweight now with some name value, but how much name value? He’s never been the A-side of a truly major fight, never been a particularly notable box office draw. That’s not meant as a slight on Jacobs himself — most fighters, even the really good ones, fail to move the needle much in the modern boxing world. But at 33, common sense suggests that if he were going to be That Guy, he would have been by now.

He’s had his chances. He was a heavily-hyped prospect, then nicknamed “The Golden Child,” before a 2010 loss to Dmitry Pirog. Jacobs then had a fight bigger than boxing, facing down and beating cancer, and returning to have a career that has delivered on a lot of the early promise — he won a secondary middleweight title in 2014, and eventually took his shot against Gennadiy Golovkin in 2017. He lost that night, but he didn’t lose by much. He won a second belt in 2018, gutting through 12 rounds against Sergiy Derevyanchenko, then lost that belt in his next outing to Canelo Alvarez — again, Jacobs was competitive.

On Friday, though, he just didn’t look interested. His split with trainer Andre Rozier — which came after nearly two decades together — was brought up repeatedly, and will be in the days and maybe weeks to come. Jacobs has now had two fights without his longtime chief second; in one, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr quit. In the next, Jacobs looked like he barely cared about being in the ring with Rosado.

We can’t know everything unless Jacobs himself puts it out there, of course. Maybe he has dealt with a nagging injury, but he didn’t say anything about one post-fight, and boxers generally will bring that up if there is one to bring up, while offering “no excuses” for a subpar outing. Maybe he’s had some other issue outside of the sport in his personal life, which is really none of my business, but it’s the sort of thing that can certainly have an effect.

But if it’s not one of those things, then it comes down to boxing, period. And Jacobs just showed no hunger, no fire, despite the big talk about creating damage and teaching Rosado a lesson. The only lesson Rosado got was a refresher course, that in boxing, a guy like him is almost never going to get the benefit of the doubt and close cards against a guy like Jacobs.

This is not my argument that Rosado was robbed, by the way. I scored the fight 115-113 for Jacobs. He just barely managed to do enough; it’s not like Rosado was out there beating the crap out of Jacobs, either. It was a tentative, deadly dull fight that nobody ever threatened to take serious control of; both guys did nothing by way of taking risks. Rosado was busier, you could’ve scored it for him. Jacobs was a little more accurate, for whatever it’s worth, you could’ve scored it for him. Rosado believes he won, but deep down he probably is kicking himself for not doing a bit more, because he came so close without doing much at all.

And this wasn’t just fans being bored, either. A lot of times, the boxing intellectuals will stroke their chins and preach, largely to themselves or one another, about the “chess match” qualities of a fight that would make a non-fan doze off on the couch. And in some of those cases, fellow fighters and those in the industry will do something similar. But I can’t see anybody who had much good to say about this, including fellow fighters.

“All that shit talking for this?” 130-pound titleholder Joseph Diaz Jr asked on Twitter. Errol Spence Jr, the welterweight titlist, openly wondered what the hell Jacobs was doing in the ring. Former 168-pound titlist Caleb Truax called it “one of the most bizarre performances I’ve ever seen.”

Eddie Hearn, who was the promoter of record for Matchroom Boxing, said that the instantly infamous mistake by MC Jeremiah Gallegos — who accidentally said “Philadelphia” instead of “Brooklyn,” giving a quick but mistaken impression Rosado had won — was “the highlight of that fight,” and that “neither deserved to win.”

And that leads to the next question: what’s next for Daniel Jacobs? His deal with broadcast partner DAZN ended with this fight. He could stay with Matchroom and Hearn, but Hearn’s comment might indicate a lack of hope for that to happen. Jacobs, as mentioned, is 33 and not himself a needle-mover. He’s been paid a good amount of money by Matchroom for his last six fights. Maybe they’ve seen enough.

Jacobs is also still connected to the powerful adviser Al Haymon, and PBC could be a good landing spot for him. He’s discussed options from both sides there: titleholders Billy Joe Saunders and Callum Smith with Matchroom, and he and middleweight titlist Jermall Charlo of PBC have some history of trash talk, too.

Jacobs definitely did himself no favors with Friday’s performance, but don’t get it too twisted, either: he’s still a valuable commodity that pretty much any promoter would love to have under their banner. He’s a contender at 168, he’s suggested he could still make 160 for the right fight, and everyone needs depth. Every major promoter has some content deal with some platform now, and they all have a lot of dates to fill. In-house depth is at more of a premium than ever in boxing. Yes, there is still a pandemic and business is down (and lucky to exist, really) across the board. But the pandemic will end eventually, and nobody wants to come out the other side of it with a weak roster.

Daniel Jacobs will have good offers. Maybe not the money he’s been making for recent fights, but good offers. He didn’t lose on Friday, he’s still a perfectly viable challenger for a world title, really still far better than the average world title challenger.

But the clock is clearly ticking, and Jacobs better find some answers for what went wrong on Friday. He suggested he treated it like a sparring contest, sort of excusing an obvious lack of effort. He said he found the atmosphere of the empty building strange, but we’ve seen a lot of fighters perform just fine in the exact same atmospheres for almost the last six months. Some feel he needs a different trainer, as the corner chemistry appeared lacking, almost lightly conversational rather than a trainer instructing his fighter with any authority.

Jacobs will get another good deal right now, almost certainly. But if he doesn’t make whatever changes he needs, it could be the last good deal he gets. He can’t fight a Jermall Charlo or a Callum Smith or a Billy Joe Saunders (even considering Saunders’ inconsistency) or a Caleb Plant or a David Benavidez or a Demetrius Andrade or maybe even a GGG rematch way he did Gabe Rosado.

If it’s the fire that’s missing, he better find a spark.

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