Photos: Ed Mulholland
By Kieran Mulvaney
NEW YORK – Daniel Jacobs scored his first big victory of the night when he clambered off the deck in the fourth round after a pair of booming Gennady Golovkin right hands sent him to the canvas. He scored his second when, instead of Golovkin jumping on him and seeking to finish him off as he had done with so many opponents before, GGG instead returned to the jab that had served him so well in setting up the knockdowns. And his third victory came when he did what no Golovkin opponent had ever done, taking the Kazakh fighter the full 12 rounds, causing him to hear the final bell and the scorecards for the first time since he won an eight-round decision over Amar Amari in 2008.
But despite all that, Jacobs didn’t get the victory that he wanted and that many of those in the crowd at Madison Square Garden felt he deserved. It was close, but by scores of 115-112, 115-112 and 114-113, the three judges ringside awarded victory to Golovkin, who remains undefeated and retains his middleweight titles.
“I think I won the fight,” protested Jacobs. “I think I won by at least two rounds minimum.” Getting hit by the feared knockout puncher, he insisted, “wasn’t that bad. I told him he’d have to kill me to knock me out. I got up, I came back and I thought I won the fight.”
With his size, reach, power and skills, Jacobs (32-2, 29 KOs) had entered this contest with the expectation that he had the potential to provide Golovkin (37-0, 33 KOs) with one of the toughest challenges of his career, even though those same prognosticators predicted, almost unanimously, that the Kazakh would end up, as he had for his previous 23 outings, a winner by knockout. And in that pivotal fourth round, it appeared as if that would be the case.
The bout had opened slowly, Golovkin controlling the ring in the first round and looking to land a short jab, Jacobs responding with a snapping jab of his own to take the second. The third, like the first two, was close, but Golovkin was showing signs of closing the distance and finding the range for his stiff jab to land frequently and effectively, and in the fourth, that jab backed Jacobs to the ropes, followed by a pair of booming right hands that connected on Jacobs’ jaw and sent him tumbling over.
The American looked decidedly ragged as he climbed to his feet. The footwork he had displayed in the opening stages, which had enabled him to frustrate Golovkin’s efforts to cut off the ring, now deserted him and he backed up in a straight line as the man from Karagana snapped back his head and landed a swift, short uppercut for good measure. By the end of the frame, however, Jacobs had found his feet and was throwing back as the round ended.
Golovkin opened the fifth with a big overhand right and continued to pursue him with jabs, but Jacobs fought him off with whipping left hooks that caught the eye of the crowd even as they landed primarily on arms and shoulders rather than directly to head and body. Golovkin was now doing what he does best, closing the distance, giving his opponent little room to breathe, let alone throw punches.
But Jacobs would not be easily denied. At several points during the fight, he turned southpaw, and did so again in the sixth, a stance that made it more difficult for Golovkin to find room for his feared right hand. A big hook from the Brooklynite backed up Golovkin and brought Jacobs some breathing room; by the seventh, Golovkin was once again forced to chase after a foe who had rediscovered his range and elusiveness, allowing him to fire eye-catching punches and exchange furious fire at round’s end, Jacobs punching his gloves together in delight as he felt the momentum swinging his way.
Golovkin backed Jacobs to the ropes to start the eighth, but Jacobs backed him off with hooks to close it. The ninth felt as if it might be decisive, another sneaky Golovkin uppercut followed by a right hand hurting Jacobs and sending him backward on slightly uncertain legs. But Golovkin could not land the decisive blow, and the next two frames were arguably Jacobs’ best of the contest. The tenth began with Golovkin smelling blood and chasing after his wounded prey, but Jacobs dug in and fired back with lefts and rights. A reversion to southpaw confused and stunted Golovkin again, and the close of the eleventh saw the two men once again engaged in a close-range firefight and Jacobs screaming out loud in triumph, believing he was ahead, as the bell rang and it became apparent that the fight had actually gone the distance.
But for all the eye-catching qualities of Jacobs’ punches, Golovkins’ blows, while shorter and less obvious, had been landing with greater accuracy, frequency and effect, and that was enough for him to secure the win when the scores were read. The crowd booed the result, something Golovkin is not used to hearing. Another victory for Jacobs. But still not victory enough.