A recurring theme in the sport of Boxing, particularly among those who cover the sport is the subject of unification of the Boxing’s respective weight classes to determine one world champion per weight class. While that goal remains largely a dream for most with the sport’s best interest at heart for a variety of reasons involving the politics of Boxing, there are times where progress can be made. The 160lb. Middleweight division is one where there has been steady progress made toward determining an Undisputed world champion.
Despite the lengthy reign of former Middleweight world champion Gennady Golovkin who nearly unified the division during his near historic run as a unified world champion, the division remains fragmented with three fighters each holding a claim to the World Middleweight championship. Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, the current WBA/IBO/WBC world champion who defeated ended Golovkin’s reign in September of last year in the second of their two fights, Demetrius Andrade, the undefeated WBO champion, who is in search of a lucrative fight, and Daniel Jacobs, the longtime cornerstone of the division who won the vacant IBF world championship in October of last year.
Two of those fighters, Alvarez and Jacobs will collide on Saturday night at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV putting their respective crowns on the line to take one step closer to the full unification of the Middleweight division. For decades a fight of this magnitude would be reserved for “Pay-Per-View”, but the changing times in how the sport is offered to the viewing public have changed that. The Alvarez-Jacobs Middleweight unification bout will not be shown on “Pay-Per-View” and will not have a sizable price tag attached to it, but rather this fight and it’s undercard will be available on digital subscription sports streaming network DAZN.
While this column could easily take a tone of putting over the value of the Over The Top (OTT) digital streaming model and more specifically the benefits networks like DAZN and ESPN+ have brought to Boxing and it’s fans as compared to the “Pay-Per-View” model, as has been a frequent topic of discussion of this observer here at The Boxing Truth® over the last year, the fight itself deserves to be discussed first. An encounter between two of the top fighters in the entire sport alone is enough to generate interest, but when it also involves a fighter regarded as perhaps the top star in the sport, interest is accelerated. For Saul Alvarez, who is affectionately known to his legions of fans as simply “Canelo”, this fight represents another step in what will likely be a Hall of Fame career when all is said and done. Although his two bouts with Gennady Golovkin remain a source of contention and debate as to who won both fights, Alvarez has continued his career while the potential of a third fight with the former Middleweight champion exists.
As most Boxing fans know, Alvarez recently signed an eleven fight deal with DAZN worth $365 million. In his last fight and the first under the deal in December of last, Alvarez moved up in weight to the 168lb. Super-Middleweight division where he dominated and stopped top contender Rocky Fielding. Although the win over a “Game”, but over matched Fielding earned Alvarez interim/regular champion status in the WBA’s Super-Middleweight ratings, he did not receive the type of test one might expect in being a fighter that was moving up in weight and facing a naturally bigger opponent. In all honesty, the fight with Fielding was what one would refer to as a “Tune-Up” that allowed Alvarez to test the waters at 168lbs., but not one that was expected to cause him much difficulty.
An interested observer who was in attendance at the Alvarez-Fielding fight was Daniel Jacobs. Jacobs, the longtime top Middleweight contender, who held an interim/regular designation in the WBA Middleweight ratings for nearly three years between August 2014 and March 2017 became a world champion in his last fight in October of last year with a twelve round split decision over previously undefeated contender Sergiy Derevyanchenko. Prior to that fight in another attempt to become a world champion, Jacobs lost a close, but unanimous decision to Gennady Golovkin in March 2017.
Despite being knocked down by Golovkin in the fourth round of that fight, Jacobs became the first fighter to that point in Golovkin’s career to provide a significant test for a fighter who is known as a “Knockout Artist.” Jacobs also created a close fight that some believe he deserved the decision. Although the knockdown Jacobs suffered in that fight was more or less a flash knockdown, it was that brief knockdown that ended up costing Jacobs the fight on the scorecards in the eyes of this observer.
Now with that setback behind him and having bounced back to win a world championship in his last fight, Jacobs prepares for his first defense of the IBF Middleweight crown against Alvarez. This figures to be a more competitive fight than Alvarez’ previous outing against Rocky Fielding. Much as was the case against Fielding however, Alvarez will be facing a naturally bigger man in Jacobs. Although Jacobs, who will enter the fight with a record of 35-2, with 29 Knockouts is a complete fighter that has shown an ability to box throughout his career, he has also established a near 80% career knockout percentage and is capable of getting an opponent out of there should an opportunity present itself.
Alvarez, who will enter the fight with a record of 51-1-2, with 36 Knockouts is a very compact fighter, who much like Jacobs is a complete package of overall Boxing ability and punching power. With the exception of his fight against Rocky Fielding that was fought above the 160lb. Middleweight limit, Alvarez has not scored a knockout as a Middleweight to date. While this does not appear to be a glaring statistic as Alvarez did dominate and stop Fielding in a fight that was not competitive, it is something that some might still regard as a question for Alvarez to answer against a fighter who is regarded as being a higher caliber of opposition.
In regard to a fight that is as well-matched as this bout appears to be, the question that is often asked is which fighter will dictate the combat. It is crucial in my mind that Jacobs attempt to impose his will on Alvarez early in the fight. While it is logical to expect a tactical fight at least in the early rounds given the skill level of the two fighters, Jacobs is after all the bigger man in this fight and must get Alvarez’ respect early on.
In contrast to Jacobs, Alvarez will likely look to be elusive and pick his spots. While one could expect a tactical approach from both fighters, it will be interesting to see what happens when the two fighters mix it up in exchanges. We do know that Jacobs has shown an ability to recover from being knocked down, but what remains an unknown is what will happen if Alvarez gets hurt or knocked down as has not happened thus far in his career.
As this fight has drawn closer, I have tried to think of a similar style match up to use not necessarily as a comparison, but rather an idea of what this encounter might look like once the opening bell rings. While not a direct link to this bout, the one fight that continued to come to mind was Saul Alvarez’ July 2014 battle with Erislandy Lara. In a fight that was won by Alvarez via twelve round split decision, Lara’s elusiveness and lateral movement did give Alvarez trouble throughout, but it was Alvarez’ overall pressure and body punching that won over two of the three official judges.
While I do not necessarily expect a similar fight to be fought in this bout, I do believe that Alvarez will need to find a way to negate the naturally bigger fighter’s physical advantages and one way to do that would be to get on the inside and focus a portion of his offense on Jacobs’ body. Although Rocky Fielding did not provide Alvarez with much resistance last December, we saw how effective Alvarez can be when he is able to land consistently to an opponent’s body. Whether or not he will be able to get on the inside as quickly against a fighter of Jacobs’ caliber remains to be seen. If Jacobs can control the tempo of combat and keep Alvarez at distance where he will theoretically not be as effective, this could end up being as difficult a fight for Alvarez as was his fight against Lara. It certainly has the look of a fight that will be competitive for however long it lasts.
Now back to the subject of the sport moving away from traditional forms of television, more specifically “Pay-Per-View”, and what this fight means for subscription-based digital streaming networks that have invested heavily in Boxing in recent times. A criticism this observer has heard periodically regarding streaming networks like DAZN and ESPN+ is a perceived lack of cards that are deemed “Pay-Per-View” quality. Although this criticism/opinion came from many who would probably be considered casual fans, it underscores the importance of demonstrating how the OTT subscription-based model differs from a “Pay-Per-View” model where portions of a full card are available on a per card basis for what is often an expensive price tag.
It is also important to keep in mind that regarding digital networks like DAZN and ESPN+, a subscription either on a monthly or annual basis entities subscribers access to a wide range of sports and are not limited to combat sports like Boxing and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). As longtime readers know, while this observer does not currently work for either DAZN, ESPN, or any other network. I will always be ready to express my support for things which I feel strongly will be beneficial to Boxing, the fighters that compete in the sport, and the fans that support it in the long-term. In this case, what I am supporting is both opening up the sport on a global level to more people than has ever been the case before while also providing further opportunities for fighters to compete on a more regular basis. Along with this, I am also supportive of a low cost legal alternative for the public as compared to a “Pay-Per-View” model that as I have said repeatedly in recent years has become overpriced and undervalued.
For those who have expressed the criticism with regard to “Pay-Per-View” quality of the cards that have been offered so far, allow me to ask this question. How many times have you ordered a “Pay-Per-View” Boxing or MMA card and felt disappointed with what was offered and to be more specific for the price you were asked to pay?
While Saul Alvarez’ last fight was one that was not competitive, it is worth reminding the reader who might remain skeptical that, that fight on a traditional network platform probably would have been offered to the viewing public on a “Pay-Per-View” basis for a price point that would likely be around $70, which unfortunately has become a standard price point in recent years. Regardless of the method of which the fight was broadcast, the fight itself if fought as it was probably would have resulted in more fans expressing their anger both at the perceived quality of the fight, but more specifically the price they were asked to pay to see it.
Although there will always be a segment of fan who will look for flaws regardless of what fights are made, what fights a promoter wants to make, and what a network platform offers, as someone who has covered more “Pay-Per-View” cards throughout my career covering this sport and by extension multiple combat sports, if given the choice between paying what amounts to an inflated fee for a portion of a full card, or paying a reasonable subscription fee that offers far more content per card as well as other sports, I choose the subscription-based model. What one should also keep in mind is both DAZN and ESPN+ are still relatively new in regard the U.S. market. It takes time for any network platform to build their respective platforms in terms of content, in terms of contracts, and in terms of a subscriber base. While there remains a segment within the sport that continues to rely on the “Pay-Per-View” model, both subscription services have done a great job in terms of content offered for the price of a subscription.
This Middleweight unification bout between world champions Saul Alvarez and Daniel Jacobs is one that prior to the advent of DAZN and ESPN+ would certainly be sold on a “Pay-Per-View” basis. It is a fight that on paper appears to be one that most would call “PPV level”. Unlike other fights/events that have carried that label, but under delivered on expectations, this fight will be part of the future model of television distribution and offered to the public at a reasonable fee. While everyone obviously hopes for a competitive and exciting fight, for the Boxing fan who has often felt disappointed, let down, and angered by what they have paid to see over the years, this is already a victory both for the fan and the sport they support.
“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”
Alvarez vs. Jacobs takes place Tonight (Saturday, May 4th) at T-Mobile arena in Las Vegas, NV. The fight as well as it’s full undercard can be seen on digital streaming network DAZN beginning ay 7:30PM ET/4:30PM PT U.S. Time. DAZN is available in the United States and several international countries. For more information about DAZN, availability around the world, list of connected devices, and to subscribe please visit: www.DAZN.com.
In the United Kingdom and Ireland, the card can be seen on Sky Sports Main Event (Formerly Sky Sports 1 beginning at 1AM (Sunday, May 5th Local UK Time.) For more information about Sky Sports, channel listings and availability in your area please visit : www.SkySports.com. Check your local listings internationally.
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