Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez cemented his status as the king of the middleweight division with a unanimous decision victory over America’s Daniel Jacobs, adding the IBF world championship to his WBC and WBA titles.
After emerging triumphant from his double-header with middleweight rival Gennady Golovkin and brief excursion to super middleweight to defeat Rocky Fielding, Canelo returned to 160 pounds to take on the ‘Miracle Man’, with Jacobs appropriately named after recovering from a rare form of bone cancer eight years ago to become a two-time world champion.
In what proved to be a thrilling contest in which Jacobs gave as good as he got, the bout ebbed and flowed as momentum shifted throughout - first in Canelo’s favour before a Jacobs fightback and a final flurry from the Mexican.
But while the size of Jacob’s heart was clear for all to see, it was the early intensity from Canelo combined with the cleverness to go back to basics late on that sealed the win and leaves him one belt short of becoming the undisputed middleweight champion - what would be the first since Jermain Taylor’s reign ended in December 2006.
Only the WBO champion Demetrius Andrade stands between him and unifying the middleweight division, and the American was ringside to watch the contest along with Golovkin, who is desperate to fight Canelo for a third time to gain revenge for his controversial defeat.
Canelo quickly built a lead over Jacobs as he had no problems landing his punches while making Jacobs miss, and in keeping the 32-year-old American off balance Canelo was able to win the first five rounds on one scorecard and four of the five on the other two.
But the midway point of the fight saw the momentum shift in Jacobs’ favour, as a wise switch to southpaw combined with a tiring Alvarez started to present opportunities for him to land heavy shots with his superior height and range.
This was none more apparent than when Jacobs landed the punch of the fight in the ninth as a left hook struck Canelo flush in the temple. But as the crowd gasped, Canelo simply shook it off and continued, much to even Jacobs’ amazement as he nodded towards his opponent in recognition of his steeliness.
A fight that was shorn of any controversy - indeed the scorecards were a fair reflection on the fight - started off in such drama that the morning’s actions saw Jacobs cost himself nearly $1m in order to try and win the fight. The dethroned IBF champion decided to smash through a confidential 170-pound weight limit on the day of the fight in order to give himself the best chance of winning, and at a cost of $250,000 per pound over, his morning weigh-in of 173.6 pounds only added to the Mexican’s $35m purse.
Jacobs will not go home empty handed though - far from it - as he still leaves Las Vegas at least $9m richer depending on fight sales.
Canelo is now certain to go after Andrade in order to unify the division, though the prospect of a third bout against Kazakh Golovkin cannot be ruled out due to the numbers that fight would generate.
And while the main event deservedly took the headlines, there were waves to be felt on the undercard.
Once upon a time Canelo was the Mexican prospect making his way through the ranks as the one to watch. That man is now Vergil Ortiz Jr, and though he may hail from Texas, his Mexican roots are there for all to see.
The welterweight has been touted as one of the stars of the future, but for Mauricio Herrera, the veteran 38-year-old who had never been knocked out in his 32 previous bouts, the future very much became the present.
A brutal flurry at the end of the second round should have seen the fight ended as Herrera staggered his way back to his corner, and the inevitable took just 30 seconds to come at the start of the third when Ortiz picked his moment and knocked Herrera out cold while still on his feet.
The 21-year-old moves to 13-0 and looks primed for a world title shot, with many at ringside likening him to his promoter Oscar De La Hoya as having the potential to be one of the all-time greats.
Meanwhile, British super middleweight Tom Ryder remained on course to challenge WBA champion Callum Smith with an impressive victory against late replacement Bilal Akkawy.
Ryder made the most of his high billing on the Las Vegas undercard by delivering a convincing third-round stoppage, taking advantage of the Australian’s growing confidence to send him rolling backwards.
Having taken the fight when Canadian David Lamieux withdrew from injury, Akkawy made it safely through the opening two rounds and started to get onto the front foot until he walked onto a right hook from Ryder, who inflicted another eight-count in the same round before a third and final attack brought a premature finish.
There was also a strong showing from super featherweight Joseph ‘Jo Jo’ Diaz, who dominated Freddy Fonseca from start to finish on his way to a seventh-round stoppage when the towel came in.
The free-speaking Diaz immediately called out Tevin Farmer following their clash in mid-week, with a potential world title fight on the cards for the Californian.
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