Canelo Alvarez sought to out-box a boxer. He did that, and in the end, he also conquered an impassioned foe carrying a significant size advantage.
Alvarez added a third middleweight belt to his collection Saturday night before 20,203 at T-Mobile Arena by defeating Daniel Jacobs by scores of 115-113, 115-113 and 116-112.
“We knew he was going to be a difficult fighter, but thank God we did things the right way, what we were going to do,” said Alvarez, who already possessed the World Boxing Council and World Boxing Assn. belts. “It was just what we thought because of the style of [the] fight that brings. We just did our job.”
In taking Jacobs’ International Boxing Federation middleweight belt, Alvarez (52-1-2) was especially sharp in piling up early rounds, sweeping the first five on the cards of judges Dave Moretti and Steve Weisfeld.
Jacobs, likely 15 pounds bigger, answered by shifting to a left-handed stance and landing heavier blows, but Alvarez didn’t wilt, leaning on his well-honed uppercuts and power to close the show.
Jacobs (35-3) had been slapped with a $1-million penalty Saturday morning after weighing 173.6 pounds, exceeding his fight-day limit of 170. Alvarez, weighing 169 in the morning and with a purse of around $35 million, picked up the extra cash at the expense of Jacobs, who had been in line to make about $12 million.
The fight started slowly with Jacobs jabbing and Alvarez aiming at the body. Alvarez accelerated his work in the second round, backing Jacobs with a right hand to the head, brushing off jabs and closing with a scoring jab and uppercut that pained Jacobs.
Jacobs struggled “to get my wits” against the “very slippery” Alvarez and instead absorbed damage to the body and scoring jabs, failing to find the evasive Mexican star.
In the sixth, Jacobs finally relished a sliver of success by committing to the left-handed stance and landing a clean combination. His success continued into the seventh as he belted Alvarez with a hard punch to the head and delivered a combination with Alvarez backed to the ropes.
Jacobs, 32, had longed for this moment after surviving a cancerous tumor near the spine that paralyzed him in 2011 and threatened his life.
“I feel accomplished,” Jacobs said. “He’s a tremendous champion and I tip my hat to him. I gave my all out there. To my fans, to all my survivors out there who appreciate me … for what I represent, I thank you.”
Jacobs heightened the action to its peak in the eighth when Alvarez escaped Jacobs’ pressure on the ropes, and the animated Jacobs urged him to fight, receiving the unwanted response of four straight Alvarez punches to the head.
Jacobs surged back in the ninth by clocking Alvarez with consecutive left hands to the head, and after Alvarez took a breather, Jacobs maintained the activity into the 10th.
The stubborn and proud Alvarez then shifted into a defiant mode and struck Jacobs with defining late flurries and blows to satisfy his vocal fan base, which gathered for and celebrated Cinco de Mayo.
Jacobs found his own supporter, son Nate, who told him in the ring, “Dad, you did a great job.”
“That’s all that matters to me,” Jacobs said.
Gennady Golovkin, who has an expected easy tuneup scheduled for June 8 at Madison Square Garden, watched from inside the arena. Asked if he wanted to face the former champion a third time, after beating him by decision last year and fighting him to a draw in 2017, Alvarez said, “I’m just looking for the biggest challenge. That’s all I want.
In the co-main event, Vergil Ortiz’s power display was matched against a 38-year-old veteran who’d never been knocked out, but couldn’t stop the 21-year-old prospect from Dallas.
Ortiz (13-0, 13 knockouts) bashed Riverside’s former title challenger Mauricio Herrera with a wicked right hand that left the former welterweight title challenger knocked out while crouched on his feet.
Herrera trainer Henry Ramirez told his fighter, “I think you should retire,” and Herrera responded, “I think so.”
Ortiz said he noticed Herrera (24-9) was dropping his left hand. He exploited the opening immediately, closing the second round with a nasty barrage punctuated by a hard right to the jaw that sent Herrera down at the bell.
The damage continued through the first seconds of the third, and just 29 seconds in, Herrera was out.
“I’m very satisfied with my performance. Everyone doesn’t think I have experience, but I work in the gym every day and I spar with world champions every day,” Ortiz said in reference to his work at Robert Garcia’s Riverside gym that counts four-division champion Mikey Garcia in its stable.
Despite taking a welterweight bout Saturday, Ortiz said he wants to immediately return to 140 pounds and pursue a title shot, saying earlier this week he’s eyeing World Boxing Organization champion Maurice Hooker, who also resides in Dallas.
Earlier, South El Monte super-featherweight Joseph Diaz Jr. flashed impressive hand speed and body punching to produce a seventh-round technical knockout victory over Nicaragua’s Freddy Fonseca.
Diaz (29-1), after losing a featherweight title shot against Gary Russell Jr. one year ago this month, won his third straight bout at 130 pounds by out-landing Fonseca 142-31 in power punches.
Diaz dropped Fonseca with two lefts to the head in the sixth, then pummeled him with power lefts to the body and head in the seventh, prompting the trainer for Fonseca (26-3-1) to throw in the towel 2:07 into the round.
“I felt really good at 130 … I’m able to showcase my skills, my defense, my head movement, everything,” Diaz said, calling out IBF champion Tevin Farmer, who had a brush him with following Thursday’s news conference.
“I’m going to become a champion, I promise you guys.”
Unbeaten super-featherweight Lamont Roach Jr. didn’t convince the crowd he was victorious, but the judges awarded him victory over Puerto Rico’s Jonathan Oquendo by scores of 97-92, 97-92, 96-93 and Roach improved to 19-0-1.
The victory continues the momentum of success for the Washington, D.C. region, which also boasts two-belt light-middleweight champion Jarrett Hurd and super-featherweight champion Gervonta Davis of Baltimore.
Former featherweight title challenger Oquendo maintained early pressure and wilted Roach with an uppercut sent to the body in the fourth round. Roach’s nose was bleeding after five rounds, but he rallied in the second half of the bout.
He benefited from a one-point deduction from Oquendo for an eighth-round head butt, then rocked Oquendo with a combination of punches to the head in the ninth, backing Oquendo (30-6) again in the 10th.
“It could have gone better, of course, but I’m glad we got this experience,” Roach said. “He’s as tough as they come … . The only guys that beat him became champions and [I’ll be] one of them.”
Former light-middleweight champion Sadam Ali (27-3) found his defense repeatedly penetrated by Anthony Young (21-2) and the underdog unleashed a closing barrage in the third round that forced referee Robert Byrd to stop the bout at the 2:38 mark.
“I saw [Ali’s] fight against Herrera, and he couldn’t pull the trigger. So when they offered the fight, I jumped on it,” Young said.
Super-middleweight John Ryder (28-4) dealt Bilal Akkawy his first defeat, pummeling Alvarez’s San Diego sparring partner with a combination loaded with uppercuts to end the bout 2:12 into the third round.
Ryder was originally scheduled to fight in the co-main event against former middleweight champion David Lemieux, but Lemieux suffered a hand injury and withdrew.