After Saul “Canelo” Alvarez gutted Michael “Rocky” Fielding, lifting the middling super-middleweight’s title, promoter Oscar De La Hoya tweeted something to the effect of: “You’re going to be surprised by who we fight next.”
Why surprised? Because most expected a walkover in Alvarez’s second fight for the subscription streaming service DAZN (otherwise why would Oscar tweet what he did?). Sure, the first fight was, too, but it was dressed in the garb of a title fight in another division, one coming on the heels of Alvarez’s back-to-back fights with Gennady Golovkin and his signing (at the time) the largest sports contract in history. It was also Alvarez’s first fight at Madison Square Garden. So mismatch that it was, Alvarez-Fielding still had the feel of an event; rare is the Alvarez fight that doesn’t. There was also his matchmaking history to consider. Alvarez, 51-1-2 (35), has one of the strongest résumés in boxing, but the Guadalajara fighter has maximized his earnings by imperiling himself strategically. Surely he would delay another stern test and accept an easy first title defense?
Hardly. Instead, Brooklyn’s Danny “Miracle Man” Jacobs, owner of one of the two middleweight titles not around Alvarez’s waist, was given the fight. The two will meet Saturday night at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas in a card broadcast by DAZN.
For years, Jacobs, 35-2 (29), was the fighter iced by smooth-shifting Dmitry Pirog. Or, more charitably, the fighter who overcame bone cancer to return to the ring (and the use of this particular triumph in the fight’s build-up is proof that DAZN is hoping that interest in Alvarez–Jacobs reaches beyond the aficionados). Since March of 2017, however, Jacobs might prefer to be known as the first man to make Golovkin mortal, having ended the former marauder’s twenty-something-fight knockout streak in a narrow points loss. Jacobs has yet to regain that form since, his once-vaunted power failing him in fights against the undefeated though mostly unimpressive trio of Luis Arias, Maciej Sulecki, and Sergiy Derevyanchenko (who lost a split decision despite being dropped in the first round). Still, considering the quality of the division, Jacobs is as deserving of a crack at “Canelo” as any middleweight. Of course, “deserve’s got nothing to do with it.”
Whatever his accomplishments with his fists, Jacobs owes his place in the ring Saturday night primarily to his pen: excluding Alvarez, he is one of two recognizable middleweights on DAZN’s roster, and with apologies to Demetrius Andrade, the only recognizable face. There is also the fact that in 2017 Jacobs became the first high-profile American fighter to sign with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing USA, and Hearn is probably making good on an early promise in securing Jacobs a purse that could exceed $15 million. Where purses are concerned, there is also this: Alvarez’s base salary is approximately $33 million per fight. It is hard to see Hearn offering him that kind of money without some assurance that there wouldn’t be too many Rocky Fieldings in a row—especially not with the newborn DAZN still courting subscriptions.
Jacobs, thirty-two, is hours away from not only a career but a life-altering opportunity: win Saturday, and he changes his earning potential for years. Never mind victory—a near-impossible feat in Las Vegas, Alvarez’s home away from home—even earning a rematch in defeat will change Jacobs’s financial situation in ways he may not yet fully understand. No one declines an Alvarez fight. But what is in it for Alvarez? Why fight Jacobs now?
Leaving aside any nudging from Hearn, leaving aside Alvarez’s own ambition (which remains live, however calculating), there’s also the likelihood that nothing about Jacobs costs Alvarez any sleep. And then there’s the timing.
If Alvarez, twenty-eight, beats Jacobs now little remains for him at middleweight. There’s a fight with Demetrius Andrade to crown an undisputed middleweight champion, but that fight is unlikely because Andrade, on top of possessing a dreadful style, has a title, which probably makes him Jacobs’s comeback target. And then there is the third go with Golovkin, which would happen even if both Alvarez and Golovkin (now also a DAZN fighter) were chilled in their next fights. With Golovkin finally beaten decisively (the only outcome anyone should expect the next time), Alvarez would be left waiting for the aspirants at junior-middleweight and even welterweight to pursue the greatest prize available to them. Alvarez could take them on as he chose: knocking off the ones with greater popularity than potential before some lesser opponent were to beat him to it, while also rushing to those fighters who might be legitimate threats in a few years.
Where the former is concerned, there is Jaime Munguia, a crude and limited banger who, even with an attritional style, cannot be trusted to entertain. There is no way De La Hoya hasn’t considered what he has with Munguia and how and when to fed him to Alvarez. The only real question might be how long De La Hoya cares to be in the Munguia business. In addition to Mungia, there are fighters like massive junior-middleweight titlist Jarrett Hurd, welterweights Errol Spence and Terence Crawford, and even the Charlos to consider.
Granted, outside of Alvarez one day fighting Munguia, this all sounds a little absurd: there are so many managerial, promotional, and network trolls under the bridge. But Alvarez is the guy everyone from welterweight to super-middleweight wants and concessions will be made. Having proven himself time and again, “Canelo” is now in the phase of his career where he is paid for who he is not what he’ll be. It’s a testament to his development that this higher compensation arrives as he’s largely exhausted his immediate competition, as well as fights he can make without obstacle. Still, by Sunday he’ll be but two fights into a five-year, eleven-fight contract: he’s going to need to find opponents and, for now, the move to super-middleweight was a mere gimmick. Moreover, that contract is with DAZN, which is as much in the business of making fights as fighters. So don’t be surprised if Alvarez helps them. He just has to finish up with Jacobs. The sooner, the better.