Monday 6th May 2019 and boxing is a little closer to ‘home’ than it was before Saturday night. Saul Alvarez allowed Daniel Jacobs to hand over his IBF belt with out forcing the Miracle Man to delve too deeply into the reserves of energy his gigantic rehydration had presumed to afford him. The fight was a disappointment in the sense of the entertainment the two afforded those gathered at ringside or perched, as I was, on the sofa with the sparrows and starlings stirring in the background.
It shouldn’t detract from the significance of the unification Mexico’s favourite son accomplished on Saturday, placing the three most historic belts above one mantlepiece is progress after all. And in the absence of perfection, 17 weight divisions, 17 champions – for that particular status quo wouldn’t prove the hierarchical utopia fans presume it to be – progress should be boxing’s only objective.
Alvarez unification of the middleweight belts represents success for the strategy and financial backing afforded boxing by DAZN, a platform which invested heavily to secure the respective services of first, Jacobs, then Alvarez and most recently Gennady Golovkin. It is a road paved with gold for the constituents of the classic weight class and while unification is typically followed by inexplicable divestiture, the investment behind Alvarez, and the wealth he can generate for the parasitic sanctioning bodies, could enable a rare period of stability and singularity at 160 pounds.
For purists, or sad old stagers like me, the pursuit of one champion per division has become something of a crusade, one undertaken with the full knowledge success will be fleeting and that the perfect world it purports to represent is as flawed as the chaos it seeks to replace.
The greatest disappointment was Jacobs’ failure to gamble in search of a breakthrough, he boxed reasonably well, judicious with his defence and attack, but never with the sense of risking what he had – status as the number 3 in the division – in order to win that which he was said to crave. To be champion. For such a brave and courageous man, Jacobs appeared to box to be competitive but not threatening. Were the fight a middle-distance race, Jacobs ran well enough to stay with the leader but refused to risk sprinting for the line.
Finishing a respectable second enables him to run again in these lucrative races. Had he taken a risk and being knocked out, he would have been relegated to more modest meetings. At 32, Jacobs appears content enough simply to be there. Keen to earn big for the remainder of his run. Given his much reported life story, he can be forgiven the pragmatism.
But boxing rarely rewards challengers not willing to challenge at least themselves.
Alvarez also failed to inspire despite the precision and control he demonstrated in his work. He too seemed content to wait for a Jacobs’ sprint finish that didn’t materialise.
And whilst crowning a unified Middleweight champion, with apology to the capable but marginal custodian of the WBO belt, Demetrius Andrade, the unified tag excludes, is to be lauded, the lack of drama, the lack of risk taken, did leave those of us struggling to resist sleep, somewhat disappointed.
Important to remember then, that boxing tends to disappoint more persistently than it astounds. And has an unfortunate habit of promising more than it delivers.