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Does Daniel Jacobs Have the Talent to Be a Champion?

Daniel JacobsBy Jason Kim: after watching how middleweight prospect Daniel Jacobs (16-0, 14 KOs) struggled against 5’7” Michael Walker (19-2, 12 KOs) on the undercard of the Manny Pacquiao vs. Ricky Hatton bout on May 2nd at the MGM Grand, in Las Vegas, Nevada, I’m starting to have my doubts whether the 22-year-old Jacobs has the talent to make it to the next level in the middleweight division.

Jacobs, a former National Golden Gloves middleweight champion while an amateur, showed vulnerability against the short, 30-year-old Walker, getting hit a lot in the eight-round fight. Jacobs had come into the fight highly thought of by many boxing experts who saw him as a hard-hitting young knockout artist, but as the rounds wore on and Jacobs punches had no effect on Walker, it was apparent that Jacobs wasn’t what all that hard of a hitter in comparison to the bigger shots from Walker.

Although Jacobs ended up winning by the lopsided judges’ scores of 80-72, 80-72 and 80-72 across the board, Jacobs didn’t look good under the heavy pressure that was being put on him by Walker. With a huge six inch height advantage over Walker, it would seem logical that Jacobs would be able to dominate the fight with his longer reach, and in fact he did for the most part.

However, Walker was able to hit Jacobs often in the fight with hooks and body shots, and found it easy to rough Jacobs up on the inside. When Walker was able to get Jacobs against the ropes, Michael found a lot of success landing hard body shots as Jacobs covered up. Before this fight, Jacobs had been put in with opponents that were easily bowled over with the shots from Jacobs that didn’t seem all that hard from the naked eye.

Teddy Atlas, an analyst for ESPN, was one of the first that noticed that Jacobs wasn’t all that hard of a puncher and pointed out that Jacob’s impressive knockout record might be a product of the soft competition that he had been put in with. However, up until the Walker fight there had been no evidence to support Atlas’ views on Jacobs.

But in the Walker fight it was pretty clear that Jacobs was the opposite of a knockout puncher, someone more like Jeff Lacy after he injured his left shoulder. The lack of power for Jacobs is going to be a problem eventually for him, because he won’t be able to stay in the middleweight division for long as he continues to grow.

Right now, I think Jacobs is good enough to beat Felix Sturm, the World Boxing Association middleweight champion, and perhaps WBO/WBC middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik. But I don’t see Jacobs as being in the class of IBF title holder Arthur Abraham right now nor do I see him being better than him five years from now.

Abraham has too many different skills and too much power for a fighter like Jacobs, who looked very uncomfortable with the light pressure that Walker was putting on him in their May 2nd fight. Then good news is that Abraham will likely be moving up in weight soon to the super middleweight division, possibly next year after Abraham fights Pavlik.

In the absence of Abraham, Jacobs could probably pick up one of the middleweight titles and hold onto it for a while. He has a couple of rising prospects like himself in Gennady Golovkin, Hassan N’Dam and Peter Quillen that could be a problem for Jacobs in the future. Each of them have good boxing skills, extraordinary talent and power along the same lines as Jacobs.

If those fighters weren’t bad enough, there’s also undefeated Russian middleweight prospect Matt Korobov looming on the horizon who appears to be too strong for Jacobs, and would likely be a step too far for Jacobs. It’s possible that Jacobs can avoid fighting Korobov for awhile but eventually the pressure will be on Daniel to fight him. At this point, I suspect that Korobov would be too strong for Jacobs and would have him literally running for his life.

Before long Jacobs is going to outgrow the middleweight division and will be forced to move up to super middleweight in the future. When that time comes, I don’t see Jacobs as being able to win a championship at that weight class.

Champions Lucian Bute and Mikkel Kessler would be too skilled for Jacobs to deal with, and young prospects Andre Ward and Andre Dirrell appear to be much quicker and more versatile fighters than Jacobs with better defensive skills.

Ward and Dirrell are the future of the super middleweight division. Jacobs can’t wait them out because both are young and will be fighting for a long time to come in the super middleweight division. There’s also Librado Andrade, a classic pressure fighter, who has an excellent chin, great stamina and good power.

Jacobs wouldn’t be able to make a dent on Andrade’s chin and would have to run the entire fight in order to avoid his big shots. Unlike Walker, Andrade will catch up to Jacobs often and hammer Jacobs with heavy shots. If Jacobs had some head movement or was able to move his torso to avoid shots he might be able to do reasonably well against Andrade.

However, Jacobs appears very easy to hit at this point and uses his legs to avoid getting hit rather than having good defensive skills while standing in front of his opponents.

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