Just 13 months ago, Daniel Jacobs was at the pinnacle of the middleweight division when he lost a narrow decision to Gennady Golovkin, a fighter many regard as the best pound-for-pound in boxing. He faced a far less well-known opponent in undefeated Polish contender Maciej Sulecki on Saturday night in front of a Barclays Center crowd of 7,892 and found himself in the midst of a closer-than-expected fight.
But whatever uncertainty about the decision that might have existed entering the final round, Jacobs erased all doubt with a stunning early knockdown of Sulecki. The Polish fighter continued gamely, but Jacobs battered him the rest of the round in a vain attempt to give the fans a knockout on his way to scoring a unanimous decision in a WBA mandatory title eliminator.
Judge Steve Weisfeld, who had Jacobs (34-2, 29 KOs) ahead of Sulecki (26-1, 10 KOs) by a point entering the 12th, gave it to Jacobs, 115-112, after the 10-8 round, the same as Newsday’s card. Jacobs won more clearly on the cards of John McCale (116-111) and Carlos Ortiz (117-110).
Jacobs graded himself a B-minus. “I was happy with the performance against a very tough middleweight,” he said. “I was happy to work off the jab and control the action. I was happy to close the action the way I did.”
Entering the final round, Jacobs said he was confident that he was ahead and decided to go for the KO. Early in the round, he followed a sharp left jab with a straight right down the pipe that dropped Sulecki to the mat instantly. Sulecki got up and tried to fight back, but Jacobs virtually punched himself out trying for the knockout over the final two minutes.
“When you put your weight into it with my power, it’s tough to take,” Jacobs said of the knockdown punch. But he gave credit to Sulecki, adding, “He’s a true middleweight. He showed he has power and true grit.”
Sulecki vowed to take an aggressive approach to make a fight of it, and he never wavered from that commitment. But while he showed plenty of speed and skill, his punches were short in the first two rounds. But that changed near the end of the third when Sulecki landed a big left-right combination that was the hardest to that point in the fight.
Jacobs switched up to a southpaw stance early in the fourth and caused some confusion before roughing up Sulecki and pounding him toward the ropes, ending the round with a big left hook. But in the fifth round, it seemed Sulecki decided he belonged in the same ring with Jacobs and began to find his punching range. He dominated a round that ended with a furious two-way exchange in the middle of the ring.
The pace slowed in the sixth, but Jacobs landed the hardest shots and pressed Sulecki to the ropes. The Polish fighter responded in kind in the seventh, rocking Jacobs early with an overhand right followed by two left hooks. Sulecki backed up Jacobs the whole round, ending with two hard right-hand shots.
The ebb and flow continued over the eighth and ninth with Jacobs landing effectively with his left hand and then Sulecki responding with a strong ninth round in which he answered everything Jacobs tried. But the former champion showed he knows how to close the show.
Ultimately, Jacobs said he wants a rematch with Golovkin but he knows that might have to wait. Meanwhile, WBC champion Jermall Charlo looms as a strong possibility. “If Brooklyn wants Charlo,” Jacobs said, “then Charlo it will be.”
Notes & quotes: On the undercard, Brooklyn heavyweight Jarrell Miller (21-0-1, 18 KOs) won a WBA title eliminator with a lopsided unanimous decision over Frenchman Johann Duhaupas (37-5, 24 KOs).