1:06 AM ET
- Dan RafaelESPN Senior Writer Close
- 2013 BWAA Nat Fleischer Award winner for excellence in boxing journalism
- ESPN.com boxing writer since 2005
- Five years at USA Today
NEW YORK — Gennady Golovkin lost his knockout streak, but he retained his middleweight championship belts.
Daniel Jacobs gave him one hell of a fight, the toughest of his 11-year career, and he pushed Golovkin to the 12-round distance for the first time, but GGG prevailed by unanimous decision on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.
Judges Don Trella and Steve Weisfeld both scored the fight 115-112 and Max DeLuca had it 114-113 for Golovkin, who scored a knockdown in the fourth round. ESPN.com also had Golovkin winning 115-113.
As Golovkin (37-0, 33 KOs) retained his title for the 18th consecutive time — just two away from tying Bernard Hopkins' division record of 20 — he turned back a stiff challenge from Jacobs in one of the year's most significant fights as it matched the 160-pound division's top two fighters.
Mandatory challenger Jacobs (32-2, 29 KOs), who lost his secondary title, came in as a prohibitive underdog but sure didn't fight like it, though he suffered the third knockdown of his career.
The fight opened with both fighters very cautious, perhaps war of each other's power. Jacobs flicked out a few jabs but the first round was largely a staring contest.
Jacobs tried to mix things up in the second round when he switched to a southpaw stance but he quickly abandoned the tactic.
Golovkin finally found his mark in the fourth round when he nailed Jacobs with a pair of right hands and he went down early in the round. Golovkin tried to follow up but Jacobs' defense was solid. It was the third time Jacobs had been down in his career.
Golovkin landed a solid right hand to the side of Jacobs' head early in the fifth round and also mixed in some powerful body shots as he seemed to be in control against a Jacobs who looked very wary of his power.
The seventh round heated up late and spilled over after the bell as they continued to fire punches until referee Charlie Fitch broke them apart. As Jacobs walked back to his corner he pumped his arms toward a section of his fans at ringside.
Golovkin had a big ninth round, nailing Jacobs with a pair of solid right uppercuts and then with a right hand that wobbled Jacobs. But the round ran out before Golovkin could land another big shot.
After Jacobs, whose left eye was swelling, landed a solid right hand that seemed to briefly stun Golovkin as the 10th round ended, the crowd tried to lift him in the 11th with chants of "Triple G! Triple G!" echoing through the arena.
The fight appeared very close going to the 12th round, the first time Golovkin had ever gone that far in his career.