NEW YORK >> Exhausted beyond anything he’d felt in the ring, Gennady Golovkin could barely lift his collection of title belts.
Danny Jacobs thought they should have been in his possession.
Golovkin outlasted Jacobs in a superb 12-round defense of his middleweight titles tonight. Both fighters are knockout artists, yet this one went the distance — the first time GGG has not had a KO in 24 fights, and his first time going 12 rounds. The Kazakh won 115-112 on two judges’ cards and 114-113 on the other.
The AP had it 114-113 for Golovkin.
“I give Gennady a 7 1/2 or an 8 out of 10,” said his trainer, Abel Sanchez. “Daniel’s athleticism was very strong tonight. Gennady’s accuracy was not quite as pin-point.”
In by far the toughest fight of his stellar career, Golovkin often was stymied by Jacobs changing to a left-handed style. But a series of hard rights throughout the bout were enough — barely — to bring his record to 37-0.
“Daniel did a very good job,” Golovkin said. “Daniel is my favorite fighter. I can’t destroy him.”
He didn’t, unlike so many other opponents who felt the fury of GGG.
“I thought I won it by at least two rounds, minimum,” said Jacobs, nicknamed Miracle Man after he overcame bone cancer in 2011-12 to win 10 straight fights. “I did feel like I had to win the 12th round to make sure.”
He won it on two of the three cards, but it wasn’t enough, perhaps because he was knocked down in the fourth round, which went to Golovkin 10-8 on all three cards.
Still, with Madison Square Garden reverberating from chants of “Triple G” or “JACOBS,” no one could be sure of the outcome right until the final punch.
“This is boxing, I need the decision,” the 34-year-old Golovkin said. “I wasn’t thinking that I needed the 12th round to win the fight. This was my first test at 12 rounds. I needed a quality fight, not just the 12th round.”
Jacobs is 32-2 and lost his WBA crown to GGG in the HBO pay-per-view card.
Golovkin, a world champion since 2010, is 5-0 at the Garden, which he calls a “second home.” But Jacobs, from Brooklyn and, oddly, a representative of the competing arena the Barclays Center, tested him more than anyone has.
Golovkin keeps his WBC and WBO crowns — the IBF belt was not at stake because Jacobs skipped that organization’s fight-day weigh-in. On the horizon for GGG could be that elusive meeting with Canelo Alvarez if the Mexican wins his fight in May against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
“Of course I am ready to fight Canelo. Of course I want that fight,” Golovkin said. “I am like an animal for that fight.”
But there’s another option, GGG admitted.
“I will give Danny Jacobs a chance for a rematch.”
Earlier, Thailand’s Srisaket Sor Rungvisai stunned previously unbeaten Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez, knocking down the Nicaraguan in the first round, bloodying his face with an unintentional head-butt in the third, then winning a majority decision for the WBC super flyweight championship.
Both men went to the hospital for observation after the vicious fight.
Even though Sor Rungvisai was docked a point in the sixth round for another head-butt — there were several in the brutal bout — he never backed off. He relentlessly attacked the cut over the right eye of Gonzalez, who clearly was hampered by the blood streaming down his face. The challenger carried the fight in the eyes’ of the judges through the latter rounds.
In only his second fight outside Asia, Sor Rungvisai improved to 42-4-1 with 38 knockouts. Gonzalez, considered one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the sport, is 46-1.
One judge had the fight even at 113-113. The other two gave the Thai the nod 114-112 in the action-packed bout.
A sellout crowd of 19,939 vigorously booed the decision.
The AP had it 115-113 for Gonzalez, who has held some sort of world title since 2008.
Gonzalez went down from a hard right to the body in the opening round, but he then took charge — even after his face turned to a bloody mask in the middle rounds. However, Sor Rungvisai landed enough punches and moved well enough to keep in it.
And then, despite being outpunched decisively, with Gonzalez landing 441 to 284, the Thai got the surprise decision.
Earlier, Carlos Cuadras outpointed fellow Mexican David Carmona in a super flyweight fight.
Both from Mexico City, Cuadras and Carmona were coming off defeats. Neither was particularly sharp Saturday night, and the decision drew a lusty round of boos from the crowd.
Perhaps the unorthodox manner in which Cuadras fought, at times looking off-balance and awkward, didn’t win over the fans. Or maybe it was the way Carmona came on late in the 10-rounder.
Regardless, the judges went for Cuadras 97-93, 97-93 and 96-94.
Cuadras (36-1-1 with 27 KOs) lost a close unanimous decision to Gonzalez in a sensational September matchup for the WBC belt he’d held since 2014. He wasn’t nearly as impressive in his win at the Garden.
Carmona (20-4-5) was also coming off a loss, to WBO world champion Naoya Inoue of Japan.
Cleveland’s Ryan Martin improved to 18-0 with 11 knockouts when he totally outmatched Bryant Cruz before stopping him in the seventh round of their lightweight bout.