Gennady Golovkin’s knockout streak succumbed Saturday night to a man who refuses to cave.
Although the judges awarded three-belt middleweight champion Golovkin (37-0) a unanimous-decision victory by scores of 115-112, 115-112, 114-113, the takeaway was the courageous stand by Brooklyn’s Daniel Jacobs in front of 19,939 at Madison Square Garden.
The cancer survivor who was sidelined parts of 2011 and 2012 survived getting knocked down by a fourth-round power punch that was struck square on the jaw, rallying back to end Golovkin’s 23-fight knockout streak and nearly convince the judges he’d won.
“I think I won the fight and I think the fans support me on that,” Jacobs (32-2) said. “All I can do is be gracious in defeat. I told him you’ll have to kill me.
“At times, I stood toe to toe with him to see what everybody was talking about and it wasn’t that bad. I’ve gained a lot of fans with this fight. My style is very good and I can look forward to the future.”
Golovkin won the eighth and ninth rounds on all three scorecards, but Jacobs swept the sixth, seventh, 10th and 11th, surprising a dominating champion who kept alive his hopes to fight Canelo Alvarez in a September superfight by the thinnest of margins.
“There was no dancing in here tonight,” promoter Tom Loeffler said. “It was warriors, fighting their heart out. They both showed a tremendous chin. It was a testament to Danny’s fortitude and courage.”
Golovkin said he was left with respect for Jacobs.
“He is my toughest fighter,” Golovkin said. “I can’t destroy him. He’s a very good fighter. This was my first test for 12 rounds.”
Golovkin said if the Alvarez bout doesn’t work out, he’ll consider Jacobs for a rematch.
“Danny won a lot of respect tonight,” Loeffler said.
He did so not only by recovering from the knockdown, but by relying on a size advantage — he was said to be near 180 pounds, 20 pounds over the middleweight limit when he stepped into the ring — and showing the most impressive energy as the championship rounds arrived.
Jacobs switched to a southpaw style at points during the bout, seeming to confuse Golovkin.
“We got some tough rounds in,” Golovkin trainer Abel Sanchez said. “I give Gennady a 7½ to eight out of 10. Daniel’s athleticism was very good. He was very strong and Gennady’s accuracy was not quite as pinpoint as it has been in the past.”
Jacobs roared after an emotional exchange at the close of the 11th round.
He may not have won the fight, but he won the night.
In the co-main event, Thailand’s Srisaket Sor Rungvisai pulled off a stunning and somewhat disputed majority decision victory over Nicaragua’s Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez by scores of 113-113, 114-112, 114-112 to recapture the World Boxing Council super-flyweight title.
Sor Rungvisai (42-4-1), a former garbage collector, knocked Gonzalez down in the first round with a hard body shot, and if that wasn’t enough for the now-former champ, a third-round accidental headbutt opened a big cut that bled throughout at his right eyebrow.
Four-division world champion Gonzalez (46-1) hadn’t been knocked down since way back in 2006.
“I’m a little dinged up and I thought I won the fight,” Gonzalez said. “I want an immediate rematch. I want my title back.”
The loss to the mandatory WBC contender surprised and upset many who were watching, as Gonzalez shrugged off the injury and rocked Sor Rungvisai in a classic fourth round.
It seemed that Gonzalez’s more defining blows had allowed him to reverse the scorecard damage of his early adversity and he was awarded a 10-9 round by two judges in rounds three through six.
In the sixth round, Sor Rungvisai had a point deducted after the fourth headbutt of the bout and punch statistics showed Gonzalez outlanded Sor Rungvisai, 441-284.
But Sor Rungvisai remained busy and resilient and judges Glenn Feldman and Julie Lederman remarkably awarded him the seventh through 11th rounds, while judge Waleska Roldan gave him all but the eighth during that stretch.
With all of the questions and so much of his pre-fight attention locked on a push for a rematch with Gonzalez, Mexico’s Carlos Cuadras lost track of David Carmona’s toughness. So instead of claiming victory by the impressive knockout he so badly wanted, Cuadras settled for a unanimous-decision triumph over his countryman.
Judges awarded Cuadras (36-1-1) scores of 97-93, 97-93, 96-94 in the former World Boxing Council champion’s first bout since his fight-of-the-year candidate defeat to Gonzalez in a competitive unanimous decision in September at the Forum.
Follow Lance Pugmire on Twitter @latimespugmire