In the TV opener on HBO’s Boxing After Dark card at the Toyoya Center in Hoston, Brooklyn’s Danny Jacobs (159 ¼; age 22; 17-0 coming in) passed his step-up test, with a unanimous decision victory over Ishe Smith (159; age 31; 21-3 entering; from Las Vegas). Smith did nothing to be embarassed about, and Jacobs showed why he’s a solid prospect, with a strong work rate and movement, some effective slipping, and more-than-competent ring generalship attesting to his amateur experience. The judges saw Jacobs a 96-93, 96-93, 100-89 winner, and the stats (254 of 888 to Smith’s 137 of 498) backed them up. The NABO middleweight title was up for grabs, for the record.

Jacobs was peppy early, and he moved well in the first. He backed up, but still got off first against Smith, who perpetually is hesitant to engage. He engaged more in the second, though. The two beefed after the bell following the third; where was Smith’s ire during the three minutes span? After rounds, Jacobs looked into the front row, where Shane Mosley, Bernard Hopkins and Oscar De La Hoya sat, and offered him tips.  Smith fired off a winning combo at the end of the fifth, and the New Yorker was stung by a right, obscured with a jab. Smith clanged Jacobs with some left hooks in the sixth, and worked well when he backed Jacobs into the ropes. Jacobs could stand to tighten up the D, as he tends to drops his hands too much at close quarters. A guy with more pop than Smith will make him pay much more, much earlier in a future fight. In the eighth, we saw a cut on Jacobs’ right eyelid, nothing of much consequence at that juncture. Jacobs saw the ninth round for the first time, and it didn’t start all that well. He took a left hook, and swallowed a right uppercut too. Another Smith hook had the crowd ooohing with 25 seconds left, and viewers had to wonder what the judges’ cards would be saying, because as we all know, you never do know. Ref Laurence Cole, one of the worst in the business, took a point from Smith for firing after the bell to end the ninth. It wasn’t the most egregious foul we’ve seen, maybe it was warranted, but Cole has a track record of inserting himself into close fights and tipping the balance. Jacobs had good zip in the tenth, and was showing composure down the stretch. He fired the jab, but then got stuck on the ropes with his hands low, giving his corner a heart attack. We’d go to the cards.