By Jake Donovan
Four years ago, Daniel Jacobs was an unbeaten middleweight who many believed was being rushed towards a title shot. The camera-friendly Brooklyn native was thought to be yet the latest in line of Al Haymon-advised fighters who get their opportunity whenever the high-powered adviser snaps his fingers.
The aftermath justified such skepticism, as Jacobs suffered his lone defeat to date, a 5th round stoppage at the hands of Dmitry Pirog in their July ’10 vacant title fight in Las Vegas.
Time was believed to still be on Jacobs’ side, only 23 at the time. However, those plans were greatly altered when the New Yorker was diagnosed in May 2011 with osteosarcoma, a level of bone cancer that left him crippled and believed to never walk again, much less ever again enter a ring.
Not only did he fully conquer the disease, but Jacobs (27-1, 24KOs) returned to the ring in 2012 and has punched his way to title contention. The charismatic, yet humble New Yorker has won five straight as he heads into an August 9 vacant middleweight title fight versus Australia’s Jarrod Fletcher at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
The bout–which airs live on SHOWTIME–comes four years and 3,000 miles away from his previous attempt, perhaps suggestive that it was never meant to be to win a title at that stage in his career.
“Absolutely. I believe that 100%,” Jacobs states. “We have our own goals, but God has his goals for all of us. Everything I’ve been through, I feel like this is all molding me and setting me up to be a superhero. This is truly an opportunity of a lifetime for me.”
The fight takes place miles from his hometown, having grown up in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, New York. Jacobs’ triumphant return came on the inaugural boxing card at Barclays Center in Oct. ’12, and will now fight in his third fight at the venue while vying for his first major title.
“The Barclays Center, once I found out they were having fights that was my biggest motivation,” Jacobs admits. “To have this opportunity to fight for a world championship two years later, it’s unbelievable.”
What’s not as farfetched is his belief that a victory is forthcoming. By no means does Jacobs look past Fletcher, who earned the opportunity with a 12-round win over Max Bursak earlier this year. But in his role as a man of destiny, winning the fight is the final frame of a years-long dream.
“I think about it all of the time. I envision my hand being raised and the announcement of ‘… and the new.’ It will be historical. I never would’ve dreamed of this opportunity,” Jacobs says of entering next weekend’s title fight.
The middleweight fight is part of a SHOWTIME-televised tripleheader. Also on the show, Lamont Peterson defends his 140 lb. belt versus Nuyorican contender Edgar Santana, while lineal 140 lb. king Danny Garcia headlines in a non-title fight versus Rod Salka.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as the Records Keeper for the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and a member of Boxing Writers Association of America.