By Thomas Gerbasi
The last time I spoke to Danny Jacobs in March of 2012, he was days away from his second sparring session after beating cancer. The first one in December of 2011, against his good friend and 2008 Olympian Sadam Ali, didn’t go so well.
When I remind him of this conversation earlier this week, he laughs.
“The first time I did go sparring it really didn’t turn out the way I thought and I knew I had a long way to go,” said Jacobs, who can afford to look back at those rough days and smile; not just because he defeated the Osteosarcoma that threatened his career and his life, but because he’s won three straight bouts by knockout since returning to the ring in October of 2012.
On August 19th, he takes the biggest step in his comeback when he faces always tough Giovanni Lorenzo at the Best Buy Theater in New York City. It’s been a remarkable journey thus far for the former middleweight title challenger, but one he always thought would turn out okay, even during what most would consider to be the darkest times.
“No, there were never any doubts,” he said. “I told myself that if I couldn’t get through training, I wouldn’t set foot inside that ring and risk my health and my life. So the first time I did come back, even though there was a little bit of rust, I was confident that over time the kinks were going to be out, and they are. I feel like I’m a hundred percent now, if not better.”
Jacobs’ return last October came in his hometown of Brooklyn, and he gave his fans exactly what they hoped for as he stopped Josh Luteran in 73 seconds. His next foe, 15-2 Chris Fitzpatrick, made it to the fifth round before being halted last December, and while the wins were impressive, they did come against limited opposition. In other words, they were game, but if Jacobs would have fought them before being stricken by cancer and forced to the sidelines, he would have opened himself up to a boatload of criticism.
But then came Keenan Collins, owner of a lousy record, but skills that don’t reflect that slate at all. Jacobs faced the veteran in April, sending him down twice before the fight was stopped in the fourth round.
“He’s very tough, and he was good in the amateurs too,” said Jacobs of Collins. “A lot of people don’t really research people’s amateur backgrounds, but he had a pretty good one.”
This was the fight that made several skeptics believers again. Yet despite having only three fights back, Jacobs wanted more and he wanted it in a hurry.
“I got the rust out with these three fights that I’ve had since I came back, and I’m just ready to go forward,” said the 26-year-old. “I’m ready to take on anything they put in front of me and I’m ready to fulfill my dreams and become world champion.”
Beating Lorenzo will be a good start, and with a victory, he’s likely to return to the top ten and begin knocking on the door of a title shot. But Lorenzo, who has challenged for a world title three times and has never been stopped, is a tough out. Real fighters like that kind of challenge, and Jacobs is a real fighter.
“I’ve studied him already, and we’re gonna target his flaws, but this is boxing,” he said. “I can’t get to the top unless I fight guys like him. It’s not about what he brings to the table because I have to prevail anyway. There are gonna be a lot of guys that are contenders and champions that are gonna present big problems, whether it’s being strong, fast, or whatever. We’re just gonna have overcome. And Giovanni’s just one of those guys. He’s very tough, very durable, never been stopped, but I’m willing to take that on. And for the fourth fight, I felt like this is the perfect step up for me because I do want to get a world championship in the near future. The rust is out, my talent is there, and my quickness, my speed, and my power are still there, so let’s go for it. I’m ready.”
If that’s not enough to make you root for Jacobs to succeed, how about the fact that tonight, just a couple days away from what may ultimately be the biggest fight of his career, he’s hosting a fundraiser at the Starrett City Boxing Club for his Get In The Ring Foundation. Looking to raise funds and awareness to battle childhood cancer, obesity, and bullying, Jacobs has no problem taking on yet another fight.
“Financially, I know how hard it was with all the bills,” said Jacobs of his battle with cancer. “It was hard, and I told myself that if I was going to be able to make it and be in the position to make a change, knowing how hard it can be - whether it’s the emotional part, the financial part, or the physical part - I need to give these survivors and these people and their families who are actually going through it any help that I could possibly give. I know I can’t change the world, but I can play a small part in some family’s home.”
And as a father, making sure his son and other people’s children don’t suffer through the pain of bullying is a cause that hits especially close to home.
“Social media, and TV, and our idols have put so much pressure on kids to change their image and not be themselves,” he said. “Me being a parent, I never want my child to fall victim to any of that, so I felt like it was my duty to really stand for that. Not too many people bring awareness to that, and it’s important because we’re men first and we’re fathers first, so that’s something I definitely felt like I needed to tackle.”
If it sounds like a lot to handle for one man’s shoulders, it probably is, but you would never hear that out of Danny Jacobs’ mouth. As soon as he got a second lease on life, he dug down deep and went to work. That work is far from done, but he’s having a heck of a time doing it, whether it’s in the ring or out.
“I’m so happy to tell my story to the point where you ask me my name and I tell you I’m a cancer survivor,” he laughs. “I feel like God has blessed me with the stripes of saying I’m a survivor. I’ve come back to fulfill my dreams and it inspired a lot of people, so I don’t get tired of talking about it. It’s one of those things that I represent.”
For more information on the Get In The Ring Foundation and tonight’s fundraiser, visit www.getinthering.net
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