By Mitch Abramson
The Super Bowl of fights already took place on Sept. 14 when Floyd Mayweather Jr. out-pointed Saul Alvarez in Las Vegas in the biggest fight of the year.
But there’s another fight that could potentially happen on Super Bowl weekend in Brooklyn, New York, sharing some of the attention of the NFL’s title game and cultural happening at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
Richard Schaefer, CEO of Golden Boy Promotions, told a small group of reporters on Wednesday he’s working on making a fight between WBO middleweight champion Peter Quillin and the cancer-survivor Danny Jacobs of Brooklyn for February 1, the day before Super Bowl XLVIII in Brooklyn at the Barclays Center, provided that Quillin wins on Saturday night in his title fight with Philly’s Gabe Rosado in Atlantic City. Quillin did his part, stopping Rosado in the tenth round on cuts, making the fight closer to becoming a reality.
“I have a date in mind and a place and a set-up, yes the Barclays Center sometime in February,” Schaefer said with a wide grin on Wednesday, playing coy. “What else is happening in New York in February?”
And in an amusing series of back-and-forth queries with reporters, Schaefer revealed the match could take place on Super Bowl weekend, making it even bigger because of the attention that will be on the area for the game. Of course, everything hinged on Quillin winning Saturday night, but Schaefer seemed eager to make the fight happen on Wednesday.
“It’s a fight I’d like to do,” Schaefer said. “It could be, if everything goes well, [Quillin’s] next fight.”
If the fight is consummated, it would be an incredible turn of events for Jacobs, who conquered cancer to arrive at this point, on the doorstep of another title shot. Jacobs (26-1, 23 knockouts) was first diagnosed with an aggressive form of spinal cancer in 2011 and was told by doctors he would never fight again. But he has, resuming his career after a 19-month layoff and winning four straight fights, including a sensational third-round knockout of rugged Giovanni Lorenzo this past August.
Jacobs was supposed to fight on the undercard of Zab Judah and Paulie Malgnaggi at the Barclays on Dec. 7 but will skip that card to open camp early and let a cut heal below his left eye that required stitches sustained against Lorenzo, he said. Jacobs was in attendance in Atlantic City for Quillin’s bout on Saturday and is excited to challenge for a world championship.
“At this point, after what I’ve been through, it really doesn’t matter who I fight,” Jacobs said in a phone interview on Saturday afternoon. “It’s just about following my dream and if someone is in my way that’s keeping me from that dream, it doesn’t matter who they are. I’m just looking to handle my business and become a world champion and putting on a great show for the fans of Brooklyn.”
Jacobs plans on dedicating the possible title fight to his former trainer, Victor Roundtree, who died on Oct. 3 at the age of 52 from complications related to diabetes. Roundtree is the one who started Jacobs boxing at 14 and is credited with creating his fluid, smooth style. The bout with Quillin, should it happen, would be Jacob’s second title fight after he was stopped by Dmitry Pirog in 2010 for the vacant WBO title, just days after Jacob’s grandmother, Cordelia Jacobs, who played a large role in raising him, passed away. Jacobs will be fighting with a heavy heart against Quillin, but he knows that Roundtree would want him to be focused and at his best for that fight, instead of downcast, mourning his death, commented Jacobs.
“If anyone would have wanted me to bite down and not to worry about the loss it would be Victor,” Jacobs said. “He taught me everything I know and he’s the one who told me that no matter what you always know how to overcome anything [because of the cancer]. With everything happening, from my trainer passing away before a big championship fight, it’s just extra motivation for me to win.”
Schaefer believes that Jacobs, who has gotten better with each fight since his return, is basically back to where he was before the illness, showing fluid movement and punching power.
“I think he’s definitely [ready for Quillin],” Schaefer said. “I think what he showed in his last fight [against Lorenzo] that I think he’s back bigger, better and stronger than ever and we will see Danny Jacobs better than ever, so I think he’s definitely ready for Peter Quillin.”
Although both Jacobs and Quillin are friendly acquaintances, both made it clear they would set aside their friendship for a big fight like this.
“Year we’re friendly but at the same time we’re fighters,” Quillin said on Wednesday. “And when we’re in the same weight class, we can’t be too friendly and if we ever had to fight I know Danny is going to come and try to put his best foot forward and try to beat me. Let’s set aside our friendship and just say that I have something that he wants- a championship."
"Yeah, I have to respect that and I give nothing but respect but I’m not in boxing to take no losses. I’m not in boxing to just say I’m doing it to be a world champion, and look like a rapper and enjoy the glitz and glamour. That’s fun and dandy but you know it brings a lot of confusion and delusional people around you that I just want to be the best that I can be in the sport of boxing.”
Quillin has watched Jacobs return from cancer to resurrect his career and has been impressed with the way he has come back. Quillin is respectful of what Jacobs has overcome, having watched from afar what former super welterweight boxer Omar Henry went through with cancer. Henry posted heart-tugging posts on his Facebook page about his wish to see his 26th birthday. He died a week before on Feb. 1 of this year.
“Listen, he has a fight that he fought which is cancer that I can’t understand,” Quillin said of Jacobs. “I just know it’s a serious fight and I know a lot of people who lost their lives to cancer. It’s not anything to play around with. You see what happened to Omar Henry, it’s very sad, seeing him deteriorate right on his Instagram was like the saddest moment I ever seen in boxing so I can never understand that, so I know when people go through a struggle or an adversity in their lives, that they either come back weak and they can’t handle the struggle or they come back stronger and I think Danny with the whole cancer thing came back stronger and now he’s out there and he has a positive message to go out there and let cancer survivors know that you can do things and boxing is one of the things that a lot of people are not able to do, but it gives somebody a sense of hope and inspiration that they can do whatever they want.”
Jacobs knows a fight in Brooklyn against Quillin would be a major event with the Super Bowl happening nearby.
“It’s about the fans and if this fight happens it will be an amazing event for Brooklyn,” Jacobs said. “It really is surreal. I think it’s a big money big fight; it’s great exposure with the promotion of the Super Bowl that week, just the attention the fight will get. It’s going to be a star-studded affair.”
Jacobs also said he’s more certain about his future in boxing after the resounding victory over Lorenzo.
“It got my confident through the roof,” Jacobs said. “No one else had ever stopped him and I didn’t even believe in myself if I could do it. It just showed me no matter what I have the potential to do some big things and now I have the belief in myself.”
Mitch Abramson covers boxing for the New York Daily News and BoxingScene.com.