If things were normal in boxing, former middleweight world titlist Daniel Jacobs would be a few weeks into training camp for his next bout, his second since moving up to the super middleweight division. But these are not normal times.
Jacobs’ next fight, the third of his deal with DAZN, was tentatively scheduled for June 13 – site and opponent to be determined -- but due to the coronavirus pandemic there is no boxing for the time being. So, Jacobs, who moved from his hometown of Brooklyn, New York, to Atlanta three years ago, is instead at home working out regularly with his 11-year-old son Nathaniel in a gym in their house but with no idea exactly when he will return to the ring. He does, however, have an idea of the kinds of fights he is hoping for once boxing resumes.
“I just think it’s the same as the middleweight division for me – great opportunities to come into another hot division and have opportunities. It’s a blessing,” Jacobs told BoxingScene.com. “I think I need one more fight to see how I truly feel at 168 and then we’re ready for the big boys. We’re ready for anybody and anything. We focus on the big fights. I want to take on the best of the best in the division.
“It’s really not a matter of one particular fighter. I want them all but it’s a matter of what makes sense. So if I’m with DAZN, a fight with (titleholders) Callum Smith or Billy Joe Saunders makes sense. If we want to cross promote, we can work with (Premier Boxing Champions) guys and make those fights with (titleholders) Caleb Plant or David Benavidez. I’m not going to limit my options.”
After losing a competitive decision to Canelo Alvarez in a middleweight title unification fight last May, Jacobs moved up to 168 pounds and took it to crowd favorite Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., making him quit at the conclusion of the fifth round in their December bout in Phoenix.
Jacobs’ plan all along was to face Chavez, take one more fight to get fully acclimated to the weight class and go after one of the belt holders. Now his schedule, like that of every fighter, has been thrown off course.
“We had already had a pre camp. My trainer, Fareed Samad, came out and we worked together and it wasn’t until he had gone home that everything started kicking in with the coronavirus,” Jacobs said. “But we were already gearing up for the next fight.”
While there was no official opponent yet in place, Jacobs (36-3, 30 KOs), 33, was likely headed toward a fight with former world title challenger and fellow Matchroom Boxing fighter Gabriel Rosado. In fact, Rosado won on the Jacobs-Chavez card. Rosado had been placed on the show to be on standby to potentially face Jacobs in the event that Chavez was unable to fight, be it over issues being licensed due to his refusal to take a drug test months earlier or his usual issues making weight.
A fight with Rosado is what Jacobs thinks will probably be next for him when he does return.
“In my mind I was not prepping for a world championship fight in June, but I guess I was prepping for Gabe Rosado, which was a perfect situation because of all the history we have,” Jacobs said, referencing their bad blood. “I was kind of prepping for him. We had exchanged words and I want that fight on a personal note. That was my mentality.”
Although Chavez wound up fighting Jacobs, he badly missed weight as he has done before. He was 172.7 pounds, nearly five pounds overweight and had to give up $1 million of his purse to Jacobs in order for Jacobs to fight him. Jacobs could have invoked his contractual right to fight Rosado instead but opted for Chavez, who was much bigger than him on fight night.
“I thought I had a great performance,” Jacobs said. “Chavez came into the ring two or three weight classes above me but I’m glad everything happened the way it did because I was able to see some sides of myself that I haven’t seen for a very long time, and that’s overcoming adversity. I’m used to being the bigger, dominant guy inside the ring. So to face something like that, a guy so much bigger, a former world champion, I’m proud of myself for the way I conducted myself. I just stared to warm up and shortly after that he’s saying he broke his nose or he has a hurt hand and then ‘no mas.’”
Jacobs compared his win over Chavez to Alvarez’s shutout decision against him in a 2017 catch weight fight at 164 pounds.
“Canelo fought Chavez and I fought Chavez and look at the difference between the two,” Jacobs said. “Look how mine ended and how his ended. He was able to put all types of hands on Chavez and couldn’t stop him, but as soon as I let my hands go you see what happened. I’m 100 percent at 168 pounds. I didn’t have to drain myself and it showed. In the past there’s been a weight issue for me at middleweight, especially with the Canelo fight. You definitely got a chance to see me at my worst as far as the weight drainage. I thought the fight was a draw in my opinion or could have gone either way. But when you face Canelo you’re not just going against him you’re going against everything that goes with it.”
Jacobs said he would like a rematch with the Mexican superstar Alvarez, who holds a secondary super middleweight title, but knows he would have to do something to earn it.
“I’d love a rematch but I know I have to put myself in position to do that, so I’m not going to be unrealistic and call this man’s name out when he’s looking for bigger things and different opportunities,” Jacobs said. “But for me, it’s about doing something to get that shot again.”
More realistically, Jacobs will strive for a shot at one of the other titleholders at super middleweight: Smith, Saunders, Benavidez or Plant, all of whom are undefeated. But Jacobs said he doesn’t much care which of them he fights.
“I can’t even say one fight over the other because they all represent the same thing to me – a big opportunity, a world championship opportunity and to give the fans a good fight,” Jacobs said. “To say I think one fight is easier or one is more of a challenge, no, I don’t look at it that way. I look at it from a standpoint of whatever one makes sense. We have options and that’s perfect.”
Pressed, however, to pick which of the main titleholders is best, Jacobs finally caved.
“I’d probably say David Benavidez because of his last performance against Anthony Dirrell, and I love Anthony Dirrell,” Jacobs said of the fight in September on the Errol Spence Jr.-Shawn Porter card in which Benavidez stopped Dirrell in the ninth round to win the WBC title for the second time.
“Anthony Dirrell is a phenomenal athlete. That Benavidez could stop Anthony said a lot, and he still has a lot more growing to do as a fighter. We don’t fully know the extent of how good he is, but off the top of my head I’d say David just because of his win over Anthony Dirrell. But whoever I fight for a title, I trust in my team and that they will lead me to the best possible opportunities. I’m sitting back waiting for this (coronavirus pandemic) to subside and then I know when we come back we will be presented with great opportunities.
“I’m super anxious to get back, but I’m also worried about the safety of the world, the safety of the people and of my family. Money comes and goes, sports comes and goes. It could be here today, gone tomorrow. So, I just want to be able to appreciate what really matters. So, yeah, I want to get back, but right now just want to make sure it’s all clear.”
Dan Rafael was ESPN.com's senior boxing writer for fifteen years, and covered the sport for five years at USA Today. He was the 2013 BWAA Nat Fleischer Award winner for excellence in boxing journalism.