By Thomas Gerbasi
The train was rolling and no one – especially not Dmitry Pirog – was going to stop Daniel Jacobs from winning his first world title on July 31, 2010. Less than a minute into the fifth round though, “The Golden Child” was stopped by Pirog in their WBO middleweight championship bout.
It was Jacobs’s first pro loss, and then everything went haywire. The Brooklynite rebounded with two knockout wins, but cancer proved to be a tougher opponent to beat back. Jacobs did win that battle though, and after returning to the ring in October of 2012, boxing’s “Miracle Man” made a beeline for the 160-pound title, which he won by defeating Jarrod Fletcher in August of last year.
This Saturday, he defends that crown for the third time against unbeaten former champion Peter Quillin in what has been rightfully dubbed the “Battle of Brooklyn.” The Brownsville native is headlining at Barclays Center, he has a world title belt around his waist, and he is cancer-free. And the more people hear his story, the more they are inspired and captivated by the 28-year-old. In short, life is good.
So could he have handled all this if he would have beaten Pirog five years ago?
“I would have definitely been way more immature,” Jacobs said. “I would have been able to handle it, but not as a man would handle things. I’m grateful for the timing because I feel like the success couldn’t have come at a better time. And for me to be as humble and gracious and respectful of the sport that I am now, back when I was “The Golden Child” it would have been a much different story. So I think God’s plan is the perfect plan. We all want to have things happen on our time, but God has the perfect time.”
The timing is certainly right for Jacobs and Quillin to meet. After beating Fletcher, Jacobs stopped Caleb Truax and Sergio Mora in defense of his title, making it ten straight wins (all by knockout) since the loss to Pirog. Quillin, the former WBO middleweight champ, may have left his title on the table after three successful defenses, but after a draw with Andy Lee and a knockout of Michael Zerafa, “Kid Chocolate” is primed to wear gold once more. And while the stock answer for a champion heading into a high-pressure matchup like this would be to say that it’s just like any other fight, Jacobs says it’s far more important than that.
“It would be an injustice to a worthy opponent in Peter Quillin to say that this is just a regular fight,” he said. “That’s why I made preparations so I could have a ten-week camp, and also why that I mentally prepared for a war. Because if you know Peter Quillin, he’s one of those gritty guys, and he has the will to win. So this is different for me. And with everything that’s being built around this fight, there’s so much in the pot and it’s up for grabs for either fighter.”
But what of the possibility of a war? Quillin has one-punch stopping power and Jacobs has a long knockout streak to his name. Add in the fact that both have hit the deck in recent fights, and this could be one of those bouts that force a fighter to dig deeper than he ever has before to win. That could be a scary proposition for anyone, but Jacobs welcomes such a prospect.
“I think everybody wants to have one of those Arturo Gatti-Micky Ward stories where fans can say this is one of the greatest fights of our generation and that can define our careers,” he said. “Obviously, fighters don’t want to be on the short end of the stick, but that being said, of course I believe every fighter wants to have a signature win or a signature fight that stands out.”
It’s the kind of talk everyone expected to hear from Jacobs when he was an amateur phenom that dazzled fight fans in the New York area, but then they thought they’d never hear it again as Jacobs fought for his life. Now, he’s where he was seemingly destined to be ever since he put on the gloves, but does he still believe greatness is in his future?
“I think the goal for me is to just be in the Hall of Fame,” he said. “That’s enough for me and that’s the pinnacle for me because I feel like with so much back and forth as far as who’s considered to be the greatest or one of the greats, there’s always going to be a debate. But as long as I can be amongst the greats in the Hall of Fame, I would definitely be satisfied with that.”
So would the fans he fights for this weekend and who have been with him from the start. Daniel Jacobs is Brooklyn boxing, and that’s a badge he wears proudly.
“Brooklyn is one of those places where not only is it a tough and rugged community, but you have to fight in every sense just to survive, and that trickles down to the sport of boxing,” he said. “People pride themselves with being from Brooklyn in whatever they do. So you can imagine how they pride themselves with being a champion in the sport of boxing. It’s the essence of boxing here, the core, and this community represents the DNA of boxing.”