When young athletes fantasize about themselves, they imagine the bottom of the ninth home run, the diving catch in the end zone or swishing the winning three at the buzzer.
Young boxers think of winning a world title with the picture-perfect knock-out punch, maybe even landing that devastating counter.
For Brooklyn’s Daniel “Miracle Man” Jacobs, the counter that almost ended his career – almost ended his life – was the ultimate “C,” cancer.
Jacobs beat a rare form of bone cancer, osteosarcoma. The tumor wrapped itself around his spine in 2011. He wasn’t supposed to walk, fight or maybe even live. Yet, after surgery at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan, he had to learn to walk and fight all over again. He returned to the ring in late 2012 and here he is preparing for the second biggest fight of his career after cancer kept him out of the game for 19 months.
On Saturday, May 4, at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Jacobs faces another “C” – Canelo Alvarez, 28, the world’s best middleweight and owner of the WBA and WBC middleweight titles. Jacobs owns the IBF version. “Can’t wait to bring the belts back to Brooklyn,” says the Brownsville native.
Yes, this is another unification bout, and Jacobs plans to add Canelo’s belts to his collection. The fight will be shown live on the streaming service DAZN (Da Zone), which charges $19.99 monthly or $99.99 for the year. Sure beats paying 70 bucks for the recent less-than-sterling Terence Crawford-Amir Kahn bout.
Jacobs (35-2; with 29 KOs) made his in mark in boxing as standout amateur, winning four New York Daily News Golden Gloves titles. He went on to capture the WBA middleweight belt in 2014. He made four successful defenses until he lost a unification bout to Gennady “Triple G” Golovkin (IBF/WBC/ WBA “Super” title) in a close decision in 2017. Jacobs won the IBF belt last October.
Canelo (51-1-2; 35 KOs), the face of boxing, captured the belts Jacobs didn’t with a majority decision over “GGG” last year after the two drew in their first fight in 2017.
He has also fought a who’s who of boxing talent in his career, with bouts against former champions Shane Mosley (W12), Floyd Mayweather, Jr. (L12), Miguel Cotto (W12), Amir Kahn (KO 6) and the draw and a win over Golovkin.
The Mexican-born Canelo also captured the WBA 154-pound title in his last fight against Rocky Fielding with a third round stoppage last December in Madison Square Garden.
The May 4 fight falls on Cinco de Mayo weekend, which is a mainstay for Canelo. He’s fought on or near that day many times and is relentless in the ring with good power.
But Jacobs isn’t worried in the least.
“From his skill set, he has no weaknesses,” says Jacobs from Las Vegas on a conference call with reporters, but quickly adds, “He has undereducated foot work and has a hard time with a moving target. We’ve created not only Plan A, Plan B and Plan C, but a few game plans to exploit Canelo’s weaknesses.
“I have the physical advantage. I have the reach (73-70½), height (5-11½-5-9), speed, power and ring IQ. I’m a different fighter since the last time I fought in Las Vegas.”
That visit didn’t turn out well for Jacobs.
He fought Dmitry Pirog for the vacant WBO middleweight crown in 2010. He was winning the fight, got caught and was stopped in round five.
“I was younger [23 then, 32 now],” he admits, “but now I have more skills and more strength. I’m prepping body and mind for this fight.”
“This fight with Canelo is nothing Danny is afraid of,” says long-time trainer Andre Rozier.
Besides, cancer is a more formidable opponent, and Jacobs has a hard-fought decision over that.
Jacobs’ manager Keith Connolly sees the continued growth in his charge fighting on another big stage.
“For the ‘GGG’ fight, there was a lot of nerves and trepidation for Danny,” says Connolly with his family in Florida prior to the fight. “He lost that fight, but rose to the occasion. Now he knows he’s been there already.
“He’s embraced this fight. He excited, but not overwhelmed. This fight is at the right time mentally for him. Six months ago this fight may not have been right for him.”
Jacobs has a legitimate chance to beat Canelo. Most boxing fans know Canelo is a beast in the ring, but he does have problems with fighters who have good footwork. Remember his loss to Mayweather, Jr.?
And Jacobs is not about to go toe-to-toe with Canelo. You do that and you lose by knockout.
A win over Canelo moves Jacobs into the pound-for-pound discussion of who is boxing’s best.
“I’ve never been vocal where I place myself in the pound-for-pound [list]. I’ve just been grateful that I’ll be able to be on the list,” says Jacobs, humble as ever. “My job is to go there and be the best fighter that I can be and let the fan and the boxing public choose where they place me.”
With a win over cancer and possibly one over Canelo, Jacobs you can be sure the fans with place him high on that list.
He deserves it.