Daniel Jacobs has already overcome incredible odds once before, so he’s not concerned about being a big underdog against Gennady Golovkin this weekend.
Jacobs was on a USO tour in Iraq in May 2011 when he felt a sharp pain in his legs, and soon after was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare and aggressive form of bone cancer.
The Brooklyn, New York, native had a walnut-sized tumor wrapped around his spine, which caused partial paralysis and placed not just his career, but also his life, in jeopardy.
After undergoing dozens of radiation treatments and surgery to remove the tumor, Daniel Jacobs remarkably returned to the ring in October 2012 and picked up where he left off, gaining a first-round TKO of Josh Luteran in Brooklyn to improve to 23-1.
Jacobs was declared cancer-free in early 2013, and continued his climb up the 160-pound division.
He claimed a vacant world title in August 2014 with a fifth-round TKO Jarrod Fletcher in Brooklyn, and has proceeded to defend it with four KO victories since then.
After stopping Caleb Truax in Round 12 in April 2015, Jacobs sandwiched two TKOs of Sergio Mora in August 2015 and September 2016, respectively, around a first-round stoppage of Peter Quillin in December 2015.
Now Jacobs, 30, must contend with Golovkin in a 160-pound title unification Saturday night at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
Golovkin, 34, has dominated the division since winning his first world championship in 2010, and comes into Saturday’s bout with a record of 36-0 with 33 KOs.
But even though “Triple G” represents the biggest challenge Jacobs (32-1, 29 KOs) will face in the ring, it’s hardly the biggest fight of his life. Jacobs, an 8-to-1 underdog against Golovkin, has already won that battle.
We spoke with the “Miracle Man” to discuss his strategy against Golovkin, how he’s prepared for the 160-pound showdown and which fictitious champion he’d love to fight.
After you stopped Sergio Mora in September, you watched Gennady Golovkin do the same thing to Kell Brook the next night. What were your immediate impressions?
I figured that I’ll beat Triple G because he’s never fought a fighter with my arsenal. Triple G won’t be able to deal with my speed, power and athleticism. This shapes up as an action-packed, fan-friendly fight considering each of our styles.
When you went into both the Peter Quillin and Mora fights, people were questioning your chin. Why do you think that is the case?
For some reason I have given people the false impression that I can’t take a punch. I have taken great shots. I have sparred with light heavyweights—I have sparred with all different kinds of guys.
I haven’t taken many shots, but have taken some good shots from some really strong guys. With the Sergio Mora fight, it was a mistake really. I was going in trying to swing widely at the time, I guess.
I had him hurt and I got caught at the perfect time. It was an off-balance type of shot. This illusion has been created that Daniel Jacobs can’t take a shot, which is fine by me.
But that’s what I’m looking forward to, really showing the world. I don’t want to go out and just take a shot, but if I was to, I’m pretty sure that I will embrace it a lot better than I have in previous fights.
I understand that you have received input from Andre Ward since his win over Sergey Kovalev, as far as your similarities in regard to the mental preparation for such a big fight and your role as the underdog.
Yes I have. He’s said it’s mind over matter. I saw everything I needed to see to beat Golovkin. I’m in my prime and I have the best chance out of anybody to beat Golovkin.
How beneficial has it been training with contenders such as Sergey Derevyanchenko and Avtandil Khurtsidze as far as their abilities to emulate Golovkin’s style?
It’s been extremely beneficial. Between the two styles, they are a perfect representation to imitate the moment of fight night over and over again.
“ Triple G won’t be able to deal with my speed, power and athleticism. This shapes up as an action-packed, fan-friendly fight considering each of our styles. ” Daniel Jacobs, on fighting Gennady Golovkin in a 160-pound title unification Saturday
Is there anything to be gained from watching Golovkin’s stoppage of Brook?
Yes. Clearly I will need to capitalize on his defensive flaws, which were apparent that night with Brook. I saw not only that Triple G can be hit, but also that he can be pushed back when hit with effective combinations.
Will you be looking to stop Golovkin, or will you try to outbox him?
I think whatever it takes to win is what we are going to do. Floyd Mayweather always said that “great champions adjust,” and if we need to adjust at the moment I believe my team and I will talk in between rounds and try to make adjustments.
I think I have the ability to do everything—go forward, go backward and go sideways, put my punches together, put my jabs together and sit on my feet. I am equipped with a lot of different things and I just need to make sure everything is in sync on fight night.
Do you expect your switch-hitting ability to come into play against Golovkin, as it did against Mora?
Yes, I do. Everybody expected me to come out and jump on Mora, but I think that I showed my maturity in taking my time and breaking my opponent down.
If you could pick the brain of any fighter in the world, living or dead, whose would it be?
I would want to speak with Sugar Ray Robinson because I believe Robinson was the best to ever do it.
What fighter in history would you most like to have fought, how would that fight go down?
Rocky Balboa, so that I could knock him out and be the king of the world.
What is your favorite punch to throw and in what fight did you land it perfectly?
The overhand right, and I landed it to maximum effect against Giovani Lorenzo [in August 2013] for a third-round [technical] knockout.
If you had the ability to change your body type, what’s the one weight class you’d want to compete in?
Heavyweight. It’s the most recognized champion in the world.
What is the one thing food-wise that’s toughest to give up when training for a fight?
I would say cereal, especially the Waffle Crisp.
Finish this sentence: If not for boxing, I would be …
… an NFL superstar, most likely.
If Hollywood made a movie about the life of Daniel Jacobs, what actor would do the best job portraying you?
A young Denzel Washington.
What is the one thing about the life of a pro boxer that the general public doesn’t understand?
The general public doesn’t understand all of the sacrifices and trials that we go through during our careers.
If you could have dinner with four people in the history of the world, who would be on your guest list?
Marcus Garvey, Harriet Tubman, Mansa Musa (14th century ruler of the Mali Empire) and Muhammad Ali.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?
I would get rid of hatred and greed.
“12 Rounds With …” is published Wednesdays at PremierBoxingChampions.com. Next week: 154-pound prospect Justin DeLoach.