Daniel Jacobs used to call himself the “Golden Child,” a nod to his potential as a young fighter whose future sparkled like something you’d find encased in glass at Zales. But then, due to circumstances in and out of the ring, that luster faded and the glimmer dimmed. And so for Jacobs, it was all about finding that shine once more. In 2015, he not only shined, he was electrifying.
Let’s begin at the end of Jacobs’ 2015 fight campaign, of the battle for borough bragging rights, of Jacobs being as well-known for being a cancer survivor as a top-tier fighter.
On December 5 at Barclays Center in their shared home base of Brooklyn, New York, Daniel Jacobs and fellow 160-pound badass Peter Quillin went at it in a highly anticipated battle for the former’s title.
Among fans and boxing pundits alike, opinions were split on who’d emerge victorious.
Those who favored Jacobs tended to cite his superior boxing skills and more refined technical prowess, believing he would outclass Quillin en route to a decision win.
The pro-Quillin camp mostly pointed to their fighter’s leg-jellying power, making the case that Jacobs’ chin wouldn’t be able to withstand the blast of “Kid Chocolate's” gunpowder fists.
It took all of 85 seconds to render both arguments mute.
From the opening bell, Jacobs straight blitzed Quillin, maniacally, almost angrily, willfully abandoning technique in favor of pure, unchecked aggression, coming at his opponent like a man who’d been done wrong.
Rather than box, he wanted to punish, to crush, pummel, ravage.
Watch the replay: Jacobs surges forth with such furious speed, it’s almost as if you’re viewing the action in fast-forward.
The fight ended just as quickly, with referee Harvey Dock calling off the beating midway through Round 1 after Quillin ate a caveman–savage right hand that had him out on his feet.
And with that, it was over—not just the bout, but the fixation on the aforementioned cancer narrative, as well.
“That stereotype where it’s all about my cancer story, I really feel like with this fight and the way I won, people now respect me more for my skills inside in the ring,” Jacobs explains with a slight pause, clearly not looking to trivialize his triumph over the disease in question, but not wanting to be wholly defined by it either.
The win over Quillin, as significant and impressive as it might have been, was but one of three successful 160-pound title defenses for Jacobs in 2015.
That string of triumphs earned Jacobs (31-1, 28 KOs) PBC Fighter of the Year honors from the editors of PremierBoxingChampions.com, gaining the nod over contenders such as Jermall Charlo, Danny Garcia (the fans' choice in online voting), Shawn Porter, Keith Thurman (the PBC broadcast teams' choice) and Deontay Wilder.
In April, Jacobs bested Caleb Truax, a crafty, well-rounded veteran from Minneapolis who ceases to be Minnesota-nice come go time.
Prior to the fight in Chicago, Truax had never been stopped. But he’d also never been in the ring with Jacobs.
Both changed on the night in question, when Jacobs hammered his way to a 12th-round TKO.
Four months later, Jacobs engaged in a dramatic, back-and-forth rager with former 154-pound champ Sergio Mora at Barclays Center. In a wild opening stanza, both fighters sent each other to the floor, with spectator jaws following suit.
The fight came to an unfortunate close in Round 2 when Mora broke his ankle on a knockdown, but not before he and Jacobs notched a Round of the Year candidate.
Taken together, the three wins solidified 2015 as a breakout year for Jacobs, who’s now in line for even bigger fights in 2016.
“I’m finally starting to reap the benefits of the labor that I’ve been putting in for so long and it’s a great feeling, because I’ve given boxing more than half my life,” says Jacobs, who turned pro in 2007 and whose only loss came to Russian Dmitry Pirog in 2010. “To just now start living the dream, it’s incredible.”
These days, Jacobs no longer dubs himself the “Golden Child.”
He now favors “Miracle Man,” an acknowledgement of how past struggles have informed his present—a present that wasn’t always a given.
“This wasn’t promised,” Jacobs says. “I talk about it with my family all the time. This is still a surprise. It’s still a shock to all of us that I was able to overcome all that I’ve overcome.
“But now that we’re here, it’s such an unreal feeling,” he continues. “I just randomly tell people, ‘I’m world champ. I knocked out Peter Quillin.’”
Few things carry the power of one of Jacobs’ punches.
But at this moment, his words do just that.
For all of our editors' picks, check out our Best of PBC 2015 entries.