Daniel Jacobs keeps beating the odds, thriving in the ring

Former middleweight world champion and cancer survivor has overcame everything thrown at him in and out of the ring—plans on doing the same thing this Saturday night against unbeaten Polish contender Maciej Sulecki in their WBA 160-pound title elimination bout at Barclays Center.

Jacobs vs Sulecki

Former middleweight champion Daniel Jacobs (right) faces unbeaten contender Maciej Sulecki Saturday night at Barclays Center. (Matchroom Boxing)

He’ll stand there, looking placidly straight ahead Saturday night at an opponent he only knows on film. It doesn’t matter. Not to Daniel Jacobs.

Maciej Sulecki could come into the ring with a mini bazooka stashed in his gloves and it still wouldn’t faze “The Miracle Man.” The former middleweight champion from Brooklyn, New York, defines unflappable.

It comes from beating paralysis, beating pinioned to a hospital gurney barely able to recognize familiar faces, beating the memories of dragging himself across a cold, tile floor on his hands just to open a door, beating the opinions of doctors telling him that he will never fight again—and beating cancer and the long odds that came with it.

That will never change.

Jacobs is 31 and has been in remission for six years. Still, the five-inch long vertical scar where the malignant tumor was removed remains on his back, and a tiny remnant of his battle is there in the very tip of his body, through the pins-and-needles feeling he has in his left pinky toe.

That’s his daily reminder of how blessed he is.

So you think a Polish import with a glossy record and a few good names on his resume is enough to rattle Jacobs?

Think again.

Jacobs (33-2, 29 KOs) is supremely calm and supremely confident as he enters his 12-round WBA middleweight title elimination bout with Sulecki (26-0, 10 KOs) this Saturday night at Barclays Center.

“I think that level of confidence comes from my loss against (Gennady) Golovkin (in March 2017),” Jacobs said. “In my mind, I knew I beat Golovkin, and that put me as part of that elite level. It’s a level of confidence and mental strength that comes with fighting someone like Golovkin that you get and maintain a superior level.

“Golovkin is someone who had power and he had skill. I was able to deter him from all of those things that he does well. I was able, in my opinion, to overpower what he did. I was predicted to be knocked out within six, and I went the whole 12. It was something I needed, because you don’t know where you are unless you go in there and actually perform. That’s what I did. I performed. I was able to show that I could bang with the best of them.”

My left pinky toe still feels like it’s somewhat dead. To me, that’s my reminder that I’m a walking miracle. Former middleweight World Champ and Cancer survivor Daniel Jacobs

Instead of sulking about his second pro setback, Jacobs did something unique: He celebrated. In July 2010 after being stopped by Dmitry Pirog in what seems like centuries ago Jacobs sunk into a hole. He didn’t want to talk to anyone. He didn’t want to hear anything, or be seen by anyone. He felt embarrassed. He felt that he let his team down, his family down, and himself down.

So after the Golovkin fight, “I went out and enjoyed the moment with my team and we laughed all night,” Jacobs said. “I can’t sulk. Win or lose, I’ve been there at the edge, and looked down. All the Golovkin fight did to me was prove that I am one of the best middleweights in the world.

“I live for love. I love the pursuit of happiness. I’m doing something I dreamed about as a kid, and cancer couldn’t even take it away from me. Ultimately, I wanted the victory on paper. But, I knew I won. I won that fight. I’m ready to keep on winning. I just don’t know much about Sulecki, other than what I see on tape. I know he’s gone up and down in weight, once as a 154-pounder, and now he’s moving up again to middleweight.”

Jacobs had options. It was important to him that one of those choices was an undefeated fighter like Sulecki, who stopped Hugo Centeno Jr. in 10 rounds back in June 2016. That’s what Jacobs liked.

Sulecki, 28, may not have a huge name, but to Jacobs, he’s a big challenge.

“With this guy having an undefeated record with a good style, and he has a good reach, good height, and a good heart,” Jacobs said about Sulecki. “His record says he may not have power, but that’s something that I’m going to have to finds out for myself. I’ll test that in the first round.

“I’ll be a little cautious, in the beginning. I’m not expecting him to be this massive, strong guy. I do respect him, but I respect everyone I ever step into the ring with. The respect comes with me training 100-percent and leaving no stone unturned.”

Jacobs wants another title belt, and he certainly is in the discussion at 160 pounds. He said he would like to fight two more times in 2018, depending on the outcome of the Sulecki fight.

One of his priorities is Jermall Charlo, the WBC interim middleweight champion. The two got into a little verbal mix after the heavyweight title fight between Deontay Wilder and Luis Ortiz, back in early March in the bowels of Barclays.     

Doctors once told Jacobs he would never recover from the neurological damage done when the tumor was cut out of his back. He was told he might not walk right or feel his feet.

“That is true to a degree,” Jacobs said, laughing. “My left pinky toe still feels like it’s somewhat dead. To me, that’s my reminder that I’m a walking miracle.”

For a closer look at Daniel Jacobs, check out his fighter page.

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