Most fans that view Daniel Jacobs as a legitimate threat to Gennady Golovkin’s middleweight reign do so because of the Brooklyn native’s undeniable talent and physical tools. They figure if a welterweight like Kell Brook was able to get his licks in against the unified middleweight titleholder before being stopped in five rounds last September, the 29-year-old American middleweight can do a lot more.
Jacobs, who challenges Golovkin for the Kazakhstan native’s WBA, IBF and WBC titles in New York City on March 18, agrees with that reasoning but adds that his character will be his best asset when the top two middleweights meet at Madison Square Garden.
Mental fortitude, Jacobs (32-1, 29 knockouts) told boxing writers before Wednesday’s Los Angeles press conference for the HBO Pay Per View main event, is every bit as important as his style, size, speed and power.
“It takes a real strong mind to take advantage of some of those holes we saw in Golovkin’s game against Brook,” Jacobs said when asked what it would take to unseat the unbeaten Golovkin, who has stopped his last 23 opponents. “Brook didn’t have the size, reach or power to do it. We knew he wouldn’t win but we also knew he’d expose some of Golovkin’s flaws.
“I’m a boxer-puncher and I have a really good chance.”
Jacobs is the underdog against Golovkin (36-0, 33 KOs), but fans, media and odds makers are giving him more of a chance to win his next fight than doctors gave him to continue boxing when he was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma in the spring of 2011. The form of bone cancer, which manifested as a fist-sized tumor that was wrapped around his spine, threatened Jacobs’ ability to walk, perhaps even his life, but according to his trainer and father figure, Andre Rozier, he never gave into despair.
“Danny was in a wheelchair after the surgery to remove the tumor, he couldn’t walk, but he had a big smile on his face,” Rozier said.
“He told me he couldn’t wait to get back into the gym. And, eventually, he showed up (to the gym), walking with a cane and wearing a back brace. He moved like he was 8,000 years old, and it hurt so much for him to move that he grunted while trying to shadow box, but he never lost his faith.”
Jacobs, who also underwent radiation treatments after the surgery, laughed when recalling his first sparring session.
“My first time back sparring, I was in with a little guy, probably 40 pounds lighter,” he said. “He hit me with a hook that shook me to my feet. I asked myself ‘Do I really want this?”
He obviously did. Less than 18 months after being diagnosed, Jacobs was back in the in the ring. Jacobs has scored 10 consecutive stoppages since his return in October 2012, including a first-round TKO of top-five rated Peter Quillin in December 2015.
“His hardest battle has been won and he faced it like a true warrior,” said Rozier, who stressed that Jacobs’ mettle shouldn’t be overlooked.
“First and foremost, he’s not afraid. He has nothing to fear. Danny has speed. Danny has what I call sharp punching power – it’s the punching power you don’t see, that’s what gets you in trouble. And Danny is a mobile and elusive fighter.
“At times he wants to be the aggressive fighter and sometimes I might have to yell and scream at him, but that’s his nature. When he fights he fights.
“Those are the things that are going to make the difference in this. Gennady has a way of intimidating his opponents. If you’re not intimidated you’re gonna see a difference. He’s a great guy, don’t get me wrong, outside of the ring he’s fantastic, but inside the ring he becomes – and wants to be – a bully. And we all know what happens when a bully faces someone he can’t bully. It becomes a harder night, it becomes a more difficult task.”
Jacobs believes that most of Golovkin’s opponents allowed themselves to be mentally bullied even before they took the first punch from the powerful pressure fighter.
“I think nine times out of 10 that’s mostly what happens with his opponents,” said Jacobs, who holds the “regular” version of the WBA title, which makes him the mandatory challenger for the WBA’s “super” title that Golovkin holds. “You think of the power, the pressure, the intimidation, most guys, really, are beaten even before they step into the ring.
“My mental state is so strong, I wanted this fight. I called Gennady Golovkin out before the WBA mandated it. A lot of people were saying I didn’t want this fight because negotiations were taking so long. No, I wanted this fight. I truly, deeply in my heart wanted this fight. There’s nothing about Gennady that intimidates me, there’s nothing about him that scares me. We’re men. We both can be hurt and this is boxing. May the best man win.”
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