For most, beating able to survive a bout with cancer is enough. After that, whatever lifestyle changes recommended by a doctor are followed meticulously. Former middleweight prospect Danny Jacobs was faced with the same scenario in May 2011, when he was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer called osteosarcoma that latched onto his spine. Unable to walk, the 25-year-old Jacobs had emergency surgery on his back and was told in no uncertain terms that his boxing career was over.
Within a month of that medical declaration, Jacobs was back in the ring sparring.
Over a year later, Jacobs finds himself back in the ring professionally tomorrow night on Showtime when he faces Josh Luteran to kick off his official comeback. The story is inspiring; many have rightfully proclaimed Jacobs an inspiration no matter what the outcome of his comeback. But unlike other sports, boxing is brutal vocation that shows no mercy in exposing any sign of weakness. The cancer may have increased Jacobs’ mental fortitude, but has that happened at the expense of his in-ring ability?
Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: On you’re journey back to the ring, did you have any mental fear or blocks when it came to taking punches and sparring?
Jacobs: When I went back into sparring it was at a time when doctors told me I shouldn’t spar. A month after, if not a few weeks. after I got out of the hospital I was in there sparring. That first time I got a really good shot, it kind of shook me up a little bit. I didn’t get hurt, but it was a reminder that “this is what you have to look forward to.” If I am going to do it, I have to go hard and give it my all because boxing is a rough sport. It definitely was a good reminder that allowed me to work hard because I didn’t want to take those shots like a did before [laughs].
Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: Any time you’ve had major surgery you’re going to notice differences in your body. Hopefully, those differences will be improvements but that varies. What changes did you notice afterward?
Jacobs: The surgery on my back was the longest to heal. I remember my back was numb for a very long time and in pain for months. I definitely see a difference in my weight and my structure. I’ve never been this ripped, cut up and in shape. I don’t know what happened, but you can distinctively see the difference from when I fought [Dmitry] Pirog. I had one of the longest and best training camps for that fight. Training for this fight, I definitely see the changes in physique.
Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: Being that it took so long for Josh Luteran to be named as your opponent, how has that changed your preparation?
Jacobs: I’m not one of those fighters that doesn’t look at opponents. If I do know who I’m fighting I try my best to do a little bit of research. What I did come up with was a couple of Youtube clips that he had. It was enough for me to know how he fights, his flaws and to get a gist of his style. I showed my trainers and with the little bit of time we do have we focus on using all his flaws to our advantage.
On Saturday night, not that I’m overlooking him, that’s a special night and I’m looking to perform. Whatever he brings to the table, I’ll be willing to adjust and stay in control.
Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: Depending on the fighter’s temperament, some have to focus on restraining rather than embracing their emotions on fight night. For you, will you have to keep the flood of emotions with this comeback in check until after the final bell?
Jacobs: To be honest, I really want to be able to map out how everything is going to turn out that night with my emotions and how I’ll react. But honestly, I really don’t know how I’ll react. I know I’m in tip-top shape and I’ll be able to perform, but emotionally I might be on a natural high and perform like Ali. Or God forbid I’m nervous and it takes over me. [laughs] In all reality, I think I’ll just enjoy myself and let my hands go because I have a job to do and it’s nothing I haven’t done before. I just have to go in there and get the job done.
Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: With the changes you’ve experienced with your body, can you remain at middleweight for the near future?
Jacobs: Being that I made weight 3-4 weeks before this fight, I’m going to campaign at middleweight for a very long time. Surprisingly, I shot up to 225 pounds post-surgery. It’s been very hard to deal with that fact because as an athlete and especially as a boxer gaining so much weight, it’s not good at all. We’re so used to being very healthy and weight conscious.
To bounce back and be in shape and ripped, it’s motivation for me. I know I have what it takes. Whatever the surgery did to me to make get this way, I’m thankful for it. At the end of the day, I’m going in the ring October 20 and just having fun.
Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: This is your comeback from cancer, but people forget you had “quiet comebacks” in your last two fights to rebound from the Pirog loss. How were those?
Jacobs: I was a little nervous. I was more so nervous about being gunshy and not letting my hands go. With the loss [to Pirog] I know I didn’t lose my skill, but I know I had my butterflys. My mindframe is different now because with everything I went through, I’m able to take control of how I think and feel. With the determination I have, there’s no stopping me when I get in the ring. There will be a couple butterflys, that’s normal, but it won’t affect how I perform.
Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: What was prognosis on the possibility of your type of cancer coming back?
Jacobs: The cancer I had was a very rare cancer of the bone called osteosarcoma. The chances of it coming back are totally up to me. I have to continue to eat right and stay away from certain foods and sugars. That isn’t too hard because I’ve been an athlete for 11 plus years [and] especially with my life on the line. I might cheat here and there but I’m doing pretty good. I don’t know if there’s a big chance of it coming back, but being that there is a chance I want to do the right thing to prevent it coming back at all.
Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: Middleweight has really evolved while you were away. How do you view the division?
Jacobs: I’ve done a bunch of evaluations on the middleweight division. When I left, it wasn’t a lot of top-notch guys. They were on the cusp. While I was recovering, that whole two years is when guys started to really bubble and rise to the top and become champions. I’m just excited to be in an exciting weight class. Whoever we fight, it doesn’t matter because the middleweight division has so much attention on it. Before it was just 1-2 guys at the top. Now it’s a handful of talented guys when I get back to that level.
World championship boxing returns to Brooklyn with an inaugural night of fights at the new Barclays Center on October 20 headlined by Unified Super Lightweight World Champion Danny “Swift” Garcia against future Hall of Famer Erik “El Terrible” Morales presented by Golden Boy Promotions and supported by Golden Boy Promotions sponsors Corona, DeWalt Tools and AT&T. In the co-featured attractions, Brooklyn’s own Paulie “Magic Man” Malignaggi puts his WBA Welterweight World Championship on the line against hard-hitting Pablo Cesar “El Demoledor” Cano, undefeated number one rated WBO middleweight contender Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin of Manhattan takes on unbeaten Hassan N’Dam for N’Dam’s WBO Middleweight World Championship and Devon Alexander “The Great” faces Randall Bailey for Bailey’s IBF Welterweight World Championship in a bout presented in association with DiBella Entertainment. The SHOWTIME® CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING telecast begins live at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the West Coast). Preliminary fights will air live on SHOWTIME EXTREME® beginning at 7:00 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the West Coast).
The undercard is loaded with many of New York’s top fighters, including Brooklyn’s hot middleweight prospect Daniel “The Golden Child” Jacobs, former World Champion Luis Collazo, the Bronx’s rising star Eddie Gomez, former world title contender Dmitriy Salita and Brooklyn prospect Boyd Melson.
Tickets pricedat $300, $200, $100 and $50 are available for purchase at www.barclayscenter.com, www.ticketmaster.com, the American Express Box Office at Barclays Center, all Ticketmaster locations or by calling 800-745-3000.