Daniel Jacobs sees his life as a fairy tale that came true.
"I just feel like the more people that can be a part of this story, the more people that can read it, the more people that it will reach," Jacobs told amNewYork, "[it] will just be that much more effective."
His story, which culminated in the 27-year-old winning the vacant WBA middleweight championship against Jarrod Fletcher on Saturday night, won't sound like that of any boxer who has come before him. After all, no other world boxing champion ever survived cancer.
Jacobs, a native of Brownsville now living in Canarsie, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in May 2011, less than a year after suffering his first professional loss in the ring while challenging for the vacant WBO middleweight title and barely two months after a first-round knockout victory against Robert Kliewer. His godmother, Dorothea Perry, drove him to New York Presbyterian for an emergency surgery to remove a cancerous mass from his spinal cord.
"She saved my life," Jacobs said of Perry. "She was the one who was kind of like my proxy who made all the decisions to make sure I got the best help and the best treatment I could possibly get."
The tumor left Jacobs partially paralyzed below the waist and threatened his life and budding boxing career. At its worst, Jacobs struggled to comprehend why he was stricken by the disease.
"I remember asking my girlfriend, just, 'Why is this happening to me?' " Jacobs said. "And she said, 'Don't worry, baby, soon you're gonna be saying, why not me?' "
After undergoing treatment and being declared cancer-free, Jacobs made his successful return to the ring in October 2012 with a first-round knockout of Josh Luteran at Barclays Center.
Jacobs acknowledges his attitude toward the sport changed as a result of his battle with cancer.
"The things that I used to be lazy to do before and not be able to push myself," Jacobs said, "all I could think about was me wanting to be able to walk again and that time I was in the hospital. And now, that's my biggest drive."
Perseverance paid off, and Jacobs won four more fights in a row to earn the WBA title shot in front of hometown fans at Barclays Center. On the biggest night of his life, Jacobs stayed grounded by partnering with the Ronald McDonald House New York and his own Get in the Ring Foundation to give a fellow patient battling cancer the chance to experience the night with him.
"You know, I'm sure Cody ... [will] always remember that for the rest of his life, just being there and seeing someone who's in the same position as him, you know, overcome it," Jacobs said.
After scoring a technical knockout of Fletcher in the fifth round and earning the most prestigious title of his career, Jacobs wasted little time looking to the next opportunity by calling out friend and fellow Brooklynite Peter Quillin, the current WBO champion. Believing he's in his prime, Jacobs hopes to fight again in the next three or four months, and he believes the bout with Quillin will materialize.
"I think that it's a strong possibility," Jacobs said. "I just hope that it can possibly happen sooner than later."