Forget boxing. At it's very worst, Danny Jacobs was not sure if he would ever walk again, not even sure how long he would live.
That was in 2011 when Jacobs was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a life-threatening form of bone cancer. Today, he is the WBA middleweight champion and he fights Caleb Truax Friday night in the opening bout of the Premiere Boxing Champions card in Chicago. The card will be televised by Spike.
"People love a great story," said Jacobs. "I'm extremely proud of my story and for having beat cancer."
Jacobs, a middleweight boxer from Brooklyn, was 21-1 and seemed to have a promising future in the ring. But doctors found a tumor "the size of a handball" wrapped around his spine. The tumor damaged his nerves and caused paralysis in his legs. He underwent a six-hour operation to remove the tumor. He wasn't sure if he would survive the surgery. And if he did, there were no guarantees that he'd walk.
The operation was a success but Jacobs still had to undergo months of radiation therapy. Doctors told him that fighting was no longer an option. At that point, the only thing Jacobs cared about was having a normal life with his son, Nathaniel.
"I was just thinking about my son," said Jacobs. "I wanted to be a regular dad with no flaws. I wanted him to see me as normal. I wanted to play soccer and football with him. Everyone sees his father as superman. I wanted that for him."
Jacobs, 28, was sidelined 19 months from boxing. But slowly, he began to feel better. Jogging at first, then slightly increasing his workouts. He returned to the ring and knocked out Josh Luteran during the first-ever boxing card at the Barclays Center. In August of last year, back at the Barclays Center, he knocked out Jarrod Fletcher to win the vacant WBA middleweight title. His comeback has earned him the nickname, "Miracle Man."
"It's the sweetest victory ever," said Jacobs. "People stop me on the streets and tell me how much I am an inspiration. That they have a father, a mother, a family member who has cancer. It's such a blessing to meet them."
Jacobs, 28-1, expects a tough fight from Truax, who is 25-1. And after three fights at Barclays and one at the Garden, Jacobs realizes that the majority of people at the UIC Pavillon will likely be rooting from Truax, who is from Minnesota.
"Fighting here in Chicago serves as extra motivation for me," he said. "I've always been the guy fans favored at Barclays Center, and I may have gotten a little spoiled. So I'm excited to be the guy that people want to see lose. Those fans will motivate me to be stronger and fight better."
That should be fairly easy given the fight Jacobs has already endured.
"I am the perfect role model to my son," said Jacobs. "He can look at me and he knows to never give up. The other day he said to me, 'Daddy you beat cancer, you were stronger, you were bigger and better.' I have to turn away because I was busting out in tears. It was a sweet feeling to have your son view you as superman."