Daniel Jacobs has made it a habit of overcoming odds.
After taking up boxing to fend off bullies in one of New York City’s toughest neighborhoods, Jacobs overcame cancer to become IBF Middleweight champion.
Jacobs (35-2, 29 KOs) will face his toughest in-ring challenge Saturday when he faces WBC, WBA, Ring magazine and lineal champ Canelo Alvarez (51-1-2, 35 KOs) at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The fight will stream on DAZN and will screen select area movie theaters.
Fighting, of course, is nothing new for Jacobs, who started boxing at a Brownsville, Brooklyn, gym at age 14.
“I got picked on in school,” Jacobs told amNewYork in February, shortly after the fight was announced. “[I] decided I wanted to pick up a trade where I could defend myself. Once I came to the gym for the very first time, it was like love at first sight, and I never dropped the gloves after that.”
By the time he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer, in 2011, Jacobs was 22-1 as a professional. After successful treatment, he returned with a TKO victory in October 2012 at Barclays Center. The experience changed him.
“It makes you appreciate life more,” Jacobs said. “It makes you appreciate the little things more. As far as my career is concerned and boxing is concerned, it makes me more focused. There was a point where all of this was jeopardized. All I wanted to do [were] the things I slacked on, which [was] getting up by myself and running. All of those things, I’ve changed now. My mentality has changed. No one has to get me up. If anything, I’m the first one up.”
The Brownsville community clearly means a lot to Jacobs, crediting his neighborhood for shaping him into the man he is.
“You appreciate the grit of Brownsville,” Jacobs said. “You appreciate the culture of Brownsville. It changes you. It allows you to appreciate any form of success. Coming from a tough neighborhood like that, where you didn’t have much, you just appreciated the things that you did have, so now I’m at a place where I’m living my dreams, I’m a world champion, and I’m fighting for the biggest title in boxing. Not only am I proud to be from Brownsville because of who I turned out to be, but I’m also proud because of the boxing culture and the boxing history in Brownsville and things of that nature.”
Huge personalities sell in combat sports, but don’t look for Jacobs to try to be something he isn’t.
“As a man, I can’t go against what my genuine personality is,” Jacobs said. “I can’t disrespect those people for the sake of having a more successful career.”