Up Next

Daily Uplift

Middleweight Danny Jacobs’ passion for Brooklyn helps him prepare for his fight against undefeated Sulecki

Cancer survivor notes: ‘I’m a little different’

“Typically boxers like to get up early in the morning and go for a nice run,” said former WBA middleweight world champion Danny Jacobs.

“They like to beat all the craziness before people get outside and just get a nice run, whether it’s 4 or 5 miles, 6 miles, whatever the case may be. Then go home, eat breakfast, you rest, and then you prepare for an afternoon workout at the gym, whether that’s sparring, boxing in the ring, or whether that’s doing what we call floor work. That’s hitting the bag, hitting the pads, jump rope and a lot of other routine workouts that we have inside the gym.”

Right now, Jacobs, who will face undefeated Polish contender Maciej Sulecki on Saturday in his sixth appearance at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, is past that.

“All the hard work is already put in, and all of the strenuous activity that I do to prep myself and make sure that I’m in shape is already in the books,” Jacobs said. “At this point right now, it’s just a mental focus, it’s just making sure the little things are fine-tuned, and it’s just making sure that I can put together the ultimate plan for the big day.”

If Jacobs wins, he will become the WBA mandatory challenger to unified world champion Gennady “GGG” Golovkin. Jacobs, with a career record of 33-2 with 29 knockouts, lost his title to Golovkin in March 2017 at Madison Square Garden despite being the first fighter to take “Triple G” to all 12 rounds. In a unanimous decision, two judges scored the fight 115-112 and one 114-113 for Golovkin.

“I’m a little different,” Jacobs noted. In 2014, he became the first cancer survivor to win a boxing world championship (WBA).

Jacobs’ symptoms started during a 2011 USO tour of Iraq. He was experiencing weakness in his legs and was diagnosed with a pinched nerve. Two weeks later he was paralyzed from the waist down, and doctors found a tumor wrapped around his spine. After removal, Jacobs learned the tumor was cancerous.

On Oct. 20, 2012, he returned to the ring and delivered a knockout over Josh Luteran 73 seconds into the fight at Barclays.

Raising his 9-year-old son, Nathaniel, he is focused on family and helping others. The Brooklyn native says his second chance at life has inspired him to give back. While recovering from surgery and cancer treatment, he launched the Get In The Ring Foundation. The organization raises awareness for early detection and prevention and helps kids with cancer and their families.

“I help out kids in the community, children with cancer and different projects …,” Jacobs said. “I know a lot of my fans know that I’m a survivor, but I don’t know if they understand just what I’m doing with the second opportunity.”

Saturday’s bout will be broadcast on HBO.

What are you looking forward to in Saturday’s fight?

Just the atmosphere in Brooklyn. Brooklyn is a very cultural place. The fans are incredible when it comes to sports, in boxing, in all … different types of things. Brooklyn is very passionate about its own, so I’m looking forward to getting some of that Brooklyn love and having the fans being around. I haven’t been in the Barclays Center for, I would say, two years now, so I’m really looking forward to getting back.

How do you mentally prepare for your opponent?

Some people like to actually get mad. I’m not one of those guys. I’m one of those guys who understand that boxing is just a sport. I can’t really get mad and frustrate my mind and frustrate my body and my spirit. I have to make sure that it’s calm, that it’s focused and that it’s preparing itself for a task.

What did you learn from overcoming cancer?

I really learned that I am as strong [as], if not stronger than, I thought I was. When you’re faced with death, you have to have this different mind point once you overcome it, because I wasn’t supposed to be here, let alone have another career, a second shot at being a champion.

So it allows me to have this chip on my shoulder to know that, hey, you’ve overcome some of the biggest things in your life, and anything else after that it preps you and lets you know that you can overcome just about anything that you put your mind to because there were times when I really had to challenge myself. Challenge my spirit. Challenge my mind, and I had a lot of questions and back-and-forth of whether or not I could do it.

I was able to allow myself to win the race, and it gave me a mental confidence I don’t think anyone inside that ring who had to go through my obstacles has.

Where does your courage come from?

Wow. That’s a great question. I think my courage comes from growing up in Brooklyn, not really having a silver spoon in my mouth growing up, always appreciating the little things because I never really had much. Courage comes from my family. Courage comes from the belief in the Creator and allowing me to stay humble. Courage comes from so many different avenues when it comes to my life.

I just think that the more that I live my life, the more that God put me through certain situations, I’m able to build that courage up. But, ultimately, I think it started just from a little boy growing up in a rough neighborhood and having a family to teach him right and wrong and allowing me to believe in myself. Ultimately, my grandmother was the one who really allowed me to, from the very first time that I had issues in my life or challenges as a teenager, my grandmother was allowing me to believe in myself, to have that courage to fight back.

What makes you cry?

Failing my son. My son is my everything, and I live for him. I think all that I do I want to represent him in the right way. My grandmother always told me when you go outside, you’re not just representing yourself but you’re representing you, your family and all of your loved ones. So, in all that I do, I know it’s documented, and one day my son will be able to go back and look at all my life. I want him to be 100 percent proud of his dad, and I want to try to do right by him. So, failing him and not giving him the best life or not allowing him to be proud of his dad, that’s probably one of my biggest fears.

What was your hardest battle in the ring?

It came in a sparring match when I was a teenager. … I remember going through a cycle, a cycle full of bad guys. Brooklyn guys loved me, but they just wanted to make sure that I got that Brooklyn whupping in order to make me great. I remember going through this one cycle this one weekend. Every day I would have my heinie torn up, and it was the greatest thing ever because it made me realize that nothing is easy. That Brooklyn legacy, I try my best to keep that going and let the kids know coming up after me that it’s not easy. It’s not cotton candy. Life is hard. Boxing or whatever you do in life is hard.

Kelley Evans is a digital producer at Andscape. She is a food passionista, helicopter mom and an unapologetic Southerner who spends every night with the cast of The Young and the Restless by way of her couch.