Daniel Jacobs: The People’s Champion

“You can always compare who’s the greatest, but when you have a story like this, this separates you from everyone.” – Daniel Jacobs

If your nickname is ‘The Miracle Man’, you must have a story that separates you from the rest; this is the story of Daniel Jacobs, one of the greatest sporting comebacks the world has seen.

Who is Daniel Jacobs?

An American WBA middleweight champion, Daniel Jacobs grew up in Brownsville, Brooklyn, and made his professional boxing debut in December 2007.

Jacobs had a record of 22-1 by 2011, but was tragically diagnosed with osteosarcoma – a rare form of bone cancer – that wrapped around his spine and paralysed him from the waist down. He was wheelchair bound and looked set to live a life outside of the ring.

“The doctors were telling him he’d never box again and his illness would keep him out of the ring.” – Andre Rosier, Daniel’s trainer

The Cancer

Jacobs had an MRI scan after he was experiencing weaknesses in his legs whilst visiting troops in Iraq; this weakness turned into pain and he was struggling to walk, let alone train to box.

He decided to have a scan for what he believed was a trapped nerve, however, the results were far more serious in revealing a tumour had developed on his spine.

How serious was Jacobs’ career?

Jacobs’ boxing prospects before his diagnosis were hugely promising. The American had an amateur record of 137 wins from 144 fights and began his professional career on the undercard of Floyd Mayweather and Ricky Hatton’s 2007 fight. Jacobs dispatched his opponent, Joe Jesus Hurtado, within 29 seconds.

He would go onto win the WBO–NABO middleweight and NABF middleweight titles in his 18th and 20th fight before he was diagnosed after his 23rd bout,  a knockout victory over Robert Kliewer.

How long was he out of the ring?

The boxer spent 19 months out of the sport whilst receiving treatment for his cancer. The treatment saved his life and prevented permanent paralysis.

“It was an incredibly dangerous operation, which could have left him paralysed or even deceased.” – Andre Rosier, Daniel’s trainer

The resilience and determination Jacobs showed to get past his cancer and back into the ring was something that his trainer, Rosier, says made him the man he is today.

“Before he had cancer, he was young, he was brash, you know, he was about dandy. When he fought cancer, it changed him.”

Returning to training

Jacobs was back in the boxing gym just two days after his treatment. As a fighter both in and out of the ring, he was utterly determined to be back in the sport he loves, refusing to let cancer get the better of him.

“The second day I even got out of the hospital – the boxing gym is exactly where I went,” said Jacobs.

Trainer, Andre, shocked at the speed of Jacobs’ return to training describes how he came back after his treatment: “He said, ‘Ok, I’m ready to hit the bag’ and I said, ‘ok…’ so I put gloves on him and he went to the bag. And then he said: ‘ok, that’s it for today, I’ll be back tomorrow'”.

Jacobs continued to return to the gym, gradually increasing his strength and power each time. A combination of patience and mental strength saw him start to “no longer throw punches like he was 9000 years old” as his trainer put it.

There were even whispers of a return to a professional fight, ‘The Miracle Man’ was beginning to create his legacy.

The comeback fight

Jacobs went through a nine-hour operation and 25 rounds of radiation before he made his comeback fight against Josh Lutheran at the Barclays Center, New York in 2012.

‘The Miracle Man’ defeated his opponent by knocking him out in the first-round and would later go on to win the WBA middleweight title in August 2014.

“I just think when you battle something that can take your life and you overcome it, nothing else is going to be fearful to you. He looks at me and he goes: ‘I’ve been deeper, so let’s go deeper’”. – David “Scooter” Honig, Fitness expert

Jacobs’ remarkable comeback sees him hold a record of 33 wins from 35 fights, with his only loss after his treatment coming at the hands of the undefeated, Gennady Golovkin, at a sell-out crowd in Madison Square Garden.

Jacobs’ legacy

As of March 2018, Jacobs is ranked as the world’s third-best active middleweight and boasts a record of an 83% knockout-to-win ratio, an outstanding boxing record.

A man of the people, and a man of Brooklyn, Jacobs remains hugely humble and thankful to those around him:

“Sometimes I go to the schools and I talk to the kids and show them my belts, and I’ll say: ‘this isn’t representing a boxing champion, this is representing a Brooklyn champion, this is representing you, us, you’re all the champions’”.

Daniel Jacobs, ‘The People’s Champion’ and ‘The Miracle Man’ certainly has a story that separates him from everyone else.