Daniel Jacobs calls himself "The Golden Child." He might consider changing it to "The Chosen One." With a résumé that reads more prospect than contender, he was deemed by an alphabet body worthy of a fight for a vacant middleweight title on July 31. Just how good is he? We're about to find out.
It almost seems as if the 23-year-old Jacobs was born on the fast track. Despite coming from Brownsville, one of the worst neighborhoods of Brooklyn, he has had a magic carpet ride through the upper echelons of the amateur ranks and into the pros. Jacobs made his debut on December. 8, 2007 and got an early holiday present when he was signed by high-powered manager Al Haymon and Golden Boy Promotions. His team wasted no time getting the Jacobs Juggernaut rolling. His debut landed on the highly-publicized Floyd Mayweather-Ricky Hatton undercard. Two fights later he got to show his stuff on the Kelly Pavlik-Jermain Taylor rematch in 2008. Before that year was up he had also been showcased on two major pay-per-view cards, Joe Calzaghe vs. Bernard Hopkins and Calzaghe vs. Roy Jones Jr.
The latter appearance was especially significant for Jacobs because Jones was his boyhood idol. "What attracted me to Jones was just his whole aura and persona," Jacobs says.. "He was one of those people who had a glow about him."
Jacobs also had that special something from the time he was a kid. Although he came from a broken home, he was showered with love in a household of women, including his grandmother Cordelia Jacobs, his mother Yvette and his aunts. It was a protective cocoon that would keep him off the mean streets of his neighborhood, but it came with a price. Grandma Cordelia was a strict Jehovah's Witness and her law was the word. Even a Golden Child wouldn't dare to defy her.
"Being raised by women gave me a different outlook on life," Jacobs says. "My grandmother was the rock of our family. As a Jehovah's Witness she had certain rules. She was not able to celebrate my birthday or Christmas. She wasn't able to go to my fights because Jehovah's Witnesses don't believe in violence, but she encouraged me in my training. And while she couldn't be in my corner, I knew I had her support and love and that was enough."
Fellow Brownsville product and future world champion Mike Tyson didn't have any such protection. He was in and out of trouble on the streets until he was 16, when trainer Cus D'Amato became his legal guardian. Jacobs says he admired Tyson for what he did as a boxer, but didn't want to emulate his wild antics. "I never got in real trouble like him. My personality is completely different."
That is evident in Jacobs' soft-spoken manners; he is polite and respectful of others, which he attributes to the influence of the women who raised him. The only negative in Jacobs' early life was altercations in school, which the youngster turned into a huge positive. "The guys I fought in school were training at a local boxing gym, so I figured my way of getting revenge was to train. My second day at the Howard Houses Gym I did pretty well and it was at that point I realized I had the talent to be a boxer."
He was right. Jacobs is perhaps the decade's most highly-touted amateur from New York, where he won four city Golden Glove titles and several national championships. Entering the trials for the 2008 Olympic Team, Jacobs was a heavy favorite to make the team. But in the US trials final, he was upset by Shawn Estrada, 24-14, the only speed bump on his smooth ride to the top. "I knew from the first round that the judges weren't going to let me win that fight. When I got back to my corner and my trainer said I got zero for that round I knew they were going to take my dream away from me. I'm much too good of a fighter to get a zero." A review of that round on YouTube backs Jacobs up. He landed a good jab to the head, a right to the head and two hard hooks to the body, none of which were counted.
That Olympic disappointment proved to be a blessing in disguise. Defeat was followed by major victories in his signings with Golden Boy and Haymon, essentially putting him in another protective shell. Manager and promoter carefully chose a roster of less-than-stellar fighters designed to build his record, while at the same time displaying his multitude of talents. What people got to see was a highly-skilled boxer-puncher with fast hands and fluid feet. He has power in both fists and works the body and head with precision punches. According to HBO commentator Emanuel Steward, he also "has great balance and makes quick adjustments in the ring. He tries to take guys out early, and if he sees he can't, then he will go back to his boxing skills." Smart boxing is within his nature. "I don't think I can tell you how I make those adjustments," Jacobs says, "but maybe it's because I'm so naturally calm in the ring and can think a lot clearer."
Clearly, Jacobs has all the tools and the right connections. But whether he deserves a title shot at this point in his career is open to debate. He's 20-0 with 17 knockouts, impressive stats on the surface. But the only quality opponent he has faced is Ishe Smith, whom he beat by unanimous decision in a fight that was something of a struggle. Nevertheless, Jacobs brims with confidence entering his bout against unbeaten Russian Dmitry Pirog (16-0, 13 KOs), who has fought a relatively easy roster of opponents as well. "Dmitry is a very good fighter with fast hands and feet, but at the same time I feel he doesn't have what it takes to beat me," Jacobs says.
Besides winning a first world title, there is also something else at stake here for Jacobs. "This fight also has big significance because I didn't have a chance to make the 2008 Olympic team. When you think about the Olympics, you think about USA versus Russia. You don't think about anybody else other than the Russians. And Dmitry is probably the top, if not one of the top Russian fighters out there. So to me this is my Olympics, and this is the gold medal that I never had an opportunity to win."
Jacobs says he admired Tyson for what he did as a boxer, but didn't want to emulate his wild antics. "I never got in real trouble like him. My personality is completely different."
Posted 12:00 AM | Jul 21, 2010
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