When Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez signed an astonishingly lucrative $365 million deal, to fight 11 times on sports streaming platform DAZN, thoughts immediately turned to who the man from Guadalajara would face.
So when the news broke that Canelo would be taking on the IBF world title holder, Daniel ‘The Miracle Man’ Jacobs, the boxing world rejoiced in anticipation for the May 4th, middleweight unification bout.
Throughout Jacobs’ journey he has experienced incredible highs and devastating lows, all of which make up his inspirational story and ultimately lead him to a career-defining meeting with Alvarez.
At 23 years old, Jacobs was dubbed ‘The Golden Child,’ and was viewed by many as boxing’s next big star. However, one week before his first world title opportunity against largely unknown Dmitry Pirog, he suffered the heartbreaking loss of his grandmother, after she lost her battle with cancer.
Yet despite the loss of a woman that had a lasting, positive influence on him, Jacobs fought on. Maybe he shouldn’t have. Pirog was better than advertised and in the 5th round of the fight, caught Jacobs with a perfect straight right hand that sent him sprawling to the canvas. The referee waved off the fight and Jacobs endured a crushing defeat in what was the first loss of his professional career.
Worse was yet to come. Soon after the loss to Pirog, Jacobs received the earth-shattering news from doctors that he been diagnosed with osteosarcoma, an aggressive form of cancer that left him in a wheelchair. Despite doctors stating that he would never compete in a boxing ring again, Jacobs demonstrated an admirable fighting spirit that has typified him throughout his life. Not only did he beat cancer, but he also made a remarkable return to boxing within just 17 months and was reborn with a new alias, ‘The Miracle Man.’
He racked up 10 consecutive knockout victories, whilst improving both his fitness and form. By December 2015, he was ready for his first major test. He challenged for the WBA regular middleweight title in front of his home crowd at the Barclays Centre, Brooklyn. His opponent was the undefeated Chicagoan, Peter ‘Kid Chocolate’ Quillin, a long established middleweight, who was naturally larger and widely expected to beat Jacobs.
Jacobs however, tore up the script as he met his opponent in the middle of the ring and immediately launched an attack, connecting with fast, flush punches. Once he sensed Quillin’s discomfort, he continued his ferocious assault, until the referee mercifully halted the bout in the very first round of the bout.
Daniel Jacobs had finally announced himself as a force to be reckoned with and a major player in the middleweight division. After one defence of his WBA regular title, he agreed to take on the boogeyman of the division.
Gennady ‘GGG’ Golovkin was being eulogised as he terrorised the middleweight division and tore through his opponents, compiling a record of 34 consecutive victories. Entering the bout, Golovkin had knocked out his past 23 opponents. There was a frightening aura of invincibility that surrounded him and many experts were preparing for Jacobs to be knockout victim number 24.
Jacobs defied the doubters. He fought valiantly with Golovkin, troubling him with his movement, speed and punch-variety. He fought in spurts, circled around the ring and unleashed fast flurries of combinations that hurt, deterred and frustrated the Kazakh knockout king. Even when GGG caught up with Jacobs and knocked him down in the fourth round, the Brooklynite displayed the type of limitless resilience that he has become famed for. He rose to his feet, bit down on his gum-shield and fought on even terms against his revered opponent, taking him the full 12 rounds for the first time in his career and ending his knockout streak.
Despite losing what was a razor-thin decision on the scorecards, in which some observers believed he won, Daniel Jacobs had established himself as an elite middleweight that had the ability to compete against the very best.
Jacobs bounced back from this disappointment by triumphing over two unbeaten opponents, before continuing his trend of taking on yet another undefeated and dangerous opponent for the vacant IBF world title. The former amateur standout, Sergiy Derevyanchenko was avoided by many and viewed as a high-risk/low-reward opponent. Jacobs’ belief and fearlessness prevented feelings of concern for such a potential risk.
He battled the Ukrainian over 12 entertaining rounds, in which both combatants demonstrated tremendous skill and toughness. Jacobs once again utilised his fast hands, by landing flashy combinations and used intelligent movement to elude his relentless foe. However, a knockdown that he scored in the first round, was decisive and proved to be the difference, as he was announced the victor by split-decision and the new IBF world champion.
Come May 4th, boxing fans will be treated to a match between two elite middleweight talents, at the peak of their powers. Canelo will acknowledge that Jacobs’ unique set of skills and attributes make him a dangerous adversary. But what makes Jacobs special is his resilience and courage to not only overcome the odds, but to repeatedly make a mockery of them. After overcoming cancer, he destroyed Quillin, humanised Golovkin and out-fought Derevyanchenko.
Nobody can begrduge the man formerly known as ‘The Golden Child’ of his golden opportunity to take on Canelo. On Cinco de Mayo weekend, Alvarez will be the betting favourite but Jacobs has a chance to live up to his new nickname – ‘The Miracle Man’ – as he aims to upset the odds once more and in doing so, adding the most spectacular chapter, to his already inspirational story.