Danny Jacobs knows what it’s like looking over the edge. He doesn’t like to think back to those days when everything around him seemed to be collapsing. Back to looking up through teary eyes from a hospital gurney barely able to recognize a familiar face, to when he had to use a cane, then crutches, then pinioned to a wheelchair, to when he was forced to drag himself on his hands to open a door because of cancer.
Back to when he stared at his own mortality and his future in boxing with the prospect of never fighting again.
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It doesn’t grip Jacobs as much today, or even tonight, when he puts his WBA middleweight title on the line against Caleb Truax (25-1-2, 15 KOs) on Premier Boxing Champions' Spike card from Chicago (9 p.m. ET). Jacobs has already won his battle, beating paralysis and then cancer.
“People know what I’ve went through, and to even get here, to be a world champion, it was my ultimate goal,” said Jacobs (28-1, 25 KOs).
In mid-March 2011, after defeating Robert Kliewer, Jacobs embarked on a USO tour to Iraq with a Golden Boy contingent. He was gathering himself up and picking up tattered pieces after his disastrous fifth-round blowout loss to Dmitry Pirog, on July 31, 2010, fighting on the Juan Manuel Marquez-Juan Diaz undercard.
A world he imagined was gone with one punch. All the hard work. All the dedication. All the commitment. Flushed away. As with the cruelty of boxing, Jacobs went from the pinnacle to tumbling down into no-man’s land. No one called. No one seemed to care, save for those closest to him.
It’s the scraps he gathered up searching for a new direction. He employed Hall of Fame trainer Freddy Roach. He plowed through Kliewer. He began feeling good about himself again. While over in Iraq, Jacobs ate a camel burger. It tasted good. But he began feeling sick.
“I was thinking the camel burger was messing with me and I remember feeling sick,” Danny recalled. “When I got home, other things began happening. I remember riding my bike, and the pedals started skipping. I kept thinking it might have been the camel burger.”
It wasn’t the camel burger.
It was cancer.
“After being through that, you start to believe that you beat anything,” Jacobs said. “I’m not looking past Truax. He’s never been put down, but he doesn’t have the experience in big fights, or going the rounds that I have in previous years. You have to take all of those things into consideration. This guy is not in the same league or class that I am. He’s never seen anyone as skilled as I am.
“But this is the best shape I’ve been in in my life. I’ve been fighting good contenders since I came back from cancer; my weight is fine. I had some issues with my last camp, but I’ve addressed this with a better camp and a better nutritionist. After beating cancer, you appreciate things more. I appreciate every time I’m in that ring fighting. Because I know what it’s like almost having it taken away.”
Joseph Santoliquito is the president of the Boxing Writer's Association of America and a frequent contributor to Sherdog.com's mixed martial arts and boxing coverage. His archive can be found here.
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