Daniel Jacobs plans to arrive in plenty of time for his world title fight Saturday at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. He needs to take in the moment.
Jacobs once vowed to beat his cancer so he could fight in front of his hometown borough. He made good on his comeback and won at Barclays in 2012. He won there again in 2013.
Now the arena is the same, but the stakes are higher. Jacobs (27-1, 24 knockouts) will fight Jarrod Fletcher of Australia (18-1, 10 knockouts) for the vacant WBA world middleweight title.
“I might have to get there a little bit early so I can let it soak in so it doesn’t affect me,” Jacobs told The Huffington Post from his training camp in the Poconos. “I hope all the feeling and emotions don’t just rush me.”
Jacobs throws a punch at Keenan Collins in an April 2013 bout.
Jacobs, 27, got knocked out by Dmitry Pirog in his previous world title shot in July 2010. The truly devastating blow came later. During his second bout after the loss, he said he didn’t feel right. A short time later, he became partially paralyzed and couldn't walk. In May 2011, doctors determined he had osteosarcoma, a cancer that had formed a tumor around his spine.
He underwent several procedures to remove the growth and had titanium rods inserted in his back. As he lay in what he called his "death bed," he discovered that the soon-to-open Barclays would host big-time boxing. He pledged to recover and box there someday for his comeback.
Against all odds? Perhaps. Against doctors' wishes? Definitely.
"They didn't want me to risk it," he said.
In October 2012, at the new arena, he stopped Josh Luteran in the first round.
Jacobs has dispatched four more opponents since then, including a much-discussed knockout of Giovanni Lorenzo last August. The clip has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times on YouTube.
Jacobs retreats to a corner after flooring Giovanni Lorenzo in August 2013.
Still, the obvious question persists: Why would a man who faced mortality so early choose to resume such a dangerous profession? The answer comes quickly: “Boxing got me through cancer,” he told HuffPost.
His son was 2 at the time of his father's diagnosis, unaware of what was going on. Now 5, "he knows the story in and out," his dad said. "He’s my biggest supporter.”
The fighter is apparently winning over other fans as well. In addition to starting the Get In The Ring Foundation, a charity for kids with cancer and other hardships, he said he's been planning a second career as a motivational speaker. He boasts that he received a standing ovation during a recent speech.
His theme? “I always speak about sacrifice,” he said. “I speak about the mental strength you have to have.”
And so with the titanium rods still inside him, Jacobs will once again test his own strength in his boxing home.
"The miracle man," he said in a recent press conference, "has come back to the Barclays Center."
Check out the press conference below. Jacobs' segment begins at the 4:00 mark.