Brownsville’s Jacobs becomes first cancer survivor to claim world boxing title

Brownsville’s Jacobs becomes first cancer survivor to claim world boxing title
Photo by Steven Schnibbe

Boxer Danny Jacobs knows a thing or two about second chances.

Three and a half years ago, Jacobs was battling cancer, not knowing if he would live to see the ring again. But as of last Saturday night, he’s a world champion.

Jacobs defeated Australia’s Jarrod Fletcher with a technical knockout at 2:58 of the fifth round to win the World Boxing Association middleweight championship at the Barclays Center Aug. 2 — the first cancer survivor ever to win a world title.

It was a dream come true for the Brownsville-born Jacobs, made all the sweeter by doing in front of his cheering, jubilant, hometown crowd.

“It is the greatest feeling of all,” he said. “Not only to accomplish my dream that I set out when I put on my first pair of gloves, but doing it in front of people who appreciate me, fans who have seen my struggle, the fans who support me no matter what,” said Jacobs. “To give a victory to them. This isn’t just for me, but this is for Brooklyn.”

This bout was a second chance for Jacobs in a more literal sense, as well. The only loss of his career was against Dmitry Pirog in 2010, when the world championship belt was also on the line. But Jacobs had a good feeling about this fight before he even stepped into the ring this time.

“I felt it going through my veins when I was walking out to the ring, and I knew I had something special,” Jacobs said. “I knew I had that momentum.”

One round before getting knocked out, Fletcher woke Jacobs up with a big blow in the fourth. Jacobs said that got his attention, and helped him form a strategy to win the fight. He let Fletcher land a couple of good shots in the fifth round, but giving his opponent some hope and confidence was just part of his game plan.

“I wanted him to think he could hurt me,” Jacobs said. “I had my hands up high and I was blocking the shots. It may have looked good, but it was a lot of arm punches. I wanted him to get his courage up so I could hit him with a counter punch.”

He hopes his story continues to inspire people who are faced with obstacles. Jacobs’s world championship comes after he was diagnosed in 2011 with a rare bone cancer — and partially paralyzed by a quarter–sized tumor that wrapped around his spine. Now Jacobs wants to serve as a living example that anything is possible if you believe in yourself.

“I hope I am a sign of hope, he said. “No matter what you can endure, that no matter how many times people put you down, no matter how many times you put yourself down, just have faith.”

Jacobs has enough faith that just one belt isn’t enough for him. Moments after winning the World Boxing Association middleweight championship, he called out his friend Peter Quillin, who holds the World Boxing Organization middleweight belt, challenging him to a bout to unify the titles — something Jacobs said Quillin told him he might be open to.

“I called my buddy out,” Jacobs said. “He said if you win this fight we’ll talk business.”

Danny Jacobs celebrates winning his first world title with his family and corner crew.
Photo by Steven Schnibbe