Let’s get the cancer out of the way up front.
It’s gratuitous. More than a little gross. As unceasing as the open hi-hat in a pre-teen punk band. The lather the boxing media works itself into before, during and immediately after every fight involving DANIEL JACOBS, CANCER SURVIVOR is as frothy and unseemly as a Paulie Malignaggi bachelor party limo careening into an Axe Hair Gel factory. For followers of the sport, it’s as inevitable as “Naked and Afraid” season nine, starring Chris Algieri.
So how about we just knock this out straight away: Jacobs had cancer. He beat its ass. Fin.
Not that the Brooklyn-born 32-year-old deserves anything less than our full sympathy, respect, and admiration. Jacobs has received all of it, in spades. To the extent that one can ever be even halfway certain, he is one of boxing’s good guys. Jacobs willingly answers all the shopworn questions, leaning into his survivor story, having shed “The Golden Child” to embrace “The Miracle Man.” He’ll retrace his steps through one of the shittiest ordeals imaginable — a tumor wrapping itself around his spine, squeezing all the function from his legs, and, after enduring 25 rounds of radiation, being told to forget about boxing.
But maybe Jacobs would prefer we finally talk about something else. Like, say, his record (35-2, 29 KO), his potent package of skill, size, and experience, and his second career crack at unifying the middleweight titles (such as they are) — this time against Canelo Alvarez (51-1-2, 35 KO) on Saturday at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on DAZN. Put yourself in his shoes. No, something more relatable: You’re good at what you do. Real good. You show up to the office every day and grind. Your PowerPoint presentations slay. You tear through stacks of reports as if the gods themselves had forged your human form from an Excel spreadsheet. Bosses love you, co-workers want to be you. Yet without fail, at least once a week, Lois in accounting feels compelled to tell the story about the time you fought off that suspect sashimi from the Benihana lunch buffet to stick the landing on the big Bausch & Lomb presentation. Was it kind of a big deal? For sure. But chances are you’d prefer your career be defined by something more exceptional than the two hours you spent ralphing your guts out in stall number three.
A boxing ring is one of the last places on Earth in need of a “Profiles in Courage” p.r. campaign. Fighters are sprung from broken homes and savage circumstance, delivering them to the doorstep of a gym where their pain and suffering are simply redefined. Some become a bit too well suited to a sport once ruled by bootleggers and murderers. Jake LaMotta beat all seven of his wives. Don King killed a man. (OK, two.) Edwin Valero ended his own life after being arrested on suspicion of killing his wife. Adonis Stevenson, for a time, made his way as a gangster and a pimp.
Jacobs, by contrast, is an introspective, spiritual, borderline mama’s boy who steers clear of trouble – all the way up to the moment that he begins shattering the body and spirit of the man in front of him. During fight week Jacobs described himself and Alvarez as “gentlemen” and “ambassadors.” He also openly discussed the notion that he’d be trying to separate Canelo’s head from the rest of him Saturday at T-Mobile Arena. We are, each of us, a multitude.
All of us, that is, except Canelo. Santos Saúl Álvarez Barragán is ostensibly a 28-year-old professional fighter from Guadalajara, Mexico, and the lineal and unified middleweight champion. But he is far more likely to be a single-minded redheaded cyborg sent back in time from a Jalisco of the future. Canelo is out here. He can’t be bargained with. He can’t be reasoned with. He can’t even make a decent Tecate commercial. He doesn’t feel pity or remorse or fear. And he absolutely will not stop, ever — as long as he’s the A-side fighting in Vegas.
That’s the rub, of course: Jacobs may be the only opponent this side of Gennady Golovkin who can make a pick‘em fight with Canelo at 160, but the outcome of Saturday’s main event already somehow feels kind of inevitable. Why? Glad you asked.
Size: Against Canelo, Jacobs has a four-inch height advantage and a three-inch reach advantage, and he’ll surely follow Golovkin’s lead by attempting to control Alvarez with the jab. But Canelo, a gifted counterpuncher, still finagled a draw and a win against GGG — who, like Jacobs, is a prodigious boxer-puncher. And because Jacobs is a natural middleweight and Canelo is, er, less so, you’d think the challenger would enjoy that advantage. But you must’ve forgotten: this is boxing.
Hydration clause: Alvarez’s people built a second-day weigh-in into the fight contract — likely a reaction to Jacobs supposedly blowing up 25 pounds before the GGG fight (and near-upset). Jacobs disputes that claim and took issue with the contract stipulation. Canelo said the IBF ruled it. Jacobs called bullshit. Regardless, Jacobs would have been $250,000 poorer for every pound over 170 he weighed at 8 a.m. on the morning of the fight. That figure was negotiated down to $100,000 per pound, accordingly to Danny Jacobs, himself, however ESPN’s Dan Rafael is still reporting that the figure is $250,000 as of 3 p.m. EST.
Juice: Canelo has it, Jacobs does not. Alvarez is currently the money fighter in Vegas, and he has received the benefit of the doubt in no fewer than three decisions there since taking his only career loss – to the house’s previous money fighter, Floyd Mayweather. Ohhhh, you were thinking that kind of juice. Well, whether you believe Canelo enjoys his arrachera glazed in clenbuterol, that hydration clause helps level any power disparity in this matchup. Also, fun fact: Jacobs, after logging 15 straight stoppages leading up to the GGG fight, has none since — including, most recently, in a split-decision over Sergiy Derevyanchenko. I don’t know if it means anything. But it isn’t exactly a promising sign for Jacobs.
Panda PJs onesie: Advantage, Canelo. No wonder Jacobs is a 5-2 dog.
It’s simple. In this godforsaken sport-cult, what compels us to watch is also what drives us to the brink of swearing off boxing for good: anything can happen. Jacobs has the length, power, footwork, timing, and smarts to best Alvarez — and he has the ability to eat Canelo’s lunch if the Mexican stands in and trades as he (too) often did with GGG. But again: Golovkin won neither of those fights. The room for error against Canelo — in the ring and on the scorecards — is nil. Maybe — maybe — Jacobs catches him. More likely, he catches a decision L.
(Photo by Tom Hogan, Hogan Photos)