NEW YORK — Danny Jacobs called it the greatest victory of his life.
After what he’s been through over the past year-and-a-half, it’s easy to understand why.
Jacobs, who has overcome cancer and paralysis caused by a large tumor on his spine, was back in action for the first time in 19 months on the undercard of Saturday’s fight card at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. He needed just 73 seconds to knock out Josh Luteran, closing the show with a devastating left-right combination that left his opponent supine on the canvas.
“Everyone in the world is affected by cancer, whether they have it themselves or whether they know someone with cancer,” Jacobs said. “For me to overcome this, I feel like I give people hope and I take pride in that. When I’m in there, I represent all cancer patients.”
Nicknamed “The Golden Child,” Jacobs hails from Brownsville, the Brooklyn neighborhood that produced world champions Mike Tyson, Riddick Bowe and Shannon Briggs. So the significance of fighting on the undercard of Saturday’s Danny Garcia-Erik Morales fight — which included the first world title bouts in Brooklyn since 1931 — was not lost on him.
“To be able to be a part of this historic event, it doesn’t get any bigger than this,” Jacobs said. “Mike Tyson never had a Brooklyn venue such as this, (nor did) Zab Judah or any of the greats. For me to have this venue, it means the world to me.”
Jacobs turned pro in 2007 after one of the most decorated amateur careers in New York’s storied fistic history, with a 137-7 record and four consecutive Golden Gloves titles. He was a rising star in the middleweight division, with a 22-1 record and 19 knockouts, when he was diagnosed with cancer in May 2011.
“With everything that I’ve been through, this is my dream coming true,” said Jacobs of fighting before a hometown crowd that included the three doctors from New York Presbyterian Hospital who saved his life. “This was a goal for me to open up the Barclays. When I was laying in my house in bed, this is what motivated me, because I knew that this moment was a possibility even when they told me it wasn’t. That’s the hunger that kept me driving and pushing when I was getting better.”
As he adroitly fielded interviews from dozens of print and TV media in the bowels of the Barclays Center, Jacobs said he was looking forward to staying active and fighting for a title in the not-so-distant future.
“I want to fight,” he said. “I want to get back to the top.”
For now, the title of cancer survivor will do.
– Bryan Armen Graham