Middleweight Gennady Golovkin remains one of the most feared punchers on the planet but his opponent at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night, Daniel Jacobs, has already beaten a foe far more daunting in his life: osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer.
Six years ago a large tumor wrapped itself around his spine and paralyzed Jacobs, then 24, from the waist down. Consigned to a wheelchair, Jacobs was told he should prepare for a life without boxing. Through months of treatment in hospital, Jacobs fought the osteosarcoma, which was malignant, and emerged 17 months later renewed and with the ring sobriquet of ‘The Miracle Man’.
Now on a 12-fight winning streak since his fightback from the debilitating affliction, the powerful punching Brooklyn-ite steps into the ring here on Saturday night to face world No 1 Golovkin, whose elite level standing has grown in the course of a 23-fight knockout streak, along with the unbeaten tag from 36 career contests.
Overall, indeed, Golovkin has a 92% knockout ratio, the highest of any modern world champion. Feared and revered in equal measure, British boxing fans saw Golovkin first hand last September when he fought Kell Brook, the Sheffield fighter stepping up two weight divisions, and in spite of enjoying a lucrative payday, ended the night on the wrong end of a fifth round stoppage and a fractured orbital bone at the hands of the man from Karaganda. Critics believe Jacobs may need another miracle to defeat the Kazakh, in spite of having the home advantage. Defending champion Golovkin weighed in at 159.6lbs, Jacobs slightly heavier at 159.8lbs, just under the middleweight limit.
Yet beating cancer, through body and mind, 30-year-old Jacobs has said this week, has given a mental edge over any man wearing gloves, in spite of the bookmakers seeing the challenger to the WBA/IBF and WBC titles having been placed as an 8-1 underdog.
Jacobs one defeat was to the now retired Russian Dimitry Pirog, by knockout in 2010, and that may indicate the way this contest will go, given Golovkin's freakish power, and ability to stalk and break down his rivals. Jacobs, though, has power of his own and has 29 knockouts in his 32 career victories.
Having prepared in the Oakland gym used by Andre Ward, Amir Khan and now Nicola Adams, Jacobs and his longtime coach Andre Rozier believe they have had a "dream camp" and that once again, the American will pull of the upset.
"He's been promoted as being this fearful guy, but I've beaten the odds before," said Jacobs. Amir Khan said yesterday that what had impressed him about Jacobs was his "complete calm" having witnessed his preparation at the West Coast camp.
The only belt which Golovkin does not hold is the WBO crown, currently in the possession of British middleweight Billy Joe Saunders, and there the very real prospect that if Golovkin comes through this challenge, the two could meet later this year, even in Kazakhstan.
As chief support at The Garden, one of the unsung stars of world boxing, Roman 'Chocolatito' Gonzalez, of Nicaragua, faces Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, of Thailand. 'Chocolatito', all 5ft 3ins of him, has risen through four weight divisions as a world champion, unbeaten in 46 contests, from the minimum weight of 7st 7lbs to superflyweight, 8st 2lbs. A spectacular talent, not to be missed.
But the story of the night will swirl around 'The Miracle Man' from Brownsville if Jacobs can dethrone 'Triple G' with the power not just of his winging hooks, but from deep within a fighting soul.
- Golovkin v Jacobs is exclusively live on BoxNation this Saturday night. Buy now at boxnation.com.