Danny Jacobs: The New Kid On The Block
By Ryan Songalia
As the US Olympic boxing squad founders in Beijing, 21-year-old Danny Jacobs sits back in his Brownsville, Brooklyn home watching on television. Just as the rest of the world does.
Jacobs had been favored long before the Olympic trials were scheduled to bring home the gold in 2008; it was his destiny. His hopes of making the squad for the Athens game in 2004 were foiled when he missed the official weigh-in by mere moments. He would not let poor preparation stand in his way again, he promised.
After four New York Golden Gloves titles, a 2005 National Golden Gloves title and a 2006 National Amateur championship, Jacobs had been billed as the second coming of Sugar Ray Leonard, the next American Golden Boy. It seemed like nothing would block his path towards China.
That was before Shawn Estrada nixed those plans last August by upsetting Jacobs in the trials, rendering the efforts of temporary coach and former gold medalist Mark Breland in vain.
Now he watches from the sidelines as others chase their dreams of Olympic immortality.
"Yeah I seen a couple of them fights," Jacobs tells BoxingScene. com.
"It's a little tough, but as I'm watching it I'm thinking about my next move in my pro career so it doesn't affect me that much. I'm not going to lie and say it doesn't bother me. I wish I was there, a little bit.
Jacobs could have accepted a spot as an alternate and make the trip to Beijing but that would require a great deal of patience and wishful thinking -if you can call it that- that someone would get injured. It'd be like training to be a late-replacement and Jacobs wasn't interested in putting effort towards fights that might not happen.
Without the hype that a strong Olympic showing would create, Jacobs turned professional last December. Jacobs didn't make his debut on some random card though, he did so on the untelevised portion of Mayweather-Hatton.
Being aligned with super-manager Al Haymon and Golden Boy Promotions comes with it's perks.
"[Being with Golden Boy Promotions] has definitely been a plus because those guys were world champions. A lot of people in the game respect them, not only as fighters but as businessmen. They're changing the boxing game. The ladder will be much easier to climb with those guys, as opposed to small-time promoters.
Jacobs' strong promotional and managerial ties have earned him spots on other high profile cards, including De La Hoya-Forbes, Hopkins-Calzaghe and the Pavlik-Taylor rematch.
His next two fights, on September 13 and September 27, just so happen to fall on the Casamayor-Marquez pay-per-view and Mosley-Mayorga cards.
So far it's been smooth sailing for Jacobs; 8 fights, 8 knockouts, with only two opponents making it past the first. Jacobs' following has grown steadily as television coverage has covered most of his early fights, particularly on the Spanish language program "Solo Boxeo".
Adjustments would have to be made to Jacobs' style for the pros. Victor Roundtree, Jacobs' head trainer since the first day he laced up, and assistant trainer Andre Rozier have worked to settle him down into an energy-efficient approach better suited for the grind of longer fights. With potential millions hanging in the balance down the road, Team Jacobs has stepped up the intensity of their regimen.
"We've picked up the intensity in everything we do," Jacobs says. "In the amateurs it's all rushing, you're trying to get the most points as possible. Now in the pros you have to take your time and pick your shots.
"Basically what we're working on now is sitting down on his big punches,"says Rozier, who also trains Joe Greene, Curtis Stevens and Gary Stark Jr. "He's always had tremendous hand speed and fluidity in the ring. He's a very elusive target but he's become more of a boxer-puncher. He's creating more power in his shots, and you can see from the results, he's reaping major results.
Though he has scarcely encountered resistance thus far, Jacobs notes a drastic difference in the power of the pro ranks.
"In the amateurs, the gloves are so puffy that they hit you and they don't affect you. Now the gloves are smaller and every little shot hurts. You have to protect your entire body.
The expectations heaped upon Jacobs are bountiful. He has a New York swagger that can at times be construed as cockiness and arrogance, yet he manages to handle the pressure of being a highly-touted prospect well. He says he's taking the praise in stride.
"It hasn't been a burden on me," says Jacobs. "I knew there was going to be a lot of hype about me because I was such a good amateur. It comes with the territory, I'm used to it.
The media has been kind to Jacobs so far, affording him the benefit of the doubt while he marches through over-matched opposition. It was in his last fight that Jacobs encountered his first negative press in the professionals, coming from vocal ESPN2 commentator Teddy Atlas.
Atlas, himself a former trainer, derided Jacobs' quality of opposition during his first round blowout of Sergio Rios, who had gone 1-8 in his last 9 fights. Atlas voiced his opinion that Jacobs was being held back by fighting stiffs, a claim Jacobs vehemently dismisses.
"Teddy Atlas disappointed me with his choice of words," Jacobs says, his level of intensity rising as the topic switched. "For Teddy Atlas to say that they're not giving me anybody and that I should step up my level of competition is unfair, that's pretty much all he said the whole fight. He didn't say anything about my boxing so that was kind of disappointing.
"We're going to see in two years when I'm world champion who remembers what Teddy Atlas had to say.
Jacobs maintains that the pace at which he is being moved is conducive to long-term success, enabling him to stay busy while allowing him to learn the ropes hazard-free.
"At the end of that day it's still a career, one loss or one bad fight you're set back and you'll never hear the end of it.
"As a young fighter, even with a great amateur background, you still have to give young professionals fights where they can get confident. You can't send him in there with world champion-type fighters because he can get discouraged. You want young fighters to knock out people, feel great about what he can do and go on like that. I'm just here to prove to people that I'm going to be the best soon, not when other people want me to be but when I want it to be.
Jacobs' impact on the middleweight division won't be felt for some time but that hasn't discouraged him from making grandiose plans for the future. He has set his targets on Arthur Abraham, Kelly Pavlik and Felix for the future, should he reach that level.
"There's a lot of guys in the middleweight division who I'd love to fight. Not just because they're in my division but because I've been a fan of them, like Pavlik. Abraham, I don't think he's that talented. He's beatable. The middleweight division is wide open for me.
No longer the big man on campus, Jacobs finds himself in a position he hasn't been in for some time. In the amateurs Jacobs was a star among stars but now he has to prove himself to his peers, where no one cares how many Golden Glove titles you have.
"I like being the new kid on the block because it's a different feel for me. In the amateurs, I was always being dominant, being the king. Even in the amateurs, I was once at a point where I had to earn my respect. Now I'm at the point where I need to earn my respect.
Young pros usually encounter the truth of the Puff Daddy adage "Mo' Money, Mo' Problems" once they taste the business side of the sport. Not so, says Jacobs, who says he's loving every minute of being a paid fighter.
"It's even more fun now," Jacobs says of fighting for money. "My amateur career was long but wasn't that long where I got tired of it. I was ready to turn pro a year before I did. Now fighting is more exciting for me because I'm the underdog now and I'm the new kid on the block. It's a different feel, I look forward to going to the gym more.
Time will tell whether Jacobs can live up to the high expectations stacked upon him will be justified or not. While he works his way through journeymen, late-replacements, and eventually towards contendership, Jacobs keeps mindful of the model of success he hopes to emulate.
"I like to think of myself like Lebron James coming out of high school straight into the pros. Coming into the pros he just took over. That's what I feel like I'm doing. I was one of the best amateurs, if not the best middleweight amateur and have been devastating so far.
"Hopefully I can continue like Lebron James and devastate my division.