Nearly three years into his comeback from successfully beating cancer, Daniel Jacobs has looked just about flawless throughout each step of the journey.
Last October, Jacobs (29-1, 26 KOs) scored an impressive stoppage to claim a secondary world title before doing the same in his first title defense in April. But the one thing separating Jacobs along the way from gaining the respect among the 160-pound division's elite has been a lack of big-name opponents on his resume.
The 28-year-old native of Brooklyn, New York, hopes to change that on Saturday when he returns home to face former junior middleweight titlist Sergio Mora at the Barclays Center in the co-main event of a Premier Boxing Champions card (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET) headlined by welterweights Danny Garcia and Paulie Malignaggi.
Jacobs recently spoke with ESPN.com about what a victory over Mora (28-3-2, 9 KOs), 34, would do for his career.
What were your initial thoughts to finding out you'd be facing a veteran like Mora?
Obviously I was excited because every time you face a guy that you know and the fans know is a former world champion it's exciting because I'm doing something I always wanted to do, which is step up in competition and fight the best.
Has the speed of how you have been matched in recent years been on the same level as your ambitions?
I feel like everything has a time and place. Obviously as a young, hungry champion, I have always wanted to fight the best and probably could have gotten a little bit frustrated. But ultimately in this sport, things are not going to go as smoothly as you would want it simply because of your ambition. It takes time. As we are building our brand and getting bigger fans and raising our markets, once we do have an opportunity to face the bigger names, things will be worth so much more. I understand there is a certain way of doing things, but as a young hungry fighter you want to get in there with everyone, but that's why you have a team. That's why you have people in your corner to advise you to do the right things because you could go head over heels.
How has your recent experience as a broadcaster with the PBC helped you prepare to enter back into the ring?
I love it because I get a full scope and view exactly of how judges are scoring cards. Me being the fighter looking on the outside in, it gives me a spectrum. Not only am I a commentator and giving analysis, I have to score some of the rounds. I put myself in the judges position and when I see fighters in the ring not throwing enough punches or not being aggressive enough, there are certain things that they do where I can put myself into that position and know I should be doing more. Or show a little bit more of this or be more aggressive. It gives me a wide spectrum of how I can view the fights and how I can look at things differently.
How important is it for you now, including the work you do as a broadcaster, to begin to open up opportunities for you beyond boxing once your career is over?
Absolutely it is. I consider myself a multi-talented type of guy and having advantages of broadcasting and building my portfolio and having all these different things on my resume when I retire from the sport of boxing, I can go onto different things. Broadcasting can be one of those things. The fact that I already have that on the resume is only benefiting me.
Your name gets lost in the mix at times when people talk about the top fighters in the division. Do you believe overall that you get the respect you deserve?
I'm not sure if I get enough, but that's not something that is really my main focus. Obviously I want the respect of the fans and to be considered the No. 1 middleweight. But that takes time and is not something that I can grab overnight. That's something that I have to continuously do over time and that comes with fighting bigger names. Once I have the opportunity to fight those guys, I'll be able to get there rightfully so. We already know the skills are there and know what my abilities are, but it's about putting those skills together against the best. I'm not really worried about it.
How would you grade your most recent performance in April when you scored a 12th-round TKO against Caleb Truax?
I'll probably say it's a B-plus or A-minus. I controlled the whole fight and pretty much won every round. But going into the fight I wanted to go 12 rounds. That was my initial plan for the fight. Stopping him obviously was the added bonus but I just wanted to get [rounds] in the bank. Looking back at the fight, I hurt him in certain rounds where I could have gotten him out of there. And looking at certain rounds, maybe my punch count could have been higher. But that comes with fighting and experience. The Caleb Truax performance, to me, was more of a B-plus because you can never really have an A-plus performance. You can always go back and say you should have done things differently.
You haven't had a fight go the distance since 2009 and have scored stoppages in your past 11 victories. How important is it for you to keep that streak alive?
I think it's something that just sort of happens. When we are in the gym and my team, and I come up with a game plan, it is never really to knock a guy out. It just happens that way because of the speed and combination punches that we have. It just sets up those knockouts. Then over the years I have come into my man strength. I feel a lot stronger when I am inside the ring. It's an added bonus for me not only to have the skills but to have that full power of a man. It's definitely a plus for me.
When Mora is at his best, he's not afraid to scrape and claw his way to victory while looking to take away your greatest strength. How much of a challenge is it to prepare for that style?
It's something that I'm excited bout. I'm always looking to get any type of experience I can from any type of fighter and with this guy there is a whole lot of lessons to be learned. To me, he is a defensive fighter first and he applies the offense later on. And that's kind of tricky for a fighter like myself. How do you prepare for a guy whose game plan is to be defensive and make you miss and to be sneaky and not be able to catch him? It's one of those things that you just have to adjust and go in there and figure it out. It's not like you can have a set game plan for this guy because he has so many tricks. But to my credit, I have a lot of amateur experience in which I fought guys fast and tricky, even in my sparring. Even as a professional I have fought numerous guys to be able to add up to the experience that I need to beat a guy like Sergio Mora. I'm looking forward to it. I don't think there's anything he can do to throw me off my game. He might make me miss a little bit more than normal but I don't think that will be enough to beat me.
Mora hung on to claim a split-decision win against late replacement Abie Han in February. What's your opinion about where his stock is after that fight?
About where his stock is, I can't really judge that. But I will say that it was a very close fight. I would have given it a draw in my personal opinion. Abie did enough to get the draw, if not the win. But Mora's resume speaks for itself. If they say you should judge a man by his last fight and you judge him by his last fight, he doesn't get a good grade. But nonetheless he's still a former world champion and a slick, trickster guy and any time you face a former world champion you need to be up for it. They are going to show a different type of effort and I'm looking forward to facing the best of Sergio Mora.
What would a victory over Mora do for your future?
It could only mean up from here. Obviously there's no going back from beating a guy like that. But in order for my stock to go where I want it to go from this fight, I need to stop Sergio Mora because that's something no one has ever done. He has never really gotten beaten up except for maybe against Vernon Forrest. But other than that, no one has really roughed this guy up. That's something that he can always say, that no one has really battered him. So me for to be able to go in there and stop him and look impressive doing it, that would raise my stock and allow me to catch some more eyes from the fans and place me that much closer to the top of the division.
You have been on such an inspirational journey since overcoming cancer. How have you seen your story touch others?
That part is remarkable, more so than my career, in how it has played out. I think just the lives of the people and the children and just families that I have been able to touch, not just here in America but throughout the world. I have so many people who contact me and tell me in what way I have been an inspiration and in what way I have affected them. For me, that's bigger than any championship because it's me having a second opportunity at life after beating the No. 1 deadly disease in the world. A lot of people are affected by it. It's just one of those heartwarming things and I feel like I'm doing something right and doing something to give back. It's a blessing, to be honest with you, how God has allowed me to give back.