For three months in 2008, Sergio Mora was known as more than just the winner of the first season of "The Contender" reality series. He was also known as a world titleholder, having upset the late Vernon Forrest by majority decision to win a junior middleweight belt.
But then came a contractually obligated immediate rematch almost three months to the day later and Mora, who perhaps had celebrated the huge victory a tad too much, was not in top condition and had to badly drain himself in order to make weight. The result was Forrest winning a convincing decision to take back the 154-pound belt in what turned out to be his last fight before his senseless murder less than a year later.
Seven years after that fight, Mora, who had his ups and downs since, was scheduled for another world title fight. He was set to challenge Jermain Taylor for his middleweight belt Feb. 6 on ESPN2, but Taylor's arrest forced the fight to be canceled. Mora fought late replacement Abraham "Abie" Han instead that night, was knocked down and eked out a split decision in an uneven performance.
Fast forward another five months and, Mora, 34, is getting that second title opportunity that he has wanted for so long when he challenges Daniel Jacobs for his secondary middleweight title on a Premier Boxing Champions card Saturday night (ESPN, 9 ET) at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, Jacobs' hometown.
"I'm thrilled about this opportunity," Mora said. "I've had huge letdowns before with world title shots falling through. Now that this is here, there is no way I'm going to let it pass me by. I'm happy to be here. I'm happy to be at Barclays and happy to be on PBC. I love being the underdog and I'm going to shock the world on Saturday night.
"The last time I fought for a world title was seven years ago and I was able to defeat Vernon Forrest as a 4-to-1 underdog. I think I'm going to be an underdog for this fight again, fighting the younger, stronger champion in his hometown. So defeating him is going to be tough with all the cards stacked against me and that's something that I've grown used to and accustomed to."
In the main event, a scheduled 12-round bout, junior welterweight world champion Danny Garcia (30-0, 17 KOs), 27, of Philadelphia, is moving up to welterweight and will take on Brooklyn's Paulie Malignaggi (33-6, 7 KOs), 34, a former welterweight and junior welterweight titleholder.
While Mora does not pack a big punch like Jacobs, he is an excellent technical boxer and vastly experienced compared to Jacobs.
Besides the two fights against Forrest, Mora (28-3-2, 9 KOs), of East Los Angeles, has faced fighters such as Shane Mosley, Ishe Smith, Bryan Vera (twice) and Peter Manfredo Jr. (twice).
Jacobs (29-1, 26 KOs), 28, who has also faced former junior middleweight titleholder Smith, has not faced nearly the level of pro competition as Mora, who plans to rely on that experience edge.
"I think [Jacobs] possess everything that I don't. But I have the experience," Mora said.
He thinks he takes a better shot than Jacobs, who was knocked out in his only loss in a vacant world title fight by Dmitry Pirog in 2010.
"I think I follow my game plan more than Danny," Mora said. "A lot of boxers, especially a lot of young athletic fighters, they go out of their game plan once they see that it's not working. As a veteran, I know that it's not working initially.
"There's a beginning, a midgame and an end game, kind of like in chess. But you just got to stick to what you practiced and don't go out of your element and normally things go well for me. Of course, I've changed some things in my strategy. I've changed some things in my arsenal and the way I see opponents and I go about it. But ultimately, it's still Sergio Mora -- still the guy that has that ability to upset a champion and that's who's going to be fighting."
Not only is Mora experienced, he's also a technical fighter with a hard style to look good against. Jacobs said he knows that and has prepared as best as he can for it.
"Sergio Mora is a slick fighter. He can slip punches well and he's defensive minded," Jacobs said. "He's a cagey fighter but he lacks power. He has a lot of defensive flaws and I just have to be patient and take advantage of them. We have a game plan in store, but in a pro fight anything can happen. You have to be able to adjust on the fly.
"This training camp has been a pleasure, hard work but a pleasure. It was difficult because Sergio is so hard to prepare for."
Jacobs, who not only survived a near-death experience with bone cancer but was able to resume his career in late 2012, won a vacant secondary belt (Gennady Golovkin holds the organization's top belt) by fifth-round knockout of Jarrod Fletcher last August in front of the hometown crowd at the Barclays Center. Jacobs also made his first defense in April, a 12th-round knockout of Caleb Truax in Chicago.
It would be quite a feather in Jacobs' cap if he could become the first fighter to knock out Mora, who is known for having a good chin.
"There's not a lot of fear as far as power is concerned but where he lacks that he makes up in his craftiness and his slickness and awkwardness," Jacobs said. "The test with Sergio Mora is whether he can be stopped or whether or not I can go the distance with him. He has never been stopped before, so it will be icing on the cake to be able to not only to defeat him but to stop him in the match.
"But he's a crafty veteran and if I can take a win over a guy like that, a win is a win to me. But at the end of the day, what the fans want to see is knockouts. What the fans want is spectacular fights. So my thing is if we could just produce a fantastic fight and a competitive fight, I'm content with that. A knockout is just icing on the cake."
Mora said that he would want to "knock someone out like me" because it "puts something on your resume that Vernon Forrest and 'Sugar' Shane Mosley, two [possible] Hall of Fame greats" didn't do.
Knockout or decision, Jacobs is aiming for a victory, which would likely propel him into a bigger fight this fall -- an all-New York showdown with former titlist "Kid Chocolate" Peter Quillin (31-0-1, 22 KOs), who also would have to take care of business in his own fight, which is scheduled for Sept. 6 against an opponent to be determined.
"With a win in this fight, I truly believe that the sky is the limit. There are a lot of big fights out there to be made in the division, but obviously, the main guy for me would be Peter Quillin," Jacobs said. "It is a fight that I have wanted for a long time, and it is a huge fight for boxing, but especially for New York.
"My legacy is in my own hands. Some of the biggest fights in the sport are in the middleweight division right now. At this particular point though, the Quillin fight is the most lucrative option for me. I am not looking past any man, especially not Sergio Mora, but that is a fight I want, the boxing world wants, New York wants and Barclays Center wants."
Mora, of course, hopes to upset those plans and win another belt after such a long wait for a second chance.
"There's nothing bad I can say about Daniel Jacobs, absolutely nothing. I look for something negative to say and I can't," Mora said. "The guy has overall talent. He's far younger, faster, stronger and hits harder than me and he has more momentum coming his way. He's on a nine-fight win streak and he beats me in that as well. I have a five-fight going for me.
"But the thing that I can say is that he hasn't faced opposition that I faced. I'm hungry for that world title and I know that I'm going to have to be extra sharp and do a lot more than just have a close victory in his hometown. So I'm going to have to press action and go out of my comfort zone, and I think he's going to have to go out of his comfort zone, which is going to make an interesting fight for everybody."