It has been a long time since Daniel Jacobs boxed in the UK, but an ambition that was formed as a 17-year-old is being fulfilled on Saturday night when he boxes John Ryder at Alexandra Palace in London.
It was December 2004 when Jacobs came to the UK as part of a United States amateur team to face England. He boxed against Martin Murray, who went on to have quite a career himself, winning both bouts, the first at a dinner show in a Hilton on the Edgware Road in London and the second in at the Olympia, an old ballroom in Liverpool, on an event that received huge exposure as it featured Amir Khan’s first bout since picking up a silver medal at the Athens Olympics.
“That was a long time ago,” Jacobs said. “I was a baby.
“My ambition now is to accomplish the goal I always set for myself as a young professional. I remembered the experience as an amateur and I always said I wanted to headline a show, whether it is a title fight or not, here.
“If I win this, I go on to a title fight, so my decision to take this was based on the opportunity to fight in front of some Brits, some amazing fans and an amazing atmosphere.”
Jacobs turned 35 last week, the autumn years for any boxing career, let alone one that saw him boxing for a world title 12 years ago. It would be easy to suggest that the former WBA and IBF middleweight champion was on the downward slope, particularly taking account of his last fight, a split decision over Gabe Rosado after a performance that he admits was “lacklustre”.
But he is putting no deadline on the end of his career and says victory against Ryder, in a WBA super-middleweight title eliminator, would put him on the verge of some big fights again.
“It puts me right back in there for a title fight and to fight some of the best fighters in the 168 division – anyone with a belt,” Jacobs said. “It puts me right back to where I left off.
“Last time was not my best performance, but it wasn’t so much about my opponent as my mental state. Not being able to have my trainers that I grew up with, I wasn’t in the best place for the last couple of years, but we have settled our differences and got back together as one big happy family and I look forward to showing the world where I am at when I am in a good mental state.
“This isn’t an excuse for why I went out there and had a lacklustre performance, but the truth is, I just wasn’t in a good space in my life. Boxing is more mental than it is physical.”
While Canelo Alvarez is holding all the belts at super-middleweight now, there are some exciting matches that could be made for Jacobs, with Demetrius Andrade moving up from middleweight, David Morrell and maybe even a fight against the likes of Jermall Charlo in the future.
“It seems the shift has moved from 160 to 168,” he said. “I’m happy to make that process faster, being that this is my third fight at 168, so I am going to be a bit more acclimatised to this weight class.
“I am making weight easy, I’m stronger, there are no weight restrictions, so I am not going to be drained in the fight like I was in a lot of the title fights I had. So, there are no excuses this time and I am looking forward to capitalising on this opportunity.
“I’m not putting any time limit on my career. I am just taking it one step at a time.”
Promoter Eddie Hearn said taking the fight against a Londoner in London is a sign that Jacobs still has plenty of ambition.
“I would have said I am not sure [that he is still ambitious], but the fact that he is here says a lot,” Hearn said.
“He could have fought in America and he was quite surprised that our opportunities for him were ‘come to London and fight John Ryder’.
“It was a name that had been mentioned to him, but he would have probably thought it would be in Brooklyn. So, this feels a little bit like him saying ‘I’ll come and I show you’. He needs to make a statement. Because the Rosado fight – he got the win but behind closed doors it was just low energy.
“He will get a fight from John too. It was interesting that [Jacobs] said he doesn’t think the loser is done, because I do, and John does. John needs that mentality in this fight, because if he tries to box Daniel Jacobs, he will have absolutely no chance. He has to get up on his chest and work him.”
There is no prospect of Jacobs getting a rematch with Canelo any time soon, but Hearn feels the winner on Saturday will be looking at a fight for the WBA title against Morrell.
“Canelo won’t stay at 168 forever,” Hearn said. “For now, we have David Morrell Jr as the regular champion and Canelo as the super champion. At some point Canelo will move on – that is when the winner of this fight will be in a position to box Morrell to be super champion.”
Ron Lewis is a senior writer for BoxingScene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 - covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.