It was a feeling Daniel Jacobs had never experienced inside a boxing ring prior to the night of his fight with Gabe Rosado two years ago.
For the first time, Jacobs didn’t have that same fire burning within him that enabled the former IBF middleweight champion to fight his way out of poverty and later through cancer, or to withstand the power of Gennadiy Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez. He was just kind of there that fateful night in November 2020 at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.
Gabe Rosado, a determined rival who has always been better than the 14 losses on his record would indicate, wasn’t at his best, either. Philadelphia’s Rosado still made Jacobs look ordinary that night and, even worse, apathetic.
Jacobs won their utterly forgettable 12-round, 168-pound bout by split decision, but he lost in what Jacobs called boxing’s “cruel” court of public opinion.
“Boxing is definitely a mental game,” Jacobs told BoxingScene.com in advance of his 12-round super middleweight match against John Ryder on Saturday night in London. “And if your mental is distracted or if it’s somewhere else, and you can’t be a hundred-percent happy and focused and into the vibe where it breeds the best type of performance and internal happiness, for me it was just going through the motions. Never in my life have I been in a fight where I was going through the motions, and I even felt that. I think I was more concerned with after the fight than the actual fight itself.”
Most credible sportsbooks list Jacobs (37-3, 30 KOs) as only a slight favorite to defeat London’s Ryder (30-5, 17 KOs) in the main event of DAZN’s stream from Alexandra Palace, better known as “Ally Pally,” in London (7 p.m. GMT; 2 p.m. ET). In Ryder, the taller, rangier Jacobs will encounter a smart, stout southpaw who truly tested then-unbeaten WBA super middleweight champ Callum Smith (28-1, 20 KOs) on his way to losing a unanimous decision in November 2019 at Echo Arena in Liverpool, Smith’s hometown.
Jacobs, a Brooklyn native who now resides in suburban Atlanta, felt refreshed while training for this fight on Long Island. He reunited with longtime chief second Andre Rozier and the rest of the training team that helped propel him to great heights during his physical prime.
“With this particular fight coming up, I’m excited because now I get to be happy again,” Jacobs said. “Now I get to do things and not feel like it’s a job. I got my team back, I got all the key factors which [bred] happiness inside my training camp, which will, you know, allow me to have a successful performance inside the ring.”
The 35-year-old Jacobs realizes, though, that he must show fans, media and maybe even himself that the version of him that fought Golovkin and Alvarez is alive and well.
“I’m just gonna have to show you,” Jacobs said. “I’m done with talking because we talk all day. But the real proof is in the pudding, and so February 12th is when I have an opportunity to try to show you, rather than try to convince you. And so, that’s what I’m up for right now, ultimately proving to myself that I know that all of that still exists.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.