Going Inward: Daniel Jacobs’ silent fight against Golovkin

Daniel Jacobs stood in the back of Virgil Hunter’s grey tinted gym in Hayward, CA stoically as he entered promptly for his media day at 1PM. Jacobs who wore clothing that mirrored the color temperature of the room was present, but his emotion was ambiguous. Some observed stress and fatigue others saw a man that was focused, but nearly all saw someone who wasn’t all that thrilled to put on a show for the credentialed media.

 For the later, I understand. Jacobs has had boxing writers and fans unfairly says he is scared of Gennady “GGG” Golovkin, the perennial best middleweight in the world for months on end even attacking him via social media or tacky one-on-one interviews when confronted at fights.

Jacobs on the other hand didn’t want to be all of Golovkin’s other opponents, that is underpaid. The last sixth months saw a public tug-of-war to get the now scheduled HBO Pay-Per-View bout to be set in stone as boxing writers, somewhat unprofessionally threw Jacobs under the bus to build up Golovkin.

For those who are unfamiliar with Gennady Golovkin, he is a jovial knockout artist from Kazakhstan that HBO has fallen in love with over the past four years. He does great traffic as well on websites meaning that any story written about him will be monetized more then other fighters. This has created a group of highly touted boxing writers, who defend Golovkin’s action based off closeness to proximity to him (proximity) as well as great access and value to their own pocket.

In the context of this and the major media coverage around Golovkin has seen Jacobs largely left in the background despite the pay-per-view platform.

Jacobs media day was tense.

It felt as though the errors of those in the media that have mocked Jacobs, the one’s who won’t speak to Jacobs once prior to the bout, had turned Jacobs on most media as a whole. Answers were prompt and quick, only one member of the media was acknowledge as being unbiased by Jacobs and the general feeling I got was Jacobs was not in the least bit enjoying working out for the media.

The sad part to me is that Jacobs is such an interesting person in the sport of boxing. Merely five years ago, Jacobs was fighting for his life in a battle with cancer that nearly crippled him and made any form of a return seem like a pipe dream. His trainer, Andre Rozier, noted that since his return in 2013 to the sport of boxing, Jacobs is much more focused. 

It seems odd that Jacobs became a world champion after battling a serious illness and still it feels like some fans want to discredit him or even worse want him to be what they thought he’d be, so he never seemingly gets the credit that he deserves. Even more offensive, some even belittle Jacobs’ story of being a cancer survivor by saying it is a ploy for attention as it doesn’t consider the pain and suffering he went through.

Jacobs has been dropped twice in his career, which where most pundits critically point to in regards to Jacobs in this fight. Once to Dmitry Pirog, a world class fighter, who retired undefeated in 2012 and once to Sergio Mora in an action packed fight recently. The layman might see this and think that Golovkin’s power might be too much, but the adage of match-ups making fight could not be more true as Jacobs is both bigger and faster than Golovkin.

I think part of the reason I am so sympathetic to Jacobs as well is because I question whether Golovkin is one of the greatest ever which makes his fans angry. When my grandfather died, I had various fans of Golovkin storming through my social media accounts to make fun of my loss, simply because I have had criticisms of their favorite fighter. Prior to this I had received crank calls mocking and even wishing harm on me, I include this since Jacobs has had to deal with this for a year straight, the foolishness not from Golovkin, but his fans and pro-Golovkin media attacking his character and those that do not follow their agenda.

Jacobs did a total of three rounds of shadow boxing and mitt work in total for his work to the media. When he began changing angles on his jab to set-up what looked like a right hand with his speed picking up, Jacobs looked at his longtime coach and told him not to show the media the good stuff. It was painfully obvious that Jacobs was giving us the bare minimum and that in part might have been, because it felt to him the media had given him the bare minimum.

Jacobs indifference speaks to a bigger problem in boxing media as a whole. Last week I covered a mixed martial arts fight and the one thing I noticed was money. Most reporters had access to $7,000 cameras, beautiful website and corporate backing. The major media outlets in boxing that should be trendsetters and help build up the market to monetize boxing journalism provide very little and hardly, if ever innovate. Boxing blogs tend to look like a generic word document with maybe a photograph sprinkled in with no aesthetics added for the experience.

This has also led to a lot of the boxing world going to YouTube, a platform that in the beginning is easier to monetize since they find the ads for your videos. The majority of the boxing world right now goes to events hoping to get two to three videos that hit the 60,000 view mark that will pay for their trip and then try again.

Long form journalism isn’t quite dead, but it is being relegated to personal blogs or bought in rare instances around a fight of major interest. The point I am making is that the way boxing is consumed to a die-hard fan is things such as fight picks (which is nothing more then guessing), Instagram posts and opinion pieces that echo a safe and silent opinions on a given fight.

Jacobs, nicknamed “The Miracle Man”, would be the perfect story or character to follow in the build-up to a fight against on of the biggest names in boxing yet sadly the structure of boxing as a whole right now makes it so Jacobs is viewed as nothing more then a mere stepping stone. 

So as I sat in the extremely private Virgil Hunter Gym, one which I have rarely been allowed to enter, I looked around as I saw most of the media not even talking with Jacobs for the most part as people seemed in awe of the other famous fighters in the gym. Andre Berto, Peter Quillin, Andrzej Fonfara all worked out around Jacobs who spent less then two hours in the gym as many media members stayed in the gym after Jacobs’ departure.

It was strange as no noticeable signage hung in the gym, Virgil Hunter even explained that he was only offering advice when they asked and that Jacobs was just using the gym. It felt as though Jacobs had taken away all enjoyable elements of this fight, the media, publicity, the lead-up shows, etc, just for this moment to be his defining one.

Normally I leave a media day with some idea of how things will play out or at least to a degree. After watching Jacobs, I truly have no clue of what to expect other than I know he is not intimidated or afraid of Golovkin.

Jacobs in the lead-up to this fight has been anonymous with little to no coverage. Even at his media day, you could potentially have missed him if you were not astute at you were doing. The only thing I can truly say is Jacobs is not trying to be in the spotlight for this bout one bit.

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Lukie Ketelle

Lukie Ketelle