Glynn Evans explains why tonight’s ‘Winner Takes the Belt and Brooklyn’ bang –up at the Big Apple’s Barclay’s Center is such unmissable fare.
1. Marvel at Jacobs’ miraculous recovery from Cancer
Jacobs had lost just once in 23 – a July 2007 WBO challenge to Dmitry Pirog which took place between the death and funeral of the grandma who helped raise him – when the Grim Reaper came knocking in the spring of 2011.
Doctors identified a cancerous tumour wrapped around the 24 year old’s spinal chord, which caused paralysis to the legs. Jacobs was informed he’d never box again and might not live.
But he dealt the disease the most brutal knockout of his career. Within a fortnight of discharging from hospital, he was back training at the gym.
Six fights into a remarkable resurrection, he lifted the vacant WBA belt by starching Australia’s Jarrod Fletcher on home turf.
2. Revel at Quillin's rags to riches rise
Born into poverty in Chicago, his Cuban father Pedro was absent for much of his early childhood, incarcerated for money laundering.
Raised on the mean streets of Grand Rapids, Michigan, ‘Petey’ was bullied as a ‘scruff’ and claims to have been a victim of molestation but his freakish natural strength and athleticism – he can vault cars – saw him evolve into the neighbourhood ‘bad ass’.
He had no formal boxing experience when, aged 18, he migrated to NYC with just a fistful of dollars in his pocket and the dream of conquering the fight game between his ears.
He landed at Trinity Boxing Club in Lower Manhattan, where he learnt ring craft by day and slept on a mattress relieved from a dumpster by night. With just 15 amateur bouts on his ledger, he turned pro in June 2005 and overcame multiple hand surgeries to bag the WBO title. A documentary about his remarkable journey is presently being produced by Netflix.
3. Establish Brooklyn bragging rights
Saturday’s protagonists don’t just hail from the same city, they share the same borough.
‘Chocolate’ didn’t land in the Big Apple until he was 18 but 21 of his paid gigs have taken place in NYC where he is extremely popular.
Jacobs Brooklyn roots are far more entrenched. Born and bred in the Brownsville neighbourhood that spawned Mike Tyson and Riddick Bowe, he is a graduate of Erasmus High School whose alumni include entertainers Neil Diamond, Barbara Streisand and Mickey Spillane, chess Grand Master Bobby Fischer and a certain Bob Arum.
Jacobs was first taught how to hold his hands up at the borough’s Starrett City Gym, aged 14, and has remained there since. The four-time New York Golden Gloves champion has triumphed by stoppage within five rounds in each of his previous eight pro fights in NYC.
4. Hopefully, it’s a Quarter-Final to determine the finest Middleweight on this planet
There is cautious optimism that, by the end of 2016, the middleweight class – one of the eight traditional divisions – might boast an undisputed king.
Gennady Golovkin (WBA Super/IBF beltholder) and Canelo Alvarez (WBC czar) have already advanced following spectacular recent wins and Jacobs-Quillin acts as the third leg of a BoxNation screened quartet of 160lb superfights. Of course WBO champ Andy Lee’s defence with Billy Joe Saunders at Manchester Arena in a fortnight completes the set.
Take to your knees and pray that the four victors can be persuaded to do business with each other next spring, with the triumphant duking it out for all the marbles straight after.
Lee and Alvarez have both made public commitments that they’ll oblige ‘GGG’.
Hopefully tonight’s winner can also be persuaded to come to the party.
5. 'A Star' for atmosphere!
The fight shall be staged at the futuristic 18,000 capacity Barclays Center on Brooklyn’s Atlantic Avenue.
With New York fight fans notoriously among the most voluble, opinionated, cynical yet knowledgeable on the planet, expect the atmosphere to positively crackle.
Bookies are struggling to separate the duo and the congregation should be pretty evenly split with regard to where their loyalty lies.
And these class operators should provide plenty to roar about. Given 27 of Jacobs’ 30 victims failed to finish and Quillin has inflicted 34 knockdowns in 33 starts, it would be a huge surprise if both remain vertical throughout.
'We gonna melt some snow,’ quipped Quillin.
6. Embrace two wholesome role models
Boxing couldn’t ask for two better ambassadors to represent it than these bespectacled Brooklynites.
Formerly spar mates in their late teens, the pair share phone numbers, and never allowed the need to acquire a psychological edge to transgress the boundaries of decency.
Both are clean-cut, hard working, God fearing fathers. Quiet man Jacobs gives up his time to visit US troops over in Iraq and Kuwait while the more gregarious Quillin is renowned for tossing Hershey chocolates to ringside revellers rather than tossing insults at opponents.
In 2014, ‘Chocolate’ rejected a career high $1.4m purse to meet Matt Korobov – and surrendered his WBO belt – so he could spend more time with his new born son after his wife had previously miscarried.
Regardless of who triumphs once the dust settles, one senses boxing will ultimately be the real winner here.