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Miracle Man: Middleweight Danny Jacobs outfought cancer

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)

By BARRY WILNER

AP Sports Writer

NEW YORK (AP) Danny Jacobs has already won a bout with cancer. So facing even as formidable an opponent as middleweight powerhouse Gennady Golovkin isn't frightening.

The WBA champion is a decided underdog for this weekend's unification fight at Madison Square Garden. Sure, he might have the more descriptive nickname, "Miracle Man," compared with Golovkin's "GGG," but Jacobs recognizes he doesn't have the resume or the reputation of the WBC, IBF and IBO titleholder.

What Jacobs has gained in experience outside the ring is a boost that can't be measured.

"I definitely think I am a more mentally strong fighter and I'm better all around," Jacobs says. "He's not cancer, not a life-threatening situation. This is a man coming to inflict pain on you.

"Where's it's helped is in my mental capacity. Having everything dealt me, I don't question myself. It's instilled in me, and I believe in myself."

Jacobs was on a USO visit to troops in Iraq six years ago when he began feeling pain in his legs. At first it was misdiagnosed before an examination showed bone cancer: a tumor on his spine.

At the time, he was 10-1 and just making his way through the boxing ranks. Suddenly, shockingly, he was wondering not if he'd return to the ring, but if he'd be able to walk normally; Jacobs says his legs were paralyzed for six weeks.

His fitness as a fighter helped get Jacobs through the grueling radiation treatments that followed a six-hour surgery. His hiatus lasted 19 months.

He hasn't lost a bout since, but Jacobs realizes something was lost during his recovery: time honing his craft.

"Had the cancer not happened, I'd have been fighting all these guys," he says, noting that many of Golovkin's opponents - the Kazakh is 36-0 with 33 knockouts, to Jacobs' 32-1 with 29 KOs - also could have been victories for him. "I took three years climbing up that ladder, so my situation is different. It doesn't take away what I bring to the table."

Of course, few if any fighters bring to the ring what GGG does. The last time he didn't stop an opponent was in 2008. That's right: 23 straight knockouts.

Golovkin says he brings a healthy admiration for Jacobs and what he has been through heading into Saturday night's HBO pay-per-view fight.

"Daniel was sick, but right now he is a great boxer," Golovkin says. "I have watched a couple of his fights and he looks good. He looks strong and he looks very focused. I think he is the best that I have been up against in my career.

"I respect him, too, he is a very good man."

Can Jacobs, a native of Brooklyn who won four Golden Gloves titles at the Garden and, in an interesting twist now represents the competing Barclays Center, be the better man against GGG? Can he be the Miracle Man?

"I understand my position in the game, in this fight," he says of his underdog status. "He's had a longer career, more belts, he's the champion. People haven't seen the best of Danny Jacobs yet. I'm looking forward to display my true skills against the best.

"I'm excited. I'm a fan of the sport and I like to see the best in the ring together. For me to be a part of it, I want to have a great legacy. This is not only a lifelong dream for me, but so many people out there doubted me. I have one night to show them all. This is that fight."

Updated March 14, 2017

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