Daniel Jacobs is climbing the ladder - the next rung is Walton on ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights
Story by William Wilczewski
Photo by Chris Cozzone
Most fighters wouldn’t want to be labeled a mama’s boy.
Many fighters, though, aren’t 16-0 with 14 of those wins coming by way of knockout.
Brownsville, N.Y.-native Daniel “The Golden Child” Jacobs is. And, it’s what his mother Yvette did for him as a child that gave him a shot at being boxing’s next great middleweight.
“Me being a mama’s boy kept me off the streets,” Jacobs said. “There was nothing else in Brownsville but violence and doing drugs, but I wasn’t into all that. I got into boxing and I stuck with it.”
Now, Jacobs’ star is on the rise, with the next stop being Tucson, Ariz.’s Desert Diamond Casino, where he is slated to face Harlem, N.Y.’s George “Blaze” Walton (20-3, 12 KOs) in the June 26 main event.
The fight will be televised as part of ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights — and, apparently, for Big Apple bragging rights.
“He called me out, so I jumped on it,” Jacobs said. “I just want to be number one, in New York, then the country, then the world.”
Lofty goals for most, but at age 22, Jacobs has already been on at least a half dozen world-caliber undercards, starting with his pro debut, a first-round TKO victory over Jose Jesus Hurtado prior to Floyd Mayweather Jr. beating Ricky Hatton on Dec. 8, 2007. Most recently, he warmed up the crowd with an eight round unanimous decision over Michael Walker before Manny Pacquiao stunned Ricky Hatton on May 2.
Jacobs took the Walker fight on short notice when James Kirkland was forced to bail out after being arrested and booked April 19 in his hometown of Austin, Texas, and charged with unlawful possession of a firearm.
Jacobs, a 6-foot-1 heavy-hitting right-hander who started training for this fight two weeks after the Walker bout, says his guns are natural.
“I have a lot of God-given,” he said. “Sometimes power just comes with the territory. Actually, it’s not always power because speed kills. If you hit somebody when they’re not expecting it, power comes with it.”
Jacobs plans to use that speed and power against Walton, a man 13 years his senior.
“It’s a young man’s sport,” he said. “I also think I have better boxing skills, so I have more advantages over him. All he has over me is experience.”
Jacobs also says he has a mental edge, claiming to have soundly beaten Walton in a New York sparring session within the last year.
“I can’t see him bringing anything new to the table,” said Jacobs. “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But, he may be thinking that it’s now or never. That’s okay, I’m always focused and I’m going to try my best not to let (an upset) happen.”
Walton, on the other hand, may need an upset to get his once-derailed career on the fast track.
After winning the 1996 N.Y. Golden Gloves championship, Walton turned pro the next year and, by 1999, found himself featured in the Academy Award-nominated documentary “On the Ropes,” which some say made him an overnight icon in the boxing community.
Despite the fame and recognition, Walton struggled to cope with the inherent politics of the sport and infamous greed from boxing managers and promoters, and went on hiatus on the heels of his unanimous decision loss to Fulgencio Zuniga on August 27, 2004.
Since his return in May of last year, Walton is 4-0, with his latest victory being against Jose Rodriguez on Jan. 23.
Fighting for the New York state middleweight title, the duo went the distance and left it up to the judges. Walton earned the win over his 29-year-old opponent, who, during the fight, is reported to have told Walton that he had seen his movie and was a fan.
If Jacobs gets past Walton, he has a chance to gain a few more fans of his own by stepping up to some higher-caliber opponents. There is word that Peter Manfredo Jr. — of 2005 “Contender” fame — may be in his future.
Even with that prospect, Jacobs is not taking anyone or anything for granted.
“With one shot, I know my career can be over,” he said. “Right now, I’m not even at the cusp of where I want to be … so, I’m just going to stay focused on who’s in front of me.”
Fighting as part of the June 26 co-main event is Guantanamo, Cuba’s Erislandy Lara (6-0, 4 KOs). Lara is a former amateur world champion and, prior to defecting from Cuba, was favored to take home the gold medal in the 2008 Olympics. Lara will take on Mississippi’s Willie Lee (16-5, 11 KOs).
Two heavyweight bouts are also scheduled for the evening, featuring the United States’ only boxing medalist in the 2008 Olympics, Deontay Wilder (5-0, 5 KOs), in a four-round fight. Also, Seth “Mayhem” Mitchell (11-0-1, 7 KOs), a former All-American linebacker at Michigan State, is scheduled for a six-rounder. Wilder is slated to face Kelsey Arnold (1-2-2) out of Lexington, Tenn., while Mitchell is pitted against Las Vegas, Nev.’s Alvaro Morales (3-5-5).
Returning to the Diamond Center is Jermell Charlo (7-0, 3 KOs) and Hylon Williams (9-0, 3 KOs), both fighting out of Houston, Texas. Charlo is featured in a junior middleweight fight against Hart, Mich.’s Federico Flores (6-2, 2 KOs). Williams is slated to face Khadaphi Proctor (4-3-1), out of Hesperia, Calif., in a junior lightweight bout.
Keith “One Time” Thurman (8-0, 8 KOs), of Clearwater, Fla., is also on the card in a six-round welterweight bout against a yet-to-be-named opponent. Thurman won six national championships as an amateur and captured the silver medal at the 2008 Olympic Trials.
Tucsonan Isaac Hidalgo (4-4, 1 KO) will be part of the action, too. He is set to take on Robert Guillen (4-2-2), fighting out of Glendale, Ariz. The two will compete in a six-round junior featherweight bout.
Tucson’s own Annette “Netta” Agredano (3-0) will be making her first appearance at the Diamond Center and rounds out the night’s card. A standout in the amateur ranks, Agredano is transitioning to be the Arizona’s first great female boxing sensation. Her opponent is Clara de la Torre (1-6-1, 1 KO).
Promoter Oscar De La Hoya of Golden Boy Promotions is expected to be on hand for the action.
Select fights are slated to air beginning at 10 p.m. EST.
Doors open at 6 p.m., with the first fight beginning at 6:30 p.m. Tickets range from $25 to $120 in advance and are on sale. They can be purchased at any Ticketmaster location, by calling 1-800-745-3000, by contacting the Desert Diamond Casino Box Office, or by visiting www.desertdiamondcasino.com.
Further information can be found at www.desertdiamondcasino.com or by calling 866-DDC-WINS.
The fight card is subject to change.
(Wilczewski is the assistant editor and former sports editor of the Nogales International in Nogales, Ariz.)