Pride vs. prize: The undervalue of Danny Jacobs
The month of October has been rather barren, as far as the sport of boxing is concerned. Yet with the gaping black hole of nothingness that is the 2016 presidential campaign sucking the lifeblood out of our daily consciousness until early November, it’s probably a blessing in disguise that the boxing schedule has been limited. However, there is one piece of boxing business to be sorted out this month, which has drawn considerable interest from those who follow the sport. The WBA-mandated middleweight bout between WBA “super champion” Gennady “GGG” Golovkin and WBA “regular” champion Daniel “Miracle Man” Jacobs is probably the best fight to be made in their division. As a true middleweight who seems to have grown into his once wiry frame, Jacobs just might possess the physical tools to make things interesting against the heavy-handed Golovkin. However, questions remain about Jacobs’ chin, questions Golovkin would surely seek to answer, should the two ever meet. With Jacobs hailing from Brooklyn, New York, and Golovkin a proven ticket seller at New York City’s Madison Square Garden, a properly promoted Manhattan showdown between the two would be sure to do brisk business. In other words, the fight makes too much sense not to happen. Yet, as of this writing, a deal between Golovkin’s camp and Jacobs’ camp seems far from sight.
Though this writing might seem to steer toward Golovkin-Jacobs not happening, it does not. I hope the fight does happen. In fact, I hope by the time this writing is published, I’ll be able to book my flight to New York for the weekend of Dec. 10 (the proposed date for a Golovkin-Jacobs bout). (Editor’s note: It looks like we might just have to wait a speck longer, as Jacobs’ camp feels he might not have enough time to train properly for Golovkin.) The important issue regarding this bout will exist whether it gets made or not. It seems the main sticking point, in regard to the negotiations between the two camps, is Jacobs’ side wants more money. This is all well and good, of course; this is what negotiations are all about. From what I have seen, if the sides can’t reach an agreement and the fight goes to a purse bid, the split of the pot would be 75/25 in Golovkin’s favor. Reports have said that Jacobs wanted this changed to 60/40, still in Golovkin’s favor. On paper, this is reasonable. An argument can be made that Golovkin (yearning for big fights and credible opponents) should just give Jacobs what he wants and avoid a purse bid altogether. One can argue this, network affiliations and other deal particulars from here to eternity but there is one major issue I believe undercuts the foundation for any proposed deal: The manner in which Daniel Jacobs’ career has been executed, leading to this moment, has left him an undervalued commodity.
It can be a bitter pill to swallow when an individual knows he or she is worth more than what he or she is being offered. Potential and talent can often open doors but results are what pay the bills. Jacobs seems to believe he should be compensated for his potential and talent, rather than the results of his career, to this point. In a September interview with Keith Idec, posted on BoxingScene.com, Jacobs said the following:
“I don’t know what else I can do. When you think about a guy who has the potential to do all these things. I think to myself, ‘What am I not bringing to the table, not being able to sell out arenas?’ It’s frustrating because I wasn’t even able to sell out the Barclays Center when I fought Peter Quillin. Two black fighters from Brooklyn. It had the recipe for a sell-out crowd and it wasn’t sold out.’
Jacobs would go on to say:
“It’s very frustrating as a Black American fighter to not get the support of the Nation behind me. It’s always been hard for black fighters. It’s very frustrating because I have an amazing story. I’m very well-spoken. I’m a philanthropist. I have all the ingredients of a superstar, yet all the backing is not following through. Now I’m not complaining. I’m voicing my opinion. And I just know I have a lot more work to do.”
Now other than the high opinion Jacobs has of himself, notice what he talks about: Potential. He can’t really talk about the results of his actual career, because there isn’t much to talk about. Jacobs has fought once in 2016 after fighting three times in 2015. His last bout was a rematch nobody cared about, against an opponent nobody cared about, in a place few care about (Reading, Pennsylvania). Now I don’t mean to demean Reading but I think you get my point. Jacobs’ list of opponents, former WBO middleweight champion Peter Quillin, notwithstanding, is not exactly one you look at with awe and admiration. So one has to wonder: Why has Jacobs been unable to secure notable (and/or quality) middleweight opponents over the last few years of his career? In an August 2016 YouTube video, posted by Tha Boxing Voice, Jacobs addressed his lack of options:
“We don’t have Gabe (Rosado) as an option. We don’t have all those other guys (assuming Jacobs meant middleweights like Curtis Stevens, David Lemieux, etc.) as options. We have very few, short options.”
Why doesn’t Daniel Jacobs have the same options as other fighters? Why doesn’t Daniel Jacobs fight frequently enough to build a following? Jacobs insinuated in the BoxingScene interview with Idec that being an African American had something to do with his current plight. Last I checked, the person who ran Jacobs’ career wasn’t Top Rank Promotions’ Bob Arum, Main Events’ Kathy Duva, Golden Boy Promotions’ Oscar De La Hoya or DiBella Entertainment’s Lou DiBella. Last I checked, the man who ran his career was Al Haymon, who is African American. And if you don’t believe Al Haymon has his hand on the steering wheel, when it comes to Jacobs’ career, this is what Jacobs told Fight Hub TV in a video posted in September of 2016 (which seemed to be right after Jacobs’ rematch with Sergio Mora in Reading.):
“We have a date in December with the Barclays Center. We’ll see what Al has in store.”
We have all seen what Al has had in store for boxing. Bloated paydays detached from accomplishment or true value. Inactivity abounds among his vast stable of fighters. Potential wasted and skills eroded. Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions is at the center of the stagnation taking place in U.S. boxing and Daniel Jacobs is its product. “The Haymon Effect” was something I, and others much more knowledgeable than me, wrote about a long time ago and it’s hard to argue that it has not come to pass.
One of the aspects of ‘The Haymon Effect’ is a certain kind of disconnect that manifests in the minds of some of Haymon’s fighters. Daniel Jacobs is an example of this. I have no doubt Jacobs wants to be great. I have no doubt Jacobs wants to be a superstar and go to the Hall of Fame. And I have no doubt Jacobs wants as much money as he can earn. Yet I also have no doubt that Jacobs cannot reconcile his bank account and his aspirations. The road paved with gold doesn’t always lead to a place of fulfillment but, unlike many Haymon fighters, circumstances have aligned to provide Jacobs with a chance at gold and fulfillment. All he has to do is beat Gennady Golovkin.
Here is what Jacobs said to Mitch Abramson in a June online piece for RingTV.com:
“We have everything to beat GGG. We’re well equipped to be faster. We’re well equipped to stand our ground and put power behind our shots. He’s not the only one with a high knockout ratio. My whole thing is, when the opportunity comes, they’re going to see why I feel like I am the best middleweight in the world. But I know I have to go through the process of being the man before I call myself the man.
“I would love to fight GGG but I just want people to understand my perspective and respect it and not look at it like, ‘Oh, he’s just trying to avoid GGG’ and stuff like that. No, I want to fight him. This is something for my legacy. I can’t retire and not say I fought the best in my generation – at least try.”
Jacobs would add:
“I’m not going to fight a guy like GGG and make the same amount of money for fighting a Peter Quillin. It doesn’t make sense. I’m not going to have people force me, meaning those Twitter thugs or anybody else force me to fight somebody when I can make so much more (money). So am I wrong to want these things to get as much as I can possible from a fight that is at the top-notch level? Hate me if you want but that’s what it is.”
Those three paragraphs illustrate the conflict “The Haymon Effect” creates within a fighter. Legacy and greatness on one hand and riches on the other. The “Twitter thugs” (beware of them) have nothing to do with this conflict. This kind of notion has to do with the one person making the decision regarding which road to take. Jacobs seems to have entered the Golovkin negotiations as if his career had yielded the results he wishes it had, rather than the results it’s actually produced. Whatever you think of Golovkin’s career, his team has built him into a bona fide star and attraction. In the Idec piece, Jacobs commented that he was “well-spoken,” as if that’s a reason he should be a boxing hero. Gennady Golovkin isn’t exactly fluent in English (I believe it’s his fourth language), yet it seems to matter little when it comes to selling tickets. At the end of the day, it’s not about how well you speak, how you look, your personal story, or how many charity events you attend. All that matters is you fight often, fight well and knock people out. The rest will take care of itself.
I take Daniel Jacobs at his word that he believes he “has everything to beat a guy like GGG.” I take him at his word that “This is something for (his) legacy.” Yet, as he told Tha Boxing Voice in that August video, the fight game is “prize-fighting” not “pride-fighting.” Well, legacy and pride go hand in hand; greatness and pride go hand in hand and honor and pride go hand in hand. Now we all know the fighters risk their lives in the ring. So far, be it from me or any other Twitter thug to demand a fighter fight for change on the dollar but if Jacobs wants what he says he deserves, he might just have to swallow a little pride in order to grab the grand prize he’s been after. Beating Golovkin in Madison Square Garden and taking all his belts (the IBF, IBO, “Super” WBA and WBC middleweight titles) back to Brooklyn would put Jacobs in the position for which he’s been longing. Defending those titles frequently at the Barclays Center would fill his bank account, as well as chart a path to greatness. It’s all there for the taking, if only Jacobs would allow himself to see it.
You can follow The President on Twitter @PrezAVK.