Daniel Jacobs walked around Barclays Center on Saturday night with a belt around his waist and a smile. The fact that he was walking at all told most of the story.
Jacobs, who was raised in Brownsville, Brooklyn, found himself fighting the battle of his life in 2011. After Jacobs became ill on a USO tour in Iraq in March, doctors discovered that he had osteosarcoma -- a rare form of bone cancer that wrapped a tumor around his spine. The tumor caused part of his spine to break, which left Jacobs partially paralyzed below the waist.
That May, Jacobs underwent a six-hour surgery to remove the tumor. He was told by doctors that he might never walk again, let alone box. But he fought his way back through a grueling rehab and 25 counts of radiation, finally stepping back in the ring in October 2012.
On Saturday night, another exclamation point was added to Jacobs' remarkable story. He won the vacant WBA middleweight world title, knocking Australia's Jarrod Fletcher (18-2, 10 KOs) to the canvas 2 minutes and 58 seconds into the fifth round and earning a technical knockout. The win made Jacobs the first cancer survivor to win a world title, fight representatives said.
"That means everything to me," Jacobs said of the distinction. "This is a rough sport, where you could die inside the ring. I feel like I've inspired so many people that no matter what you go through, whether it's cancer, being paralyzed, no matter what it is, you are in control of your destiny."
Jacobs has knocked out all six opponents he's faced since returning to the ring.
Jacobs (28-1, 25 KOs) dominated the fight from the opening bell. He sent Fletcher back to his corner early in the first round and had him stumbling around, furiously looking for footing for the rest of the opening frame.
Jacobs said he didn't think a left hook, thrown midway through the first, was going to affect Fletcher as much as it did.
"I thought he was going to weather the storm," Jacobs said. "I didn't want to go too crazy. I knew my fans were here. Sometimes they can have an effect on you, making you want to knock somebody out early and then get tired."
The fight evened up in the second, with Fletcher holding his ground, a complete change from the deer in the headlights look he exhibited in Round 1.
Jacobs sent Fletcher stumbling again in the third, but the Australian quickly regained his footing, even making Jacobs miss a punch later in the round by quickly stepping to the side.
Jacobs landed 40 percent of his 294 punches thrown, 20 percent of his 130 jabs and 55 percent of his 164 power punches.