At one point not long ago, Danny Jacobs couldn't walk. A tumor had wrapped itself around his spine, leaving him paralyzed. Once considered a top prospect at Golden Boy -- he was called the "Golden Child" -- Jacobs' boxing career was over, even after he'd beaten cancer. Or at least that's what he was told by doctors.
"Eventually, they told me that I would never be able to box again. I remember feeling lost. I remember closing my eyes, and just -- it was so horrible," Jacobs told Showtime Sports this year.
But he did come back. He got into the gym, where he was optimistic but outside doubts still lingered about anyone's ability to return to a demanding professional sport after going through what Jacobs had gone through.
"He was completely paralyzed. He was not on the ropes. He was not knocked down. He was knocked out. To not give up is incredible," said promoter Oscar De La Hoya.
Jacobs came back on October 20, beating Josh Luteran at Golden Boy's first card at the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the fighter's hometown. A little over a month later, he dominated a game Chris Fitzpatrick at Madison Square Garden.
Danny Jacobs' return to boxing is such an overwhelming story that the fact he didn't face major opponents in his two return bouts doesn't much matter, I think -- "Comeback" awards are a wild card in general, in any sport, because of the various ways an athlete can stage a comeback. But something like this is incredibly rare. If Robert Guerrero had come back to beat Floyd Mayweather this year, I think I would have voted for him. Since nobody did anything like that, it's Jacobs' award for me.
Guerrero did come in second on my ballot for quality wins over Selcuk Aydin and Andre Berto, jumping two weight classes after a year and change away from the ring due to injury. Third place went to Paulie Malignaggi. I admit it, I had left him for dead. No way he'd really compete at 147, I thought. Well, here he is still, being Paulie all the way into 2013 as the WBA champion.
I didn't rank anyone else besides Danny Jacobs. Yes, there were other fighters that battled back from adversity, but their troubles paled in comparison to what Jacobs was faced with. He battled back from a debilitating life threatening condition and is an easy choice for this award.
Voting for Comeback Fighter of the Year is pretty convoluted. Some fighters come back from devastating losses; some fighters come back from injuries. Some fighters from back from alcohol/drug addictions; some fighters come back from diseases.
Differentiating between which injuries, losses, or drugs were bigger obstacles to overcome is a task in itself. But then you have to assess how well the fighter came back and put it into perspective with who they came back against. Danny Jacobs beating cancer is the single greatest feat of all the fighters in the running for this award, but he didn't take any fights people thought he had a chance of losing. Kelly Pavlik came back from alcoholism following a loss to Sergio Martinez and a questionable win over Alfonso Lopez. People still expected Pavlik to beat Will Rosinsky, but Rosinsky at least went in with a prayer.
And then there's Arthur Abraham. He lost his last 3 fights to world class opponents but at best was merely over coming depression after once being favored to win the entire Super Six tournament. Most people thought Abraham was done as a top fighter. Many still do. Nonetheless Abraham managed to become a 2 time world champion in as many weight classes. Robert Stieglitz is no Carl Froch, but was good enough to split predictions as to who would win. So do you vote for the guy who came back from the most difficult situation (Jacobs), the guy who went on to secure the most impressive wins (Abraham), or the guy in the middle of the road in both departments (Pavlik)? To be perfectly honest I have no real preference.