Daniel Jacobs went from paralyzed to boxing champion & he wants another fight

Daniel Jacobs spoke with FanSided MMA about his harrowing story of survival and his determination to become a boxing champion.
Daniel Jacobs
Daniel Jacobs / Alex Davidson/GettyImages

Boxer Daniel Jacobs has an unbelievable story. It takes an extraordinary person to live through what Jacobs did. And Daniel is an extraordinary person. In 2011 Jacobs was aboard on a USO tour when he started feeling ill, the trip was cut short and he returned home to deteriorate until he had no use of his legs.

"From the waist down, I was paralyzed," Jacobs told FanSided MMA's Amy Kaplan. "And so, there was one morning when I woke up, and I tried to get out of bed, and I completely collapsed. I heard a knock on the door; it was my godmother. I had to crawl to the door and open up the door so that she could assist me. She looked at me, and she was just completely distraught. She was crying. She said, 'We got to get you to the hospital.' As soon as I went to the hospital, they said, 'This is really bad.' They said, 'Actually, someone who came in the hospital a few months ago had your same condition and they didn't live to tell the story.'

Jacobs was diagnosed with an aggressive rare form of bone cancer and told if he managed to survive, he'd never fight again.

"They all sat me at a round table, and it was like a movie. I'm just... They rolled me in the wheelchair and said, 'Daniel, this is something serious we need to speak to you about. We don't think that you are ever going to be able to box again. You're going to have to look for a new path in life, and you're going to have to stay out of boxing gyms. You're going to have to alter your life in a way where it doesn't affect you because you had severe surgery to where anything can happen. You can be paralyzed for the rest of your life.' And so, when I heard those words, it was just devastating for me. I remember feeling... My heart dropped.

But if you know anything about Jacobs, he wasn't going to just give up. Jacobs defied the doctor and went back into the gym just days after his tumor was removed determined to choose his destiny and not let it be chosen for him.

Daniel Jacobs shares cancer story & hopes for the future

Daniel Jacobs
Daniel Jacobs /

Of course, my trainers and everybody knew the situation and the severity of things. They all called me crazy and tried to send me home," he said of his return to the gym. "But all I wanted to do was have two rounds on the bag where I could punch it light and gently just to see what I had.

And so, I kept showing up every day, every day. Two rounds turned into four rounds. And then, four rounds turned into six rounds. I remember gaining strength. I remember thinking to myself, 'This actually might be a possibility.' And so, for me, knowing that I had dreams that hadn't been fulfilled yet was the determining factor of what was going to motivate me. I wanted to be a champion. I was going to do it by any means, even if that was going against what the doctor said."

Unbelievably he not only fought again but Jacobs would go on to win and hold the WBA middleweight title from 2014 to 2017 and the IBF middleweight title from 2018 to 2019. He has fought the whos-who of boxing including Canelo Alvarez, Gennady Golovkin, and Julio César Chávez Jr. Of his 41 fights, he's lost just four and only been knocked out once.

Daniel Jacobs
Daniel Jacobs /

"I was able to take my career into my own hands. I was able to see exactly where I was and where I wanted to be and just do it in a fashion that was unprecedented," he said. "I was a cancer survivor who was paralyzed. I couldn't walk. I've gone through so many trials and errors to be able to get to that point. And so, yeah, I went on to become champion after a few fights after."

Jacobs hasn't fought since 2022 but hopes he can make a return for one more fight in his hometown before hanging up the gloves for good.

"We got robbed in my last fight," Jacobs said of his split decision loss to John Ryder in 2022. "I want to go out on my terms once again, and so this return means a lot to me because I really get to have a conclusion to my story but also to my career in a really defining way. I am really looking forward to being back and to hopefully, eventually, be in the Hall of Fame of boxing." At press time a fight has not been announced for Jacobs but he hopes to announce a match-up soon.