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Don't tell Daniel Jacobs he's an underdog

NEW YORK -- The way Daniel Jacobs sees things, it's all so clear: If he was able to survive cancer that left him on the brink of death and resume his boxing career, at an elite level to boot, when his doctors told him it was unlikely, how dare anyone tell him he can't defeat Gennady Golovkin.

Yes, Jacobs, who won a secondary middleweight world title after his return from cancer, will be the underdog when he challenges GGG, boxing's resident wrecking machine, for his three major belts on Saturday (HBO PPV, 9 p.m. ET) in a summit meeting of the world's best 160-pounders at Madison Square Garden.

But Jacobs will tell all who will listen: Count him out at your own peril. His view is that he has already won the biggest fight of his life. Golovkin? He's not nearly as tough.

"He's not cancer. This is not a life-threatening situation," the mild-mannered Jacobs told boxing reporters earlier this week at the final news conference. "This is a man coming to inflict some harm to me. Where the cancer and going through all my ordeals helped was strengthening my mental capacity."

Jacobs (32-1, 29 KOs), the mandatory challenger, is not about to be intimidated by a mere man, even if Kazakhstan's Golovkin (36-0, 33 KOs), 34, is riding a streak of 23 consecutive knockouts, including stoppage victories in all 17 of his title defenses.

"I was 15 years old when I first came to Madison Square Garden to watch the Golden Gloves, so to have an opportunity like this and fight at the 'Mecca of Boxing' again for the biggest opportunity that I could possibly have -- I feel very grateful," said Jacobs, who has an impressive 12-fight knockout streak of his own going since his lone defeat, a fifth-round knockout to Dmitry Pirog for a vacant world title in 2010. "This is a great opportunity for me.

"I would never have thought five years ago through a whole bunch of craziness that I went through that I would be fighting for the unified middleweight championship. I wouldn't want to have it any other way, the biggest challenge on the biggest stage. I'm so focused; I'm so ready.

"I have the utmost respect for Gennady and his team. We're two ambassadors for the sport, and I'm honored to share the ring with him."

Golovkin and Jacobs have been extremely respectful toward each other during the leadup to the fight. They seem to like each other, and it's clear Golovkin admires Jacobs for what he has overcome.

"Daniel was sick, but right now he is a great boxer," Golovkin said. "I have watched a couple of his fights, and he looks good. He looks strong, and he looks very focused. I think he is the best that I have been up against in my career.

"I'm very excited to fight Daniel Jacobs. He is world-class and will be a big test for me. He's a great fighter and brings many new challenges to me. It's a very interesting fight for me and my team."

Jacobs began having trouble walking in early 2011 and had unexplained numbness in his legs. Then, in May of that year, he finally found out why. He had osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, and a tumor wrapped around his spine that led to partial paralysis. There was a good chance he was going to die.

"I would never have thought five years ago through a whole bunch of craziness that I went through that I would be fighting for the unified middleweight championship. I wouldn't want to have it any other way, the biggest challenge on the biggest stage. I'm so focused; I'm so ready." Daniel Jacobs

Jacobs is a fighter at heart, and a return to boxing was one of the things that served as motivation during his darkest hours. Seventeen months later, in October 2012 on the inaugural card at Barclays Center in his hometown of Brooklyn, Jacobs, still with the long zipper-like scar on his back from surgery to remove the tumor, made a triumphant return to the ring. A few months later, he was pronounced cancer-free.

In 2014, Jacobs won a secondary title, which he has defended four times, including a sensational 85-second knockout of former titleholder Peter Quillin in December 2015.

Now Jacobs, 30, who adopted the nickname "Miracle Man" following his cancer recovery, will square off with Golovkin for middleweight supremacy just shy of six years since he thought he might die from the disease.

Jacobs knows what a win would mean. It would take his career to another level, but it wouldn't be as big as the KO of cancer.

"Simply put, it will be icing on the cake," Jacobs said. "It would be the pinnacle of this crazy life and career that I have -- the ups and downs -- going through all the things that I've been through. It would make everything sweet. It has been my goal to become undisputed champion and to be considered the best champion, so this would definitely represent that."

Even if the oddsmakers are not confident in a Jacobs win, he sure is -- though he is that rare fighter who admits to nervousness.

"I am feeling a lot of anxiety at this point," he said. "Getting close to the fight, nerves are flaring up, and I want to be able to go and tackle greatness. I want to go into Madison Square Garden and see my family and see my friends and see everybody there for me, and I'm really just waiting for that moment. I am ready for my fans to be in my corner for the opening round and everyone standing up and cheering, and when that first bell rings, just going at it. It's a big opportunity for me, and I'm looking forward to it."

He believes when it's over, he will be the one with his hand raised and the one to end GGG's rampage through the middleweight division.

"That's the plan. We have 100 percent belief in our ability, and the plan is to go in there and do whatever it takes to win," Jacobs said. "I know what I am capable of. I know what I'm good at. And it's all about putting it in sync on fight night."

Besides his boxing career, Jacobs is also involved in his charitable foundation that helps kids with cancer and obesity. He knows that his accomplishments in the ring give him a broad platform to bring attention to those issues, and he has the ability to continue inspiring people with the way he overcame cancer.

He said he has people, old and young, who want to talk to him and tell him their stories because they admire his.

"Daniel was sick, but right now he is a great boxerI have watched a couple of his fights, and he looks good. He looks strong, and he looks very focused. I think he is the best that I have been up against in my career." Gennady Golovkin

"It's an amazing feeling," he said. "My grandmother always told me, 'Make sure you represent yourself when you go out into the streets for not only you but for your family.' That always kind of stuck in the back of my head. And I am a dad, and when it's all said and done, my son can say, 'My dad was a great role model, and I can follow after who he was and all the things that he instilled in me.'

"This is really what I am doing this for, that I can be the best possible role model. Even my foundation, which a lot of people have shown interest in -- seeing what I do with the kids with cancer, kids with obesity -- it's really an amazing feeling to be able to give back. It's the greatest feeling that you can have."

Jacobs said he aims to carry himself with class and said he wanted to do it the way one of his favorite New York athletes, Yankees great Derek Jeter, always did.

"Jeter was the man in New York City," Jacobs said. "He was a great sportsman and athlete, and everything he did was just gold. I've always thought that one day I am going to be the 'King of New York' -- walk around and people scream my name, and I am going to be just like Derek Jeter. This will be my opportunity to be that guy, not only in New York City but in the world.

"I have an amazing story. A lot of people can relate to my story, my trials and tribulations, and I'm just looking forward to being the best athlete that I can be and being a voice for the people and be a good role model. That is really my agenda. I don't want to be in (boxing) for too long, but at the end of the day I just want to accomplish my goals and be the best person that I can be."