There’s the hometown guy. And then there’s the hometown guy.
Danny Jacobs is from Brooklyn. He grew up in Brownsville. He’s a four-time NYC Golden Gloves champion. Now, as a top-level professional middleweight, he trains in a basement gym in Bed-Stuy. Danny Jacobs is from Brooklyn.
Peter Quillin lives in Brooklyn. He was born in Michigan and moved to Brooklyn as a teenager to make it in the fight world. Now he has a family here. But. But. But. Peter Quillin trains in Miami.
Danny Jacobs trains in a cramped basement on a Bed-Stuy street. Peter Quillin trains on the beautiful, sunny white sand beaches of Miami. Danny Jacobs spars and jumps rope and hits the speed bag and shadowboxes in a hot, single-ring space in a basement in Bed-Stuy. Peter Quillin trains in a nice, airy gym in Miami. Then he can go to the pool. Then he can go to the beach. Then he can walk down the sunny Miami promenade. Meanwhile, Danny Jacobs is in Brooklyn.
On Saturday night, Danny Jacobs and Peter Quillin fought in Brooklyn. They fought for the WBA middleweight championship of the world, but, more importantly, for the middleweight championship of Brooklyn. There was a rich undercard of New York fighters, which we will not discuss in detail except to point out that the New York guy won every fight. Danny Jacobs, who survived cancer and returned as a top contender and who is also an all-around nice guy, is a classic inspirational “good guy” figure. But Danny Jacobs was not the favorite in this fight. Peter Quillin, Kid Chocolate—the other Brooklyn guy, who always gives love to Brooklyn and who is loved in Brooklyn—was the favorite in this fight. Jacobs is a classic “boxer-puncher,” a term in boxing for a guy who has good technique but also has some power and an aggressive orientation, so that fans can expect that he is not some crude and artless slugger, but also can expect that he won’t just dance around all night. But Quillin has superlative power, dynamite power, power to the naked eye that would tend to make you think that Jacobs came into this fight in more danger. To win, Jacobs would have to work harder and more precisely and probably land more punches, whereas Quillin—a tall guy with long arms who looks to keep you on the end of his fist—would just have to land one good straight right to knock out Jacobs. It was, perhaps, a 60/40 edge for Kid Chocolate, on paper.
On Saturday night, though, it became clear that there was an additional factor in this fight. This was pitched as the Battle of Brooklyn. A battle between two Brooklyn guys, in Brooklyn. A battle in which the crowd would be evenly divided. In fact, that was not so. Peter Quillin entered the ring first, resplendent in a leopard-patterned robe trimmed with thick white fur, to the wheezing, synthy sounds of ecstasy-appropriate club music. He entered, in other words, in a very Miami fashion. Then he stood in his corner, alongside his few handlers. Then came the sound of drums. Not from the speakers in the arena, but from a drumline, a purple-decked marching band from Brownsville, which had materialized to play Danny Jacobs entrance music. Just the drums. War drums. Insistent. The crowd erupted. Danny Jacobs strode into the ring with an extremely serious grimace on his face. Gone for now was the nice guy. Here was the warrior. Quillin continued to stand in his corner, almost still, vaguely ridiculous, in his leopard robe, as Jacobs, in military camouflage, made his way in. Upon entering the ring Jacobs began sidling along its edges, as fighters tend to to do before fights. He sidled right up to where Quillin was standing, and pounded his gloves together, and gave Quillin an extremely serious look. It was not the sort of psych-out look that boxers often throw at each other in an attempt to “get in your head.” It was the look of a man who had just come to the decision that he was ready to murder someone—not a decision he takes lightly, but one that he feels is necessary. And Quillin stood in his corner, barely moving at all.
I usually disregard the pre-fight behavior of fighters, because it usually has little correlation to actual ring performance. Some guys look nervous and then fight well, others look very intimidating right up until the fight begins and then fight weakly. But in this case the contrast was too sharp to ignore. Kid Chocolate had flown in from Miami. Danny Jacobs had brought Brooklyn with him.
The fight began and then it was over. After a little bit of circling and tentative jabbing, Danny Jacobs used his left arm to sweep down Quillin’s own arms, then shot a huge right hand directly onto the side of Quillin’s head. He was very obviously hurt, dazed, dinged. He had lost the presence of mind to grab on and hold, which is the right thing to do in that situation, but also the opposite of instinct, which is to either swing back wildly or cover up and cower behind your own arms and try to recover your ability to think. Quillin covered up. Jacobs leapt onto him, flurrying punches as fast as he could throw them, chasing him around the ring. There was no attempt to stand back and be cerebral and read the opponent and calculate angles. It was all war. Eventually Jacobs caught him with one more full-power clubbing right hand to the temple. Quillin looked like a man who’d just felt his first shot of heroin. He went reeling off to the side. Jacobs, assuming Quillin was about to fall down, started striding to the opposite corner. Somehow Quillin kept his feet, though, his legs wobbling like bad holograms, a confused and pacified expression on his face, his hands down. When Jacobs saw he hadn’t fallen, he began to rush back over to club him again. The referee looked into Quillin’s eyes, and saw nothing, and stopped the fight. A minute and a half had passed in total. I thought that it was stopped too fast—that in a championship-level fight, after months of training and sweat and blood, a fighter should at least be afforded the chance to go down once and get back up. It is possible, though not likely, that Quillin could have fallen down with the next punch, cleared his head on the ground, survived the round, cleared his head more in the corner between rounds, and then carried on with the fight. We’ll never know. The two men will surely fight again. In Brooklyn. And Brooklyn will come out again. And there will not be a question over who the hometown hero is.
Kid Chocolate came to Brooklyn. But Danny Jacobs had never left.