Daniel Jacobs was deep into his training for a middleweight title elimination fight with Maciej Sulecki when Canelo Alvarez failed two drug tests and was forced to withdraw from his highly anticipated HBO PPV rematch with unified middleweight world champion Gennady Golovkin, which was scheduled for May 5.
Jacobs, then a secondary middleweight titleholder, had lost a very close unanimous decision to Golovkin in March 2017 in a mandatory fight and pined for a rematch. One of the reasons Jacobs left the stable of adviser Al Haymon to sign with Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn and HBO was because of how it would ease the ability to make a rematch with Golovkin or even get a fight with Alvarez.
So while Golovkin and Alvarez were due to fight again on May 5, Jacobs signed to face Polish contender Sulecki in a fight scheduled for Saturday (HBO, 10 p.m. ET/PT) at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, Jacobs' hometown.
But when Alvarez was forced out of the May 5 rematch with Golovkin, and subsequently suspended for six months by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, Golovkin, who insisted on still fighting on May 5, needed a new opponent.
While Golovkin (37-0-1, 33 KOs) eventually settled on facing Vanes Martirosyan (36-3, 21 KOs), the prospect of breaking up Jacobs-Sulecki and having Jacobs, who was already in training, fill in for Alvarez crossed the mind of many, including Jacobs.
Jacobs admitted that he did think about it but that it was fleeting.
"Well, it was a thought, but it wasn't nothing that was very significant," Jacobs said. "I mean, I had, obviously, a contract with fighting Sulecki and I want to make sure he has his opportunity and give him his just due as well, with all due respect to him. He's a tough opponent too, so I know it's going to be a great fight and that's what I'm looking forward to. So even though I have big dreams and big hopes of fighting for the championship, I already had something in place.
"I'm just staying focused on my fight and not paying too much attention to the Golovkin and Canelo situations. I know I'll be the mandatory for the WBA if I win this fight and that's what I'm focused on." Daniel Jacobs
"I know a lot of people think that GGG and Canelo -- they're superstars that are big and I get it, but at that very moment it wasn't as if we needed that opportunity."
Hearn also thought about it but not in any serious way. The way Hearn figures it, is that as long as Jacobs (33-2, 29 KOs), 31, continues to win he will get a fight with Alvarez or a rematch with Golovkin without having to rush into something on short notice. Jacobs-Sulecki is an eliminator to determine one of Golovkin's mandatory challengers.
"I'm not really into taking fights at short notice or without the right preparation for those kinds of fights when you have the opportunities in front of you that Danny Jacobs has," Hearn said. "I think if he didn't have a TV deal, if he wasn't able to box, basically, whenever he wanted, if he wasn't able to pick and choose his dates or fight at a great venue, then yes, there maybe it would have been a position to say, 'Let's try and get that instead.' But the future is very clear right now and one thing that we said to Danny when he joined the [Matchroom] team was that he's going to know exactly when he's boxing.
"He's going to be keeping nice and active and we don't want to disrupt that, so we're going to do our own thing. This is a real fight against Sulecki. Of course, we're looking at Canelo and we're looking at Golovkin, but we're not overlooking the fight on [Saturday]. I'm really comfortable that after a great performance by Danny Jacobs on [Saturday], then you talk about the superstars of the division. I don't see why Danny Jacobs is not a superstar of the division. I believe he already is and with the mess with Canelo and Golovkin, I make it a three-horse race right now between [titlist Billy Joe] Saunders, Golovkin and Danny Jacobs."
Though Jacobs still would like a rematch with GGG, he'll let him do his thing with Martirosyan next week and remain focused on Sulecki, who is a major underdog.
"I look at him as a live dog. I look at him as a very worthy opponent," Jacobs said. "I think his talent says a lot and most importantly, he has really good heart and he comes to fight. So him having that on his back and coming into Brooklyn, which is my backyard, I'm pretty sure this guy is willing to go. This is a great opportunity for both of us, but for him this is the first of his kind so he's really going to go all out."
Sulecki's most notable victories are a 10th-round knockout of Hugo Centeno in June 2016 and a 10-round decision in his last bout in October over former secondary junior middleweight titlist Jack Culcay.
"I worked very hard for this opportunity. I am ready. The previous fights were just a preparation for me being well-known to everyone. ... Maybe you guys didn't know me before, but you guys are going to know me after this fight." Maciej Sulecki
Sulecki (26-0, 10 KOs), 28, says he is excited to get a chance to face an opponent of Jacobs' reputation with the chance to earn a title fight.
"I worked very hard for this opportunity," Sulecki said through an interpreter. "I am ready. The previous fights were just a preparation for me being well-known to everyone. This kind of situation is giving me extra motivation. I'm going to use the word kick-in-the-ass for me to just be even better. Maybe you guys didn't know me before, but you guys are going to know me after this fight."
Jacobs doesn't agree with that assessment and says he believes he will be the one who earns the mandatory title shot against Golovkin on Saturday, another reason he didn't seriously consider trying to replace Alvarez on May 5.
"I'm just staying focused on my fight and not paying too much attention to the Golovkin and Canelo situations," Jacobs said. "I know I'll be the mandatory for the WBA if I win this fight and that's what I'm focused on.
"I consider myself to be the best middleweight in the world. After this opportunity [against Sulecki], if a great opportunity such as what has already presented itself with the WBA [for a title eliminator], this is kind of perfect timing. So it was a thought [to replace Alvarez], but it was a thought that went and passed."
The co-feature on Saturday is a heavyweight world title elimination fight between Brooklyn's Jarrell "Big Baby" Miller (20-0-1, 18 KOs), 29, and France's Johann Duhaupas (37-4, 24 KOs), 37, a former world title challenger. They will meet to earn a position as one of unified titleholder Anthony Joshua's mandatory challengers. In another notable bout on the card, but not part of the HBO telecast, Ireland's Katie Taylor (8-0, 4 KOs), 31, and Victoria Bustos (18-4, 0 KOs), 29, of Argentina, will meet to unify two women's lightweight world titles.