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Sunday, October 21, 2012
Brooklyn wins big at Barclays

By Kieran Mulvaney

BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- The headliners were from Philadelphia and Tijuana, Mexico, and the main televised card opened with fighters from St. Louis and Miami engaging in a bout that many would prefer to forget. But Saturday night's card was all about New York. Specifically, it was all about Brooklyn.

The Barclays Center has provided a new home and a new name for what are now the Brooklyn Nets of the NBA -- although early preseason results suggest it has done nothing to magically improve that team's results. The arena's first experiment in bringing big-time boxing back to the borough, however, saw the home team sweep the wins, sometimes in style.

OK, Paulie Malignaggi might have benefitted slightly from hometown cooking in eking out a split-decision win against Pablo Cesar Cano. But, close and hard-fought though it was, it was clear how much the win -- and the experience -- meant to the "Magic Man."

"This means the world to me," he said afterward. "I was born only 5 miles from here. This is an incredible feeling."

On one level, the evening felt a little like that night last December in Washington, D.C., when a rabid crowd roared Lamont Peterson to a controversial -- and ultimately tainted -- win against Amir Khan, just a block or so from where he and his brother once slept on the streets. But this is New York, so everything was bigger: the beautiful new venue, the crowd that didn't quite fill it in numbers but filled it with noise, and the number of local fighters who represented their city and their borough.

Of them all, few can have advanced their careers more than Peter "Kid Chocolate" Quillin, who dropped opponent Hassan N'Dam six times -- including twice in the final round, to ensure a championship-caliber finish to a true championship-quality contest -- and still found himself in a dogfight right down to the final bell. It is to the credit of the crowd that it rose to applaud N'Dam as he climbed the corner post at the end of the bout, recognizing a true warrior.

But there can be no doubt about the person around whom the cameras clustered, in whose beaming face the postfight microphones were thrust. The attention wasn't because Daniel Jacobs' victory was spectacular -- although his first-round knockout of overmatched Josh Luteran certainly was. It was because, as victories go, it wasn't even close to being the biggest he has secured in his career or in his life.

Eighteen months ago, Jacobs had cancer. Eighteen months ago, he had no idea whether he would live or die, let alone box again. And now here he was, not only fighting, not only winning, but winning by knockout, and doing so in front of his hometown fans -- fans who might have given him the very biggest ovation of all.

"First-round knockout in Brooklyn, this is electrifying," he said afterward, beaming. "This moment means the world to me. They told me I would never walk or box again, and I proved everyone wrong."

That he did -- and he did so in style. On a night of big Brooklyn winners, Jacobs was the biggest of them all.