Middleweight titleholder Daniel Jacobs and former titlist “Kid Chocolate” Peter Quillin, who have been Brooklyn, New York, neighborhood buddies for years, have put their friendship on hold for the sake of business.
Why? Because they are about to both get paid a lot of money — $1.5 million apiece — to inflict pain on the other.
“Danny and I are very cordial, but when I step into that ring I want to bring harm to him and he wants to do the same to me,” Quillin said at Thursday’s final news conference. “So I don’t know if you can consider us friends (at the moment) if we want to do that to each other.”
Jacobs will make the third defense of his secondary 160-pound world title when he and Quillin square off for the belt — as well as the all-important borough bragging rights — in a fight that has been brewing for the past few years. The Saturday night fight at the Barclays Center in their hometown will air on Showtime at 9 p.m. ET with coverage of preliminary bouts on Showtime Extreme beginning at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
“I’ve known both of these young men since they were kids,” promoter Lou DiBella said. “They are terrific men and a true credit to the sport. These guys have always gotten along, they respect each other as fighters, but there is a true belief on both their parts that they are the best.
“Take all the friendship and throw it out the window. This is going to be nasty. This is going to be brutal. There will be boxing but these guys will throw bombs. They can’t help themselves, that’s what makes them so great. The winner of this could be a superstar.”
In 2013, Brooklyn welterweights Paulie Malignaggi and Zab Judah, both well-known former world titleholders and pals, also squared off at the Barclays Center in the arena’s first big-time borough battle. But Malignaggi, who won a unanimous decision, and Judah were not fighting for a world title and both were past their primes.
“Danny and I are very cordial, but when I step into that ring I want to bring harm to him and he wants to do the same to me. So I don’t know if you can consider us friends (at the moment) if we want to do that to each other.”
Jacobs-Quillin, however, is for much higher stakes — a title in a red-hot division — and both are in their primes. Both knew the fight would have to happen eventually.
“All that matters is that we’re going to give the fans something that they’re looking forward to,” Jacobs said. “I thank God our relationship is what it is outside of the ring and it will continue to be that way win, lose or draw. I respect him and I respect his family and there’s nothing but love at the end of the day, but what that means right now is nothing because we’re fighting for our legacy.
“We’re fighting for our pride and just for our career. So that doesn’t really even matter at this point. Right now it’s about going out there and doing the best that we can do. I have his number. We can contact each other at any given point. There’s no hate. There’s no love lost. It’s nothing whatsoever. We’re really cool individuals and it’s all respect at the end of the day.”
Quillin has also taken the high road going into their fight.
“I totally agree with Danny,” Quillin said. “I’ve been very casual with him outside of the ring. Me and him always bump into each other in New York and there’s always love. So this is strictly part of the business that, you know, whether people love it or not you’re just going to have to accept it.
“I’ve got his (phone) number. We’re friends. I know a lot about him and he knows a lot about me.”
Their bout will not be the first time they will share the ring. About 10 or 12 years ago, they sparred together.
“I was maybe about 18 or 19 years old, but this was a while ago,” Jacobs said. “It was maybe just about four or five rounds. And I actually sparred two different people that day. So we only just got a taste of what it was like to be inside the ring with each other. This is why this fight is so important because what we’ve done up until that point after that point is create something special for ourselves and for the sport of boxing and for Brooklyn and the community. It’s just going to continue that [way] and we’re going to bring that same energy and tenacity that we brought in the sparring — probably 10 times more come fight night.”
Quillin said whatever went down when they sparred means nothing once the real fight begins.
“It’s sparring. There’s certain guys in the sport of boxing who look at sparring as [a] way that you beat fighters and a lot of guys that do well in the gym don’t actually do well in a fight,” Quillin said. “So, I kind of look at sparring as a learning tool for you to be better in the ring.”
When the Barclays Center was being built a few years ago, Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark envisioned it becoming a boxing hotbed and regularly hosting significant fights, which it has been doing regularly. But Yormark also had a kind of all-New York showdown in mind as a way for the community to connect with the arena.
“This is going to be something that New York is going to remember for a long time. It’s no secret that I’ve wanted this fight for a long time. It’s no secret that Quillin has been on my radar and he’s been the guy that I feel like I need to get through to get to the next level.”
“Saturday night will be one of the biggest boxing events we’ve ever had at Barclays Center,” Yormark said. “I consider both good friends who I would help whenever they needed. It’s going to be a special night for me, Barclays Center and most importantly, for Brooklyn.”
In the co-feature, featherweight titlist Jesus Cuellar (27-1, 21 KOs), 28, of Argentina, will make his second defense when he faces Jonathan Oquendo (26-4, 16 KOs), 32, of Puerto Rico, who is coming off a major upset of former titleholder Jhonny Gonzalez on Sept. 12.
Jacobs (30-1, 27 KOs) has already fought at the Barclays Center four times, including his title win in 2014 and on the arena’s first card in 2012, when Jacobs made his return to boxing after surviving a rare form of bone cancer.
Quillin (32-0-1, 23 KOs), who vacated his belt last year, has boxed at Barclays three times, including when he won his world title against Hassan N’Dam on that same 2012 inaugural card and when he battled titleholder Andy Lee to a split draw this past April.
But now comes the most significant fight of their Barclays Center appearances.
“This fight is to show who the man in town is,” DiBella said. “The winner will own Brooklyn. If you’re the man in Brooklyn, you’re the man. This will be a fight of the year candidate, no doubt.
“I expect both men to go down. The fans will be on their feet the whole time. This is a can’t-miss fight between two evenly matched (fighters) and guys who want and need this victory.”
Said Jacobs, “I’m in a comfort zone at Barclays Center with my friends, family and fans cheering me on. But I also like that he has his people cheering too. That’s extra motivation. Technically, there are people in my backyard rooting for me to lose.”
Jacobs, at 28, is four years younger than Quillin, who has faced the overall better competition. Still, it’s an even match between fighters who are both good punchers and good boxers.
They also fight in a hot division. On Oct. 17, Gennady Golovkin unified two belts with an eighth-round knockout of David Lemieux across the river at the Madison Square Garden. On Nov. 21, Canelo Alvarez won a unanimous decision against Miguel Cotto to win the lineal world championship and a belt. And on Dec. 19 in Manchester, England, Lee will defend his belt against mandatory challenger Billy Joe Saunders in a fight Showtime will also carry.
“Not only are we fighting for the bragging rights in Brooklyn, but we both want to be at the top of the middleweight division,” Jacobs said. “All the top middleweights are fighting each other and we’re right in that realm.”
The Jacobs-Quillin winner against the other titleholders would be a natural, but fights against Golovkin or Alvarez are unlikely because they fight on HBO while Jacobs and Quillin are aligned with adviser Al Haymon, whose fighters appear on Showtime and Premier Boxing Champions networks.
But, for now at least, Jacobs and Quillin are not thinking about that — just Saturday.
“This is going to be something that New York is going to remember for a long time,” Jacobs said. “It’s no secret that I’ve wanted this fight for a long time. It’s no secret that Quillin has been on my radar and he’s been the guy that I feel like I need to get through to get to the next level. So I’m very fortunate to have this opportunity. This is something that I’m excited about. Even now I just have chills running through my body because it’s finally happening. This is a very exciting time for Brooklyn, a very exciting time for the sport of boxing and just the culture in general. I’m just very fortunate to be in a position to be able to go out there and give my all.
“This is going to be one of the most thrilling, entertaining and action-packed fights that Brooklyn has had in a while. This might even be the best fight Barclays has produced.”