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Nigel Collins: It's past time to focus on Daniel Jacobs the fighter

Peter Quillin's Chaplinesque stagger along the ropes is the unforgettable takeaway from his fight with Daniel Jacobs, the kind of comically tragic pratfall that only boxing can provide.

Quillin's equilibrium had been totally discombobulated by Jacobs' thudding right hands to the temple, causing his right legs to do a rubbery sidestep while his left remained stubbornly stationary and his arm grasped for something that wasn't there.

Somehow Quillin maintained his footing, albeit precariously, and eventually lurched to an unsteady halt, staring wide-eyed into the void.

He was defenseless, seemingly in a state of shock, and referee Harvey Dock did the only humane thing he could and stopped the fight at the 1:25 mark of the opening round.

The Battle of Brooklyn was over and old gymmates Jacobs and Quillin could go back to being friends again -- a reported $1.5 million each richer for their trouble, minus expenses and Uncle Sam's cut.

Jacobs exceeded expectations and moved closer to being a significant player in the middleweight division. Close enough to warrant a fresh appraisal.

To start with, it's past time to stop promoting Jacobs the cancer survivor and start focusing on Jacobs the fighter.

There's something smarmy about turning a feel-good story into a marketing tool. The media's obsession with Jacobs' victory over cancer has become a cliché -- an inspirational tale reduced to a platitude by wretched excess.

Jacobs doesn't need a sympathy mulligan. He's a talented fighter and deserves to be judged by his accomplishments inside the ring, not his medical history.

Considering how imposing he looked laying waste to Quillin last Saturday at Brooklyn's Barclays Center, there's reason to think Jacobs has a fighting chance of outshining his soap-opera backstory before he's done.

I recall how enthusiastic Oscar De La Hoya was when Golden Boy Promotions signed Jacobs to a pro contract in 2007. Jacobs was calling himself the "Golden Child" back then in homage, no doubt, to his promoter.

He was brought along slowly and many of Jacobs' early bouts were against overmatched opposition. Consequently, his glossy string of knockouts failed to separate him from the pack and cynics wondered out loud why he was being coddled.

A hard-fought unanimous decision against veteran contender Ishe Smith in August 2009 was encouraging. But when Dmitry Pirog knocked him cold in July 2010, the trajectory of Jacobs' career sputtered.

To a large extent, he was written off as just another over-hyped prospect that had been exposed in his first major test. We've seen it so many times that it's difficult not to jump to conclusions.

Easy comeback wins over Jesse Orta and Robert Kliewer, both of whom entered the ring with losing records, did nothing to rebuild Jacobs' image. And when he was diagnosed with a life-threatening form of bone cancer in May 2010, it seemed that his boxing career, if not his life, was over.

Flash forward 17 months and Jacobs had not only emerged victorious from his illness ready to box again, he'd also acquired a new nickname -- the "Miracle Man." Not particularly original but definitely apropos.

There is no doubt that Jacobs' uplifting story helped him acquire a marketable identity, but Jacobs has tallied nine straight knockout victories since regaining his health and rebooting his career. It's time to move on.

Let's not forget that going in, Jacobs-Quillin was considered pretty much a toss-up. Quillin's roster of opponents had been slightly better overall but not by much. Generally speaking, a close fight was anticipated, which made Jacobs' emphatic blowout all the more notable.

Old-school fans had to appreciate the way Jacobs immediately jumped on Quillin the moment he hurt him and didn't let up until Dock intervened. There was no hesitation. Jacobs seized the moment and went for it. He missed quite a few punches in his eagerness, but kept slinging them until the job was done.

Jacobs has always been a good finisher. It's an art that's waning among more than a few of today's prominent boxers. Nevertheless, the aesthetic appeal of a good finisher should not be underestimated, and it's good to see a professional who takes pride in finishing what he started.

After the Pirog debacle, it would have been easy to dismiss Jacobs as a frontrunner. But there appears to be more to him than that. He showed courage and maturity coming off the floor to stop Sergio Mora this past August, and didn't think twice before putting himself in harm's way when he launched the all-out assault that led to Quillin's quick exit.

Despite all he's gone through, or maybe because of it, Jacobs is fighting better now than ever. And as things stand in the immediate aftermath of his technical knockout of Quillin, there's a strong argument to be made that Jacobs is one of the five best middleweights in the world.

While there is clearly a wide disparity in terms of achievement between Jacobs and elite middleweights such as Canelo Alvarez and Miguel Cotto, on paper, Gennady Golovkin's resume is only marginally better than Jacobs'. It's Triple-G's ruthless approach, combined with his sophisticated skills and love of a "Mexican-style fight" that gives him an advantage.

It's not the best middleweight field of all-time, but it's far from the worst. Three of the top five boxers are potential Hall of Famers, and we still don't know how far Jacobs could go. Just as significantly, there's not a runner in the bunch.

To what extent politics will spoil the fun remains uncertain, but it is bound to play a role at some point or another.

"There is no doubt that Jacobs' uplifting story helped him acquire a marketable identity, but Jacobs has tallied nine straight knockout victories since regaining his health and rebooting his career. It's time to move on."

When De La Hoya and former Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer's differences were settled by arbitration, Jacobs landed in powerful adviser Al Haymon's camp. That should, at least for the time being, prevent him from getting a shot at lineal middleweight champion Alvarez, who remains Golden Boy's biggest asset.

On the other hand, if Andy Lee prevails in his December 19 match with Billy Joe Saunders in Manchester, England, there's a good chance an attractive in-house match between Lee and Jacobs could be made. Lee is promoted by Haymon associate Lou DiBella and has always drawn well in New York City. A bout between the popular Irishman and Jacobs would likely attract a crowd twice the size of the 8,442 in attendance at the Barclays Center last Saturday.

Jacobs' quick dismissal of Quillin was not, as some would have you believe, a star-making performance. You've got to beat a star to do that, and even then there's no guarantee. It was, however, a coming-out party of sorts, a performance that went a long way toward changing the winner's narrative from cancer survivor to potential threat to the division hierarchy.

Alvarez-Golovkin is easily the hottest and potentially the most lucrative match that could be made right now, in any division, and would be a virtual lock to surpass the approximately 900,000 pay-per-view sales racked up by Alvarez-Cotto in November. Any talks, however, have been tentative and we are a long way from anything being signed.

The middleweight division has been in a state of flux since the end of Bernard Hopkins' lengthy reign. Nobody has managed to stay on top for long. Even if Alvarez and Golovkin eventually fight, it won't end there. It never does, and who knows? The man waiting to challenge the winner just might be Jacobs.

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