The whispers are unavoidable. So, too, are the whisperers. Friends, family members, fans, training partners, and, of course, the media, all inexplicably united in thought, all anxious to know one thing.
"So I hear you're fighting (fill in the blank). Is that right?"
"I hear the fight is going to be on (fill in the blank)."
In a sport where one punch can instantly derail a career, often with violent intensity, it's amazing how often the only thing more important than who you're fighting next, is who you are fighting after that.
For the first time in his young career, Daniel "The Golden Child" Jacobs, finds himself in this inevitable situation. Jacobs, one of Golden Boy Promotions top young fighters, returns to the ring June 26th on ESPN2's Friday Night Fights against veteran middleweight, fellow New Yorker, and former Academy Award Nominee George "Blaze" Walton. Walton, a former New York Golden Gloves champion whose once promising career was featured in the 1999 documentary, On the Ropes, is a fighter on the comeback trail. After four years away from the sport, he's returned with a renewed energy and focus that has resulted in four straight wins, and a shot at the undefeated, 22 year old Jacobs.
Surprisingly though, despite Walton's feel good story and previous cinematic fame, his name has rarely been mentioned in the lead up to next Friday's fight. Instead, the focus has been on another fighter, a (fill in the blank) fighter for a (fill in the blank) network. The fighter, in this case, is Contender alum Peter Manfredo. The network is HBO. And the whispers grow louder with each passing day.
Jacobs insists he doesn't pay attention to such talk, and that his management team hasn't mentioned a Manfredo fight, nor a potential date on HBO, although both undoubtedly carry considerable appeal. Manfredo would provide Jacobs with the most recognizable name on his resume, and a fight between Jacobs and Manfredo on HBO, if promoted properly, could make Jacobs a household name. A victory could accelerate Jacobs towards title contention.
There's business to take care of first, though. And as savvy as Jacobs is inside the ring, he's just as intelligent outside of it. He knows that without a victory next Friday, his boxing future, whether it involves Manfredo and HBO or not, will be irrevocably changed. And that's a whisper Jacobs doesn't want to hear.