Knockout! Jacobs has Heavy Aspirations

With the junior welterweight contender he befriended beside him, Brandon Jacobs was introduced to Shannon Briggs at a boxing card earlier this year in Manhattan.

The 6-4, 270-pound Briggs, then the World Boxing Organization's heavyweight champion, took one look at the 6-4, 265-pound Jacobs and expressed a brief look of concern, like Jacobs could become a threat to his heavyweight throne.

"Me and Shannon Briggs were talking, and I introduced him to Brandon," said Kendall Holt, a Paterson, N.J.-based boxer who has become close with Jacobs since they met at a photo shoot two years ago. "Before I told him Brandon was a football player, he must've thought Brandon was a boxer. He was like, ‘Damn, another big one?' That's the kind of look he gave him. Then there was almost a sigh of relief when he found out there wasn't another big-ass heavyweight out there."

Briggs has since lost his WBO crown to Russian southpaw Sultan Ibragimov, who will attempt to make his first defense against Evander Holyfield Saturday in Moscow.

But Jacobs is certain that if he wasn't sharing carries with Derrick Ward during a nationally televised game at Atlanta Monday night, he'd hold at least a share of the heavyweight championship of the world (there are four recognized champions in the division). The Giants' third-year tailback was an amateur boxer as a youth in his native Louisiana, where he compiled a 28-2 record despite limited training and sparring opportunities. Referees stopped the contests in both of Jacobs' defeats, and he stopped boxing altogether before the start of his college football career, which included stops at Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College, Auburn University and the University of Southern Illinois.

"I've always loved boxing," Jacobs, 25, said. "I've been into boxing for a very long time. I used to be in the ring myself. It wasn't anything serious. It was AAU boxing and stuff like that. … I took to it and it was going great, but I just wanted to play football. I had a scholarship to go wherever I wanted to go. I don't dwell on my boxing years. It's not worth being talked about, because I didn't continue doing it."

Had he continued, though, Jacobs believes, "I would be the WBO (heavyweight) champion today. I would be the champ today, right now, as we speak, threatening anybody."

While he is instead busy threatening defensive players on football fields throughout the NFL, Jacobs maintains an intense interest in the sport. He often attends boxing cards and intends to sit ringside with Holt on Nov. 10 at Madison Square Garden, where popular Puerto Rican welterweight champion Miguel Cotto (30-0, 25 KOs) will attempt to defend his World Boxing Association title against former three-division champ "Sugar" Shane Mosley (44-4, 37 KOs, 1 NC).

His favorite fighter, however, is Holt (22-2, 12 KOs), an outgoing, talented contender and single father who raises a 4-year-old son in one of New Jersey's most troubled cities.

Holt's hand speed and power for his 5-9, 145-pound frame amazes Jacobs, who has jokingly offered to spar against him.

About the closest they come to sparring is when Holt teases Jacobs about fumbling or keeping his pad level lower. Jacobs gets in his verbal blows, too, when he reminds Holt about his first defeat, a first-round knockout upset to Thomas Davis. The unheralded Davis drilled Holt with right hands late in the first round of a nationally televised fight Holt was winning easily three years ago in Chicago, and dealt Holt the lone legitimate loss of his six-year pro career.

They could be at a fight, a Nets game, a bowling alley or Jacobs' backyard, and Holt has to be prepared for his heavyweight-sized friend's delivery of the next Davis dagger.

"He'll be like, ‘Don't that guy look like Tom Davis? I don't want you to have nightmares or anything,' " a laughing Holt said. "It's always a different Tom Davis joke."

Holt's retorts don't come immediately, but he has his fun with Jacobs as well.

"I just wait for my opportunities," a smiling Holt said. "Like he'll drop a pen or he'll drop his cell phone in the house, and I'll be like, ‘Damn! Can you hold anything without dropping it? I already know now that we're not going to the playoffs.' "

Jacobs brought Holt, a lifelong Giants fan, to Giants Stadium in the offseason and introduced him to Tom Coughlin and other members of the coaching staff, most notably Jerry Palmieri. The Giants' strength and conditioning coach was a three-time New Jersey Golden Gloves champion (1976-78) and boxed in international tournaments as a member of USA Boxing's national teams in 1978 and '79, the year before the United States boycotted the Olympics. Palmieri and Holt hit it off instantly, but Holt also admits that he was immediately drawn to Jacobs, even before they became close.

"I wasn't too happy with the running backs for a few years with the Giants, from back when I thought Dave Meggett should've started over Rodney Hampton," said Holt, who was once a running back in high school. "I wasn't happy with Tiki Barber or Ron Dayne, either. So when I saw Brandon's speed, saw his size and then he did the juke move, and then ran over the guy in the same game, I was like, ‘We've got ‘Thunder and Lightning' in one guy.' I don't know why he picked No. 27, because there might be a hex on that number for the Giants. But when I saw him run, I became an instant fan."

Jacobs brought Giants linebacker Reggie Torbor to watch Holt train one day before training camp at Ike's & Randy's Boxing Gym in Paterson. Torbor was impressed with what he saw. He thought twice, though, when he was told about Jacobs' heavyweight championship proclamation.

"He'd be a big, strong puncher," Torbor said. "That's for sure. And he'd be more of a brawler type than a boxer. I think he'd knock some people out."

Enough people to become WBO heavyweight champion?

"I don't know about all that," a smiling Torbor said. "But you definitely have to admire his confidence."

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