“It has always been my dream to be a world champion and fight the best fighters in the world,” a 28-year-old Sergiy Derevyanchenko announced upon signing his first professional contract back in 2014. Arriving in the pro ranks following successful schooling as an amateur, the Soviet-born middleweight set his piercing eyes on the top of the 160-pound tree without any hesitation. Saturday night, “The Technician” gets his wish, as he takes on Gennadiy Golovkin for the IBF middleweight world title, streaming live on DAZN.
His confidence in achieving this feat was hardly misplaced. Amassing a 390-20 record in the amateur ranks was piggybacked by a 23-1 record in the World Series of Boxing; scooping the 2012 WSB Team Champion and 2011 and 2012 WSB Individual Champion acted as the cherry on a cake he was ready to devour, in order to turn over into the professional game.
”Sergiy is one of the most decorated amateurs in the world and 100 percent one of the best middleweight prospects in all of boxing,” Derevyanchenko’s promoter Lou DiBella gushed in admiration upon gaining the Ukrainian’s signature. “We feel that in one year’s time, he will be ready to compete at the highest levels in boxing,” he continued, with an embellished belief of a Lomachenko-esque leap into the professional pool.
Derevyanchenko’s new career was born at the BB King Blues Club & Grill, New York — just a 13-minute walk from the ring he’ll grace for the first time on Saturday night — as a second-round victory over Cromwell Gordon paved the way for a steady climb up the middleweight ladder.
A well-trodden path of hotels, casinos and sports complexes followed for the fighter who perfects his craft in Andre Rozier’s Brooklyn gym, until a two-round blitzing of the seasoned Sam Soliman saw Derevyanchenko secure his spot in a 160-pound eliminator with Tureano Johnson in Miami. A 12th round stoppage of Johnson announced Derevyanchenko into the world title picture, with the defeated Bahamian left shaking his head in en route back to a corner that knew his fate had been sealed at the hands of the dangerous middleweight.
A tick-over win against veteran Dashon Johnson preceded Sergiy’s first chance of world honours, as the IBF middleweight strap hung above the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden, awaiting the winner of a Brooklyn-based chess match. Divided loyalties underpinned Derevyanchenko’s split decision loss to Daniel Jacobs last October, with Gary Stark Sr and Andre Rozier — the owners of the fighter’s shared Brooklyn gym — forced to back rival horses in opposite corners.
It was a decision that wasn’t taken lightly by Rozier. Speaking candidly about last year’s bout, Rozier explained his reluctance for both guys to meet. “Honestly, it was horrible. I’m quite fond of Sergiy and I’ve been with Danny since he was 13, and I honestly didn’t want them to participate in the bout.”
”I was trying everything I could to divert and steer them in different directions, but the pieces to the puzzle fell where they did and they both wanted to fight, it was a world championship fight, there was a million dollars on the line for each of them, and it was just too much to say ‘no’ to. But they’re both my guys, and who wants to see that happen? It was a rough one.”
Now, back in the corner of Sergiy, Rozier has spoken highly of his guy’s chances as Derevyanchenko looks to take a second bite of the middleweight cherry under the unmistakable lights of Madison Square Garden.
“If the best version of my guy shows up, he wins,” the former budding amateur told our very own Michael Woods. “Sergiy is winning on Saturday night,” he emphasised later on.
Alluding to the camp both Rozier and Derevyanchenko have enjoyed in the run-up to Saturday’s fight, the Brooklynite seems convinced his man has the tools to trouble “Triple G.”
”Sergiy has prepared for the best GGG he could possibly face,” he told BoxingNews24. “You hear people say it often, but this has been one of the best training camps ever. It speaks to the person that Sergiy is. He’s a hard-working fighter, he’s a quiet soul, and he’s just an enjoyable person to be around. I would pray that any trainer could have a fighter of his calibre and his character to work with because it’s been fantastic. It really has.”
”Without dispelling any game plan, you have to keep GGG uncomfortable. We all know that GGG fires combinations in sessions of three. It’s one, two, hook or one, two, down. And you just have to make sure that you’re not there receiving those three and keep him off balance. He has a great jab, but so does Sergiy. Just because he does have a great jab doesn’t mean that you don’t try to hold space and control the action just as he does. And after that, just keep working and keep scoring.”
Rozier is right. Every trainer and fighter is quick to proclaim their most recent camp as the best of their career, but in Derevyanchenko’s case, these marginal gains – if to be believed – will prove all-important in his quest to topple an unflappable Gennadiy Golovkin.
In his third attempt at toppling the Kazakh — two previous losses came in the corners of Daniel Jacobs and Curtis Stevens — the adjustments that Rozier can implement into the armoury of his fighter will be telling over the scheduled 36 minutes of combat.
Reluctant to rely on the 37-year-old version of “GGG” unravelling in his 42nd professional contest, Rozier believes his fighter holds the key to defeat the best version of the former unified middleweight champion — like the saying goes: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”
Golovkin has beaten a majority of his opponents before the first bell has rung. The destructive Kazakh has blitzed his way through a who’s who of the middleweight division over the course of a 10-year reign holding a version of middleweight gold, but what will unfold during the next chapter of his career lacks clarity for the first time. Derevyanchenko’s task on Saturday night is one that comes with a limited blueprint to follow, but with experience and timing in his corner, the 33-year-old believes it’s his time to shock the world.
”It’s not going to be a shock to myself, it’s not going to be a shock to Keith Connolly or Andre Rozier or Gary Stark Sr, and it’s not going to be a shock to Sergiy Derevyanchenko,” DiBella stated last week.
Fighting just a stone’s throw away from where he made his professional debut, Derevyanchenko has a chance to make history on Saturday night in completing the circle of his middleweight journey.
”If you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.” If Sergiy can survive a Golovkin downpour inside the Garden, a pot of gold may well await him.