He’s not the type of guy to smash up the dressing room after the fight, or to perseverate and bring it up every time he does an interview. After talking to Sergiy Derevyanchenko for almost a half hour recently, I wondered if it wouldn’t be better for him if he were more “difficult.”
The 34-year-old Derevyanchenko (13-2, 10 KO), who lives in Brooklyn, is a native of Ukraine. On Sept. 26, he will represent, on paper, the sternest test yet presented to the current WBC middleweight champion, Jermall Charlo (30-0, 22 KO).
And being that Derevyanchenko’s two losses have come to upper-tier pugilistsin Daniel Jacobs and Gennadiy Golovkin, both via decision, it has to be considered that the fight versus “big” Charlo could come to a decision. And when that happens, will Team Derevyanchenko again feel the sting of believing their guy won, but seeing the opponent get his hand raised?
The fighter himself told me, as his wife Iryna translated, that he’s not concerned with something over which he has no control.
“I don’t know if that will be a problem,” he said. “I can’t say anything about the judges.”
I told you, he’s not a verbal bomb thrower, he will not be looking to gain an edge by telling Bad Left Hook that he is demanding above and beyond competency from the judges who’ll sit ringside Sept. 26 at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, CT.
“I do the boxing, they do their job,” he stated. “I can’t change anything. What happens, I cannot predict. I just know myself.”
OK, trainer Andre Rozier, is this guy too nice? Do you not wish that maybe the Ukrainian would tweak his personality, just this once, and lobby for the most even of playing fields from arbiters in this clash, which will screen on Showtime pay-per-view?
“His nature is that of a true athlete and sportsman, he’s not one for the okey-dokey, shim-sham, fliggity-jiggity nature,” said Rozier, who always makes sure to mention what a solid citizen Derevyanchenko is when we chat on the phone. “He’s going to be the consummate pro, inside and outside the ring.”
Promoter Lou DiBella did a passionate but contained rant on Oct. 5 of last year, when Derevyanchenko battled Gennadiy Golovkin at Madison Square Garden and GGG got the nod.
The margin in that fight was wafer thin; Frank Lombardi had it 115-112, Eric Marlinski 115-112, and Kevin Morgan 114-113, all for the Kazakh warrior. Some agreed, some disagreed. I was ringside, didn’t think it was a robbery, and had GGG ahead by a point or two.
A year before, on Oct. 27, 2018 to be exact, Derevyanchenko at the MSG Theater also got the short end of it from the judges, when he battled Daniel Jacobs.
Julie Lederman rewarded the work of the Ukrainian, 114-113, but Tom Schreck and Steve Weisfeld ganged up and saw a 115-112 fight for Jacobs.
One time, OK, stuff happens. But twice, that’s a trend, it can be argued, and one that DiBella would like arrested.
“Anyone who’s watched boxing over the last six months has noticed that the judging has been abysmal,” DiBella told BLH. “The judging was uneven, and often unfair, before the pandemic. We need, as a sport and as an industry, to address this problem.
“Sergiy Derevyanchenko was the B-side in two major fights; he got the benefit of the doubt in neither. Few boxing fans believe he should have lost both. Charlo vs Derevyanchenko is a sensational fight. May the best man win, but we need to assure that the best man gets the decision, if it goes to decision.”
That was a most measured message from the sometimes combustible New Yorker. Derevyanchenko, who lives in the Mill Basin section of Brooklyn, has taken on no obvious edge from his time in the borough of kings. That means that he shrugs and tells you he’s not the sort to get at all wrapped up in the personalities of Jermall Charlo, and by extension twin bro Jermell.
“I really don’t know about Jermall Charlo’s personality,” Dervyachenko said. “I never met him in real life. I don’t look at that stuff. Maybe he just wants to make money this way.”
He didn’t betray any remaining ire to me, he came off as the most even tempered fella you’ll talk to. But, really, I pressed, do you not feel some residual anger, that if the world were just you would be the two-time uncrowned middleweight champ?
“On the days of the fight, I said, ‘Oh shit,”’ Derevyanchenko allowed. “But by the morning after, I looked forward. I thought about it, and said, ‘I will do this again, I will get a belt in the future. It’s not a problem, I will be world champion.’”
If he was holding it in, he fooled me. And I don’t think he was. Rozier would’ve put both hands on a Bible, maybe, if we were in the same room and I asked for his vow.
“Outside the ring, he’s our priest,” Rozier said, chuckling. “Our Father, who art in heaven, etc. But in the ring, he’s El Monstro. Big Mike, by the power of your pen, let the readers know, this has to be a fair and even playing field on Sept. 26. I’m not asking for gifts, I just don’t want any robberies.”
You may recall, when Jacobs fought Derevyanchenko, Rozier worked the Jacobs corner. He trained both men at the time, but being that he’d been with Danny since he was a teen, Gary Stark Sr was chief second for Derevyanchenko on fight night. Rozier told me he thought Sergiy deserved judge love even more for his outing versus GGG than he did tangling with Jacobs.
“Against Jacobs, it could have went either way, actually,” Rozier told me. “In the GGG contest, Sergiy I thought did more than enough to win.”
Sergiy is wise, it’s a fool’s errand to focus too much on what is out of your hands. But to consider the possibility that maybe there could be a subconscious bias in favor of the younger guy (Charlo, who turned 30 in May), who is with his brother the focal point of the PPV — not unwise.
Has Rozier solidified a game-plan that factors in the possibility that come decision time, his guy is an A-side talent with a B-side persona, and thus not likely to get as many benefits of doubts in close rounds?
“Without a doubt. We want to be a bit quicker on the draw,” the trainer shared. He’s eyes wide open, not assuming that this time, his dude would be the beneficiary of an unstated desire to rectify a possible injustice pattern.
“Perception, it’s an incredible situation, how people perceive a concept or an idea,” he said, warming to a riff, which subtly spoke to the advantages the showier personalities sometimes enjoy come time to turn in a scorecard. “On Sept. 26, we want people to know, we’re gonna show them, Sergiy is the superior athlete.”
For the record, Rozier likes to refer to Derevyanchenko as “The Tech-NEE-shun.” He says it in an exaggerated manner, and it usually cracks me up when he says it. It turns out he doesn’t just say it that may for effect; apparently, there is a difference between “The Technician,” Sergiy’s nickname according to BoxRec, and “The Tech-NEE-shun.”
“Against Charlo, we want him to be ‘The Technician,’ when he commits to that defensive circle, it’s a wrap. But more so, actually, I want him to be ‘The Tech-NEE-shun,’ that’s different, he works clean and effective, effective aggression, and with the desire to be brutal,” he continued.
The trainer said Derevyanchenko showed some of that in the fight with GGG, but come Sept. 26, Rozier wants more brutality. That mostly means relentlessness, pressing the issue as often as his lungs allow, and his brain reminds him to work with controlled savagery. And that element of the game-plan is a component, because while Rozier goes out of his way to convey that he thinks Jermall is “very good,” he hasn’t been in with someone on the level of Sergiy.
“When you have fought the best middleweights in the world — listen, this young man might be very good, but we’ve been in there with the best,” Rozier said. “Now, he’s fought some good fighters. And against Matt Korobov, a lot of people thought it went the other way. We will bring it a whole lot harder than Matt Korobov.”
But can Rozier know that Sergiy, who turns 35 on Oct. 31, will be all about brutality in Connecticut? In fact, he said, he does. When Derevyancheno punched past the pad and blasted him in the chest in camp not long ago, he was hurting for two days.
“It didn’t break anything but it damn sure made me know he is ready for war. We do expect a war, because we know Charlo is good, young, strong, a two-time champ. He’s coming to defend his title and his honor. We know Jermall is coming full throttle.”
No surprise, Rozier is thinking his guy finally gets over the hump, and gets a belt on Sept. 26.
“And newwwwww,” he enthusiastically predicts.
Sergey is 34, though, and hasn’t laced them up since the GGG fight. Those reflexes may have dimmed, rust might have settled on him worse than on the younger pugilist. Rozier told me he’ll know by round three if it’s “The Tech-NEE-shun” who’s traveled to Connecticut.
Iryna told me that will be the case. I will finish with her take on this bout, and what a win would mean for the Derevyanchenkos, who have a 10-year-old son. I do that because of the times we’re in. That whole crew went upstate in April, and Sergiy made the best of the temporary move by running the hilly terrain in the Hunter Mountain area. New York City stood out as a pandemic hotspot, anyone in Brooklyn then couldn’t not notice the constant screech of ambulance sirens ferrying COVID patients to hospitals.
“It’s been a complicated time, but I’m ready,” the fighter said. “I’m not planning on doing anything different in the ring because of what the judges might do. I plan on showing Charlo a real fight. And I will knock him out if I have the opportunity.”
Now his wife gets the last words, because in these uncertain times, with too much division and tumult playing out as culture wars roil in the US, I’m more inclined to deliberately spotlight decency. You couldn’t fail to pick up on it if you heard Iryna translating for Sergiy.
“I support my husband,” she said. “I’ve been with him more than 10 years. I know he really deserves this. He’s a hardworking person. He’s different in the ring, as opposed to real life. I’m so proud to be his wife. People can say some things, whether he won those other fights. But nobody can say he’s a bad person.”