By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – Even in defeat, Lou DiBella believes Sergiy Derevyanchenko won Saturday night.
The Ukrainian middleweight contender suffered his first professional defeat, a split decision to Daniel Jacobs. The skillful, tough Derevyanchenko still demonstrated during that close loss what DiBella, manager Keith Connolly and trainers Gary Stark Sr. and Andre Rozier already knew.
“He’s an elite fighter,” DiBella told BoxingScene.com. “He’s in the same league as the top four or five fighters [in the middleweight division]. He’s one of those guys. It’s, you know, Golovkin, Canelo, Jacobs, [Jermall] Charlo, Derevyanchenko, Andrade. That’s the top guys in the division. That’s the real top [six]. Those are the guys.”
Derevyanchenko (12-1, 10 KOs) was a consensus top-six middleweight, according to most media outlets, before he boxed Jacobs. But Brooklyn’s Jacobs, a stablemate and frequent sparring partner, was undoubtedly the most challenging opponent of Derevyanchenko’s four-year pro career.
Jacobs (35-2, 29 KOs) knocked down Derevyanchenko late in the first round, but the rugged contender recovered and made matters very difficult for his taller, fast, strong opponent. Derevyanchenko won 114-113 on judge Julie Lederman’s scorecard, but judges Tom Schreck and Steve Weisfeld overruled her by scoring their closely contested 12-rounder for Jacobs by the same score (115-112).
Rozier wasn’t the least bit surprised Derevyanchenko gave Jacobs everything he could handle. He worked Derevyanchenko’s corner for his first 12 pro bouts, before understandably opting to serve as Jacobs’ chief second Saturday night.
“He let it be known that [he’s] not that unknown entity,” Rozier said. “[He showed], ‘I am a talent and I am a fighter to be reckoned with.’ He showed that [Saturday night].”
The 32-year-old Derevyanchenko didn’t leave The Theater at Madison Square Garden with the IBF middleweight title. His stock still is more valuable than when Derevyanchenko entered that arena Saturday night, according to DiBella.
Derevyanchenko could sign to fight exclusively on DAZN. That streaming service has deals with WBA/WBC middleweight champ Canelo Alvarez and WBO middleweight champ Demetrius Andrade, and could sign Jacobs now that HBO has moved away from broadcasting boxing.
“There’s enough competition out there and he’s a free agent,” DiBella said, “so I don’t think that it’s gonna be that tough to get a big fight. He’s probably gonna have to go out there and beat up a couple of guys first. But, I mean, he’s an elite fighter and he showed that.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.