Gennadiy Golovkin is anticipating a better version of Sergiy Derevyanchenko than the one who showed up for his first title fight last year.
The fact that a middleweight title is at stake doesn’t at all change that perception, nor the fight night approach taken by the former unified titlist.
“I (still) feel like a champion, every fight to me is a championship fight,” Golovkin (39-1-1, 35KOs) explained during a recent media conference call to discuss his Oct. 5 clash with Ukraine’s Derevyanchenko (13-1, 10KOs) at Madison Square Garden in New York City. “I feel the same. All of my fights—my last fight, this fight—are the same level.”
It’s not a bad mentality to adopt considering that Kazakhstan’s Golovkin had spent most of the decade with at least one middleweight title around his waist. The 2004 Olympic Silver medalist claimed a secondary title in 2010, going on to make a division record-tying 20 defenses in all before suffering a majority decision defeat to Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in their spirited rematch last September.
One win has followed, a 4th round knockout of unbeaten but unheralded Steve Rolls this past June. That bout also took place at MSG, marking the first of a lucrative six-fight pact Golovkin inked with sports streaming platform DAZN, which will carry Saturday’s show as well. It was also his first non-title fight in nearly nine years, although returning right back to that stage even in the absence of securing a coveted third fight with Mexico’s Alvarez (52-1-2, 35KOs).
In fact, the fight with Derevyanchenko came about after Alvarez and his team mishandled negotiations for an ordered mandatory title defense. Several deadline extensions came and went without a deal in place, resulting in Alvarez relinquishing the International Boxing Federation (IBF) middleweight belt which will be at stake this weekend.
Golovkin vacated the same belt one year ago after his own decision to forgo a mandatory title defense versus Derevyanchenko, who came up just short in a split decision loss to career-long stablemate Daniel Jacobs in their vacant title fight last October. The bout forced a divided camp, with head trainer Andre Rozier working the corner of Jacobs, while Derevyanchenko took between-rounds advice from assistant trainer Gary Stark Sr.
Derevyanchenko will in fact have his full team intact for Saturday’s bout. That status has clearly resonated with Golovkin and his own corner—including former cruiserweight contender-turned-head trainer Johnathon Banks, who takes the reins for their second fight together—although the 37-year old never lacks from motivation regardless of stakes.
“You can’t underestimate your opponent no matter what,” insists Golovkin. “You have to look at every (fight) as if it will be your last one. It speaks to a fighter’s character. I will never underestimate any of my opponents.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox