UNCASVILLE, Connecticut – Sergiy Derevyanchenko gave Gennadiy Golovkin 12 of the roughest rounds of his life last October 5.
Their brutal battle satisfied even the ficklest fight fans because it provided the type of sustained savagery seldom seen in boxing. They traded flush punches throughout their thoroughly entertaining slugfest, right until the final bell.
Golovkin won a debatable unanimous decision, as all three judges – Frank Lombardi (115-112), Eric Marlinski (115-112) and Kevin Morgan (114-113) – scored the fight for him. Both boxers absorbed such absurd amounts of punishment, though, it has left many within the boxing industry and some fans wondering whether either fighter will ever be the same.
Neither Golovkin nor Derevyanchenko has fought in the nearly one year since their unforgettable brawl. Derevyanchenko will return to the ring first Saturday night, when he’ll get his third shot at a middleweight title against WBC champion Jermall Charlo.
Derevyanchenko’s handlers are confident that he has fully recovered from the grueling Golovkin bout, based on what they witnessed during his recently completed training camp in Brooklyn. The Ukrainian contender considers his long layoff exactly what he needed to return reinvigorated to prepare for another very difficult fight against the unbeaten Charlo.
“I [had a] good rest,” Derevyanchenko said during a press conference Wednesday at Mohegan Sun. “I’m relaxed. And when I come back to the United States, I wanted training, I wanted to fight. It helped me.”
The 34-year-old Derevyanchenko spent almost nine months out of the gym after facing Golovkin, who has since turned 38.
“I think the rest was good for him,” Andre Rozier, Derevyanchenko’s head trainer, told BoxingScene.com. “It gave him a chance to settle down a bit, enjoy the fruits of his labor. He came back really rested and reassured. When he came back to the gym, he came back ready to work, ready to get it on. He looked fantastic during this camp. When you see him at the weigh-in, you’re gonna be like, ‘Oh my goodness!’ He looks like a piece of chiseled steel.”
Lou DiBella understands why concerned observers fear Derevyanchenko might’ve left something in that Madison Square Garden ring 11½ months ago. DiBella’s promotional contract with Derevyanchenko expired following his close loss to Golovkin, but Derevyanchenko and Keith Connolly, Derevyanchenko’s adviser, kept DiBella as part of his team for the Charlo fight.
“It could take a lot out of a guy,” DiBella said. “I acknowledge Charlo has never had a fight like that. It also might give Sergiy a greater sense of how good he is, so maybe it cuts a little bit both ways. Maybe it’s not all negative. The other thing, though, is the pandemic served Sergiy’s interests, in the sense that I think getting a fight sooner, no matter who it was against, fighting six months later, instead of one year later – I think it’s a great benefit for him to fight one year later.
“I think he has had a lot of time to get himself healthy, his body, and to clear his head. I think he has not been disadvantaged by not fighting for a year and having the time off. I tend to think this is just what the doctor may have ordered.”
DiBella also feels Derevyanchenko delivered more punishment than Golovkin, who scored a flash knockdown during the first round.
“He was in a grueling fight and he took a lot,” DiBella said, “but the reason I thought he won the fight is because he gave much harder than he took. I’m more curious to see how Triple-G comes back from that f*cking fight.”
Kazakhstan’s Golovkin (40-1-1, 35 KOs) is expected to make a mandatory defense of the IBF middleweight title he won versus Derevyanchenko against unknown Polish challenger Kamil Szeremeta (21-0, 5 KOs) on November 21.
Derevyanchenko obviously has signed up for a tougher challenge than Golovkin against the taller, hard-hitting Charlo.
Ronnie Shields, Charlo’s trainer, thinks Derevyanchenko deserved the victory over Golovkin. Shields also acknowledged that the version of Derevyanchenko that gave Golovkin so much trouble might not exist anymore.
“I’ve seen fights like that take a lot out of people,” Shields said. “At the same time, I’ve seen fights like that didn’t take a lot out of people. I don’t know. That’s the thing, we don’t know until we get in there Saturday night to see.”
Shields is certain that Charlo won’t fight Derevyanchenko as recklessly as Golovkin did.
“When he fought Golovkin,” Shields said, “it was like Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em Robots. They was just standing in there, no backwards steps, going back and forth. There was no jabbing in the fight to try to set things up. They was just going at it. That’s the way Golovkin wanted to fight him. More power to him, but again, styles make fights and we’re just gonna see what happens.
“[Derevyanchenko is] just a hard-nosed guy. It’s just the way he fights, and he seems to always be in good shape. But the thing about him is to fight him smart. You can’t fight his fight. We have to fight our fight.”
Charlo (30-0, 22 KOs), who is less than a 2-1 favorite, and Derevyanchenko (13-2, 10 KOs) will headline the first three-bout block of Showtime’s six-fight pay-per-view event at Mohegan Sun Arena (7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT; $74.95). Later Saturday night, Jermall’s twin brother, Jermell Charlo (33-1, 17 KOs), and the Dominican Republic’s Jeison Rosario (20-1-1, 14 KOs) will meet in a 12-round, 154-pound title unification fight for Charlo’s WBC championship and Rosario’s IBF and WBA belts.
Rozier envisions Derevyanchenko giving Charlo the most difficult fight of his career, even after his punishing war with Golovkin.
“I think that he’s still young enough to recuperate from such a tough battle,” Rozier said. “But you have to understand, the Europeans, especially the Ukrainians, they’re a different breed of athlete. They work hard and they have that fortitude that sometimes we miss in our guys here in the United States. I think that’s what’s gonna be the game-changer, the fact that they know how to work, focus and condition. You’ll see that on Saturday.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.