This weekend’s goal is clear for Sergiy Derevyanchenko. Beat one of the best fighters in the sport - Gennadiy Golovkin - and leave Madison Square Garden with a pair of middleweight title belts.
And while it wouldn’t be fair – or accurate – to say that Derevyanchenko’s trainer Andre Rozier is even more motivated for victory, it is the Brooklynite’s third chance to take down a familiar foe in GGG, so there is a desire to make that third time the charm.
“I’ve faced him twice already,” said Rozier, who led Daniel Jacobs and Curtis Stevens into fights with the Kazakhstan native. “This will be the third installment of the program and I’m starting to actually like the young man. (Laughs) I think I might have to take him home for dinner or something. But I’m looking forward to a great fight.”
It’s been a long, wild trip to this matchup for Rozier, who was Derevyanchenko’s trainer up until the Ukrainian Olympian was slated to fight Jacobs for the IBF middleweight title in October of last year. It was a trainer’s worst nightmare, or as Rozier described it at the time, his son fighting his nephew. And he did whatever he could to not have the two fight each other.
“Honestly, it was horrible,” Rozier said. “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.”
Ultimately, Rozier decided to work Jacobs’ corner, and the son beat the nephew by split decision. But after Derevyanchenko bounced back from his sole pro defeat with a win over Jack Culcay in April, Rozier was back with the 33-year-old to prepare for Golovkin.
“It was Sergey’s request for us to get back together, and I told him, of course, and that I would never, ever not be at his side again,” said Rozier, who joined up with Gary Stark Sr., Sergiy Koncheskyy and Mike Bazzel to comprise Team Derevyanchenko for this week’s battle for the belt.
Simply put, the whole Jacobs-Derevyanchenko situation could have been the recipe for a lot of hurt feelings and bad blood, but the reason why there isn’t any of that around the camp is because Rozier has never been a hired gun, the type of trainer who will toss a towel over his shoulder and just show up for a paycheck. If he’s in a fighter’s corner – he’s in there through the good, the bad and the ugly. And if he agrees to work with you, you’re family.
“One of the things you have to realize is, nine out of 10 times, when someone comes to work with me, it’s almost like we’re going to a family reunion,” Rozier explains. “When I meet up with them, the lines of emotional bonding have to be correct. I’m not just working with somebody because. If I don’t feel all the parameters are in place, then I can’t work with you. I have to like you to work with you, that’s the first thing. I don’t care if it’s a million bucks, ten million bucks, if I don’t like you, I don’t want to see you. That’s just the bottom line. So I have to like you, that’s the first thing, and then you have to be able to respond to my directions and if you don’t do that, then I don’t want to work with you either because I’m not going to be going through the processes of working and training and then when we get to the big dance you don’t remember the steps. We’re not doing that at all.”
That philosophy has probably cost Rozier money over the years, but it’s not always about that. If it was, there would be a lot more world class fighters making the trip to Brooklyn to work with him and fill up his roster. But from the kids trying to stay out of trouble to the world champions, Rozier’s goals have to do with quality, not quantity.
“I like to work with young men who don’t give a problem, who want to be better, want to improve their status and have respect for the game,” he said. “If I can get that, I’m cool with it.”
That’s why it was no surprise to New Yorkers, but maybe to those outside the area, that Ghana’s Richard Commey found a home with Rozier. And with Rozier in the corner, Commey has won a world lightweight title and looked better than ever.
“First day that I met him, I knew it was a done deal,” said Rozier, who is reminded that it would be impossible to dislike the affable Commey.
“You’re absolutely right,” he laughs. “He’s such a blessed kid, he’s so easy to work with. We had to do rebuilding to get him on track and we’re still doing it, but he’s 4-0 with four knockouts under my tutelage and I think the best is yet to come.”
Commey has another big fight coming up in December against Teofimo Lopez, but Rozier isn’t thinking that far ahead yet. He’s got business to take care of with Derevyanchenko this weekend, and while Golovkin is the understandable favorite, the age (37) of GGG and the constant questions about a third bout with Canelo Alvarez could give Rozier’s fighter a prime opportunity to catch his opponent napping at the Garden on Saturday.
Rozier wouldn’t turn away such a scenario, but he’s not expecting it, either. Instead, he’s prepared his charge to go in and fight the fight of his life on the biggest stage of the sport because Andre Rozier doesn’t want any fluke victories. That’s not the way they build ‘em in Brooklyn.
“I’m not even thinking of it in that form or fashion,” he said. “I’ve prepared myself and Gary and I and the team have prepared Sergiy for 12 rounds of strategic war. With that being said, we are not looking at anything other than defeating Golovkin in a 12-round affair. There’s not gonna be a knockout; it’s gonna be a 12-round affair and we have to be ready to win 12 rounds in this bout.”