While Sergiy Derevyanchenko is on the cusp of fighting for a 160-pound world championship entering just his 11th professional bout, he’s anything but inexperienced.
The 31-year-old Russian-born Ukrainian didn’t make his pro debut until three years ago, but that followed a long, distinguished amateur career in which he finished with an incredible record of 390-20. Derevyanchenko, a native of Feodosia, Crimea, on Ukraine’s southern coast, won the gold medal at the European Cadet Championships in 2001 and 2002, and earned the bronze at the 2007 World Amateur Boxing Championships before representing Ukraine at the 2008 Olympics.
Nicknamed “The Technician” for his systematic approach in the ring, Derevyanchenko went 23-1 in the World Series of Boxing—a professional-style competition allowing fighters to maintain amateur eligibility—before making his official entry into the pro ranks with a second-round stoppage of Cromwell Gordon in New York City on July 23, 2014.
Now living and training in Brooklyn, New York, Sergiy Derevyanchenko (10-0, 8 KOs) has knocked out his last four opponents as he has stormed his way toward a potential title shot. He will put himself in prime position for a championship opportunity if he can get past Tureano Johnson (20-1, 14 KOs) on Friday night at the Buffalo Run Casino in Miami, Oklahoma (FS1, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
A win over Johnson would make Derevyanchenko the mandatory challenger for one of the three world titles possessed by Gennady Golovkin, who will defend his unified championship against Canelo Alvarez on September 16.
Derevyanchenko, who has fought solely in the United States as a pro, secured his spot in Friday’s 160-pound title eliminator with a punishing second-round TKO of former world champion Sam Soliman in July 2016. He followed that up with a fifth-round TKO of previously unbeaten Kemahl Russell in March.
Leading up to his fight with Russell, the 5-foot-9 Derevyanchenko sparred more than 40 rounds with then-world champ Daniel Jacobs, who lost a unanimous decision to Golovkin in their title unification bout in March.
Now hoping to fight Golovkin himself soon, Derevyanchenko took a timeout from his preparations for Johnson to discuss the prospect of battling Triple G, where he ranks himself in the 160-pound division and who’s not invited to his dinner table.
After sparring with Daniel Jacobs, who said you did a great job emulating Gennady Golovkin, what are your thoughts on a potential fight with Triple G?
I haven’t really spoken to Danny [since he fought] Golovkin, but my style against Golovkin would be totally different. Danny’s a well-rounded boxer who gave me a lot of great work.
I feel like I’m ready for anybody in the division right now, and I would love the fight against Triple G in the future, but Golovkin’s not on my mind right now. My focus is on Tureano Johnson.
How did working with Jacobs help you in your victory over Russell?
Russell was a tall, slick boxer with some power, but working with Danny was definitely helpful for that fight. I already knew how to fight Russell, and I thought my jab and bodywork were apparent in the way that I was able to break him down.
“ I feel like I’m ready for anybody in the division right now, and I would love the fight against Triple G in the future, but Golovkin’s not on my mind right now. My focus is on Tureano Johnson. ” Sergiy Derevyanchenko, unbeaten 160-pound title contender
Do you see any similarities between the 6-foot Russell and the 5-foot-10 Johnson?
Russell was more of a boxer than Tureano Johnson, who is a little bit shorter and more of a pressure fighter. Of course, I want to continue my string of knockouts, but I realize that Tureano is a tough fighter who was knocked out in the 10th round of his only loss.
I’ll box him, and if I get the knockout, I get the knockout. But if it goes the distance, then it goes the distance. I think Golovkin beats Alvarez, and if there’s a knockout, it will be for Golovkin. This is an IBF eliminator, so what’s most important is that we’re victorious so that we can get that Golovkin fight.
Can you compare your experiences in both the Olympics and the World Series of Boxing leading up to your professional career?
The Olympics were a good experience, but the World Series was more similar and a better transition to being a professional.
How do you rank the top fighters in the middleweight division?
I think I should be within the top five and, of course, I believe I’m No. 1. But right now, I think there’s Golovkin, who is considered the best in the division right now. Then you have Alvarez, Jermall Charlo, Billy Joe Saunders and David Lemieux, maybe in that order.
When Lemieux was preparing for Golovkin, I sparred him and I did excellent against him. All the guys I named, I rate right there with them and I think I could beat all of them.
What is your favorite punch to throw?
The left hook is probably my favorite punch. The first time I dropped Sam Soliman was with a right hand, but the last two times were from left hooks. The last time was the best one, and he couldn’t get up from it.
I landed a few good left hands against Russell, too, but at the end, one of the punches that I caught him with was a nice right hand that led to me finishing him off.
If Hollywood made a movie about your life, what actor would do the best job portraying you?
I would say Leonardo DiCaprio. He looks a little bit like me and could be me in a movie. I think he could get in good shape and do a good job being me.
Finish this sentence: If not for boxing, I would be …
… doing another sport because I’m a good athlete. I could play football, soccer, anything.
If you could have dinner with any four people in history, who would they be?
Muhammad Ali, Leonardo DiCaprio—not Vladimir Putin, that’s for sure. He’s not invited to my table.
If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
If I could change anything, there would be no wars. There would be world peace for everyone.
“12 Rounds With …” is published Wednesdays at PremierBoxingChampions.com. Next week: three-time world heavyweight title challenger Chris Arreola.