Unbeaten middleweight contender talks about finally getting a 160-pound title shot and what it's like to fight his friend and former sparring partner Daniel Jacobs tomorrow night in New York City.
Sergiy Derevyanchenko finds himself in an unusual situation. The Russian-born Ukrainian has an opportunity to fight for the IBF 160-pound championship. But to win it, he has to go through his training partner, former champion Daniel Jacobs. The two have sparred together since 2017 and share trainers, Andre Rozier and Gary Stark Sr.
So when he steps into the ring against Jacobs tomorrow night at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square, Derevyanchenko will be filled with mixed emotions. But nonetheless will be determined to win his first world title.
The 32-year-old Derevyanchenko (12-0, 10 KOs), is nicknamed “Technician” for his precision in the ring. He moved his training camp with Stark to Colorado Springs, Colorado, while Rozier worked with Jacobs in California.
Derevyanchenko worked his way into the title shot by knocking out six-straight opponents and is the only boxer to ever KO former world champion Sam Soliman, whom he stopped on a sixth-round TKO in 2016.
Derevyanchenko—who was born in Feodosia, Crimea and now lives in Brooklyn—had an extensive amateur career, going 390-20 and representing Ukraine at the 2008 Olympic games. He went 23-1 in the World Series of Boxing, a professional style competition that allowed fighters to maintain their amateur status.
Jacobs, who lost a close decision to former middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin in 2017, represents the toughest opponent Derevyanchenko has faced in his pro career.
Did you ever think “Wow, Daniel Jacobs and I would be a great fight if it ever happened?”
Of course I always knew there was the potential for Danny and I to fight each other, but not necessarily for the title, and, not so fast.
I often imagine myself in the ring with the strongest fighters in my weight during the training process for the opponent whom I will fight. Danny was among them.
What are your thoughts on making your debut at Madison Square Garden, where Jacobs has fought before?
I’m happy about the fact that this show will take place at Madison Square Garden, and I’m glad to have the opportunity. Remember, I beat (200-pound champion Oleksandr) Usyk and (interim 175-pound champion Oleksandr) Gvozdyk in the amateurs.
Danny’s probably more well known in New York, but I’ve been in with some top guys and there will be lots of Ukrainian supporters in The Garden who know that I can beat Danny. I can’t wait to experience the atmosphere in that legendary arena.
How difficult do you believe it will be for you to face Jacobs given your familiarity with him as a former sparring partner, and also, for your trainers to go against one another?
Gary Stark will be working with me in the corner. He and Andre Rozier have worked with me together in the past. Andre is a great coach and a good person. We have a great working relationship in the gym, and, of course, I would like to have him in my corner.
But we’re professionals, and I understand Andre’s decision to work with Danny. It’s going to be different, but I will have to make the adjustment. I am an experienced professional, and I’ll be able to make the adjustment. It’s going to be a little difficult before the fight, but we have to take care of business.
Did you and Danny push for this fight to happen?
We were No. 1 for that belt. Danny knew we were in line for it, and he wanted to fight us for that belt. The decision’s been made, and now, it time to go to work.
We have to go out there and fight and to take care of business. Having trained with Danny, I know him very well and we are friends.
However, my mentality is that it will be strictly business in the ring. It is not going to be a simple fight. Danny knows a lot about me, and I know a lot about him.
But this is my time, and there is no time for sentimental feelings. I’m going to have to come up with some new things that he’s not aware of, and I’m fully prepared to do that.
How would you characterize your sparring with Jacobs?
We helped Danny for his fight with Gennady Golovkin, and Danny’s a well-rounded boxer who gave me a lot of great work for my (fifth-round TKO of) Kemahl Russell (in March 2017), who was a tall, slick boxer with some power.
Our working with Danny was definitely helpful and mutually beneficial for both of our fights—his fight with Golovkin and mine with Kemahl. Danny’s (an inch) taller than (the 5-foot-11) Russell, but when we sparred with Danny, it was friendly fire.
Like, if we hit Danny hard in sparring, then we might pull back. We were helping him, so our sparring could be like a game of chess. There was little that separated us as to who was better in sparring, but this fight will be completely different.
“ I’m a step away from my dream, and I will not miss this chance. I will not be denied. ” Unbeaten middleweight contender Sergiy Derevyanchenko
Do you have any answers for Jacobs’ switch-hitting style?
Danny likes to switch from leftie to right-hander, but I know Danny’s a natural right-hander, so being a southpaw is his weaker stance. It’s a trick move.
We’ll have switch-hitting sparring partners. So if Danny wants to go leftie, we’re ready to take advantage of that and everything else that Danny does.
What are your thoughts on Jacobs’ performances against Golovkin and his subsequent unanimous decision wins over Luis Arias and Maciej Sulecki?
I thought Danny fought a great fight against Golovkin. The fourth-round knockdown of Danny influenced the judges’ decision. We watched the Arias and Sulecki fights, and I was thinking that I would have stopped each of those guys.
But I also know that Danny is taking my fight more seriously than he did those two fights. Danny knows that this is going to be a tougher fight. I’m going to give this everything that I’ve got. We’re not going in there to lose.
What will you do against Jacobs that Golovkin didn’t?
I’ve reviewed Danny’s fight with Golovkin, and my style against Golovkin would be totally different. I’m a lot smarter than Golovkin, who made a lot of mistakes against Danny and showed that he has trouble with boxers. Golovkin was a headhunter, which I don’t understand because he’s a good body puncher.
Golovkin didn’t attack Danny’s body like I will. I would be glad to hold such a fight. I would like to fight with Golovkin or Alvarez for the title. I’m interested in boxing any of the stars of this level and the strongest fighters at my weight.
So, if I am ever granted the opportunity (to fight Golovkin or Alvarez), I would love the fight against GGG in the future. I feel like I’m ready for anybody in the division right now, but I’ve got to beat Danny before I can consider fighting anyone else.
What did you learn by nearly going the distance against Taureano Johnson, whom you dropped and stopped in the 12th round, and does this Jacobs fight break down into a war, a chess-match, or a mixture of both?
The fight with Tureano Johnson was the first time I had a 12-round fight. I saw my mistakes, learned what I have to work on, and that we are headed in the right direction. But Danny is among the world’s best middleweight fighters.
This will be my most difficult professional fight. I believe this fight is going to be a war, and I’m ready for it. I want the knockout, but I don’t go in there looking for it. I want the belt very badly, but I know that Danny also wants the belt.
I will do some boxing when I need to box. I’ll be more aggressive when I need to be the aggressor. If there is a chance for a knockout, I will certainly take advantage of that opportunity, making sure boxing fans enjoy the experience.
What will it mean to be called a world champion?
This has been a long time coming for me, from my time in the amateurs to my pro career. I’ve beaten everyone they’ve put in front of me to earn this shot. Winning this fight means everything, and I expect to have my hands raised.
The belt will be mine. That means I will have a belt and the opportunity to combine belts in unifications against big names, and I have thought about the prospect of those fights between myself and between so many different fighters of my era.
I have devised my plans and I have the skills for those great battles in order to be the winner in the end, and I know how to beat all of them. I’m a step away from my dream, and I will not miss this chance. I will not be denied.
For a closer look at Sergiy Derevyanchenko, check out his fighter page.