It’s fitting that Sergiy Derevyanchenko and Tureano Johnson have been paired together for their upcoming 160-pound title eliminator. Both middleweights have believed for years to be ready for a world title fight, yet are also the type to take whatever challenge is offered in a climate where most others would’ve shied away from being matched so tough without a major trophy at stake.
Neither boxer batted an eyelash when told they’d have to face each other for the right to challenge for a world title. Nor is it expected that either will blink the moment the opening bell sounds Friday night for their 12-round title eliminator at Buffalo Run Casino in Miami, Oklahoma (FS1, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
Sergiy Derevyanchenko (10-0, 8 KOs) was eager to fight at the top level from the very moment he turned pro in 2014. The ferociously hitting Ukrainian—now based out of the Coney Island section of Brooklyn, New York—was already 28 years old by the time he entered the pro ranks after a run in the World Series of Boxing, which came on the heels of competing in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He demanded an ambitious schedule that would allow him to challenge for a world title within three years and 15 fights.
Consider it mission accomplished, provided he wins Friday night.
Early wins over Alan Campa and Elvin Ayala in 2015 were clear indicators of his boxing chops considering he was barely a year into his pro career. Boxing fans really took notice of “The Technician” last year, when he scored a brutal three-knockdown, second-round TKO of former champion Sam Soliman in July in an elimination bout.
With his spot in the title eliminator already lined up, the 31-year-old Derevyanchenko stayed sharp in March with a fifth-round stoppage of previously unbeaten Kemahi Russell in Tunica, Mississippi. Soon thereafter began plans to move toward a showdown with Johnson for the right to next face reigning 160-pound champion Gennady Golovkin.
“This is a very important fight for me,” said Derevyanchenko, who weighed in Thursday at 159 pounds. “A victory in this fight brings me closer to my dream of becoming a world champion. I’ve been training hard for this challenge and I know that Johnson will be prepared.
“I’m going to show that I’m ready for anybody in the middleweight division.”
“ A victory in this fight brings me closer to my dream of becoming a world champion. ... I’m going to show that I’m ready for anybody in the middleweight division. ” Sergiy Derevyanchenko, on his 160-pound title eliminator against Tureano Johnson
Action will have to speak louder than words considering the ready, willing and able contender who will be manning the opposite corner on fight night.
Tureano Johnson (20-1, 14 KOs) already has his name etched in the record books as one of the most successful boxers to ever come out of the Bahamas. He represented his native island in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, serving as a one-man team and storming all the way to the quarterfinal round before coming up short against China’s Hanati Silamu.
Johnson relocated to the United States afterward and made his pro debut in March 2010 with a first-round TKO of Cleoney Fuqua in Atlanta. The 33-year-old can make a strong case that he is still unbeaten, with his lone loss to Curtis Stevens in April 2014 coming as a result of a controversial stoppage. Johnson was ahead on the scorecards heading into the 10th and final round, but a sequence that left him momentarily dazed was enough for referee Gary Rosato to halt the contest.
He hasn’t come close to losing since then, rattling off six victories, including four stoppages, to work his way back into title contention. Most notable among the lot was his 12-round whitewash of Ireland’s Eamonn O’Kane in October 2015. While the win earned Johnson a mandatory shot at Golovkin, he suffered a severe shoulder injury in the bout.
When surgery put Johnson on the shelf for more than a year, he lost his place in line to challenge Golovkin. Following a second-round KO of Fabiano Pena in March that helped knock the rust off his 17-month layoff, Johnson is now being asked to earn a shot at the champ for a second time.
“I expect a great fight,” said Johnson, who weighed in at 159.8 pounds. “However, [Derevyanchenko] is in my way toward a championship. There is no other choice but to defeat him.”
The co-main feature could provide a peak into what awaits the winner down the road. Red-hot 160-pound prospect killer Immanuwel Aleem (17-0-1, 10 KOs) takes on Hugo Centeno Jr. (25-1, 13 KOs) in a pivotal 10-round bout.
For a complete look at Derevyanchenko vs Johnson, visit our fight page.