Derevyanchenko vs. Culcay: Steam Locomotive vs. High-Speed Train

Two top middleweight contenders battle for a world title shot when Sergiy Derevyanchenko and Jack Culcay throw down Saturday night on FS1.

When the IBF ordered their second-ranked middleweight, Jack Culcay (25-3, 13 KOs), to face third-ranked Sergiy Derevyanchenko (12-1, 10 KOs) in a title eliminator, a doorway to big money and big opportunities was created.

This Saturday, April 13, the two hungry middleweights face one another at the Armory in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in the co-feature slot on PBC on FS1 (10:00 p.m. ET/7:00 p.m. PT). The card’s main event that features former world champs Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin and Minnesota-native Caleb Truax in an IBF super middleweight eliminator.

Derevyanchenko and Culcay, two 2008 Olympians representing their home countries, Ukraine and Germany, respectively, are no strangers to high-end success. They haven’t yet established themselves as a permanent fixture among the game’s top players, but both to remedy that this weekend with a breakthrough performance.

Just six months ago, Derevyanchenko nearly reached the top of the stacked middleweight division with a solid performance against Daniel Jacobs for the then-vacant IBF title. Not only was he successful in being competitive against his well-regarded opponent and former sparring partner, he won large chunks of the fight, pushing Jacobs like few have before, but ultimately falling short on the judges’ scorecards via close split decision.

His performance against Jacobs, along with a brief, but weighty pro resume that boasts wins over former titlist Sam Soliman and top contender Tureano Johnson, establish the former amateur star as a top middleweight contender, on the verge of being elite-level.

With a 390-20 record as an amateur and a 23-1 record in the World Series of Boxing, Derevyanchenko is a seasoned presence well beyond what his five-year, thirteen-fight pro career might suggest.

The 33-year-old Ukraine-born, Brooklyn resident has a well-honed skill set that relies heavily on his ability to distress an opponent with non-stop, come-forward pressure. He’s not necessarily an all-out swarmer, and he definitely isn’t a one-punch assassin, but his constant march forward and ability to quick-reset back into offense mode breaks down lesser opponents and steals moments from higher-end foes.

Known as “The Technician” for his offensive accuracy, Derevyanchenko gets good leverage on just about everything he throws and is a solid body puncher who likes to set up much of his offense with a preliminary attack downstairs. His composure, experience, and a sly, underappreciated use of angles, make him a solid defensive fighter as well.

A smart, well-prepared student of the game, he is aware of the task at hand on Saturday.

“Jack Culcay is a good fighter,” Derevyanchenko recently told RingTV via interpreter. “[He is] experienced and he was a world champion. This is a worthy opponent and I think the fight will be exciting.

“Culcay moves well on his feet; he is fast. I will use a jab against him, force him to make a mistake and punish him for it.”

The Ecuador-born, German resident Culcay, tasked with shutting down Derevyanchenko, is a former WBA junior middleweight world titlist, bumped up from interim champ status after two defenses of that title. He dropped the belt to Demetrius Andrade via closely-contested split decision in March 2017 and followed that up with a competitive unanimous decision loss to Maciej Sulecki seven months later.

After a tough 2017, however, “Golden Jack” came back strong in 2018, going 3-0 in his move up to middleweight and earning a number-two ranking from the IBF.

The 33-year-old is an athletic, all-around solid fighter who uses his athleticism as a catalyst for offense and a facilitator for defense.

Offensively, Culcay likes to fight in spurts, pushing forward in bursts of energy after carefully prodding and poking at opposition from the outside. He sets up everything with the left hand, shooting out a solid jab and occasionally looking to surprise an opponent with a well-timed lead left hook. Although not blessed with one-punch power, he can keep opposition honest with his two-fisted staccato bursts.

On defense, the former champ is quick and nimble, using head movement to duck under or around incoming shots and staying on his toes to move away from danger.

Also a student of the game, he has clearly studied Derevyanchenko and understands what he’s up against.

“He's like a steam engine,” Culcay observed in a recent interview for the German-language boxing site, BoxSport. “He rolls slowly, picks up speed and then drives with constant force and speed to the destination station. That is remarkable how he tackles his fights…Everything he hits then comes with the same power and he keeps it up to the last lap. But he is a steam locomotive and not a high-speed train.”

Culcay is counting on his edge in speed to be his key to victory this Saturday. Derevyanchenko, meanwhile, is banking on pressure.

Can Derevyanchenko get in Culcay’s face, force him to abandon his preferred pace, and beat him into submission?

Can Culcay use his speed to nullify Derevyanchenko’s pressure and steal rounds from a frustrated and off-rhythm aggressor?

Derevyanchenko-Culcay is a battle of almost diametrically opposed styles and mindsets between two Olympic-pedigreed fighters at the same age and virtually same world stage level. The victor this Saturday moves on to a world title challenge, wading into the deepest waters of the division. The loser stays on the outside, looking in.

For a closer look at Quillin vs Truax, check out our fight night page. 

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