For much of the last few years of the fighting life of one Gennady Gennadyevich Golovkin, the name of GGG has been intrinsically tied to another—that of Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. Long before they engaged their two close, entertaining yet controversial fights with one another, Golovkin and Alvarez were linked, and many expected that link to continue with a third fight this September. But then Canelo, whatever his reasons are, chose to pass on both a third fight with GGG and his traditional September fight, and instead fight Sergey Kovalev on November 8.
So this weekend, Golovkin will make his own march forward in his career, fighting Ukrainian contender Sergey Derevyanchenko Saturday night in Madison Square Garden in New York City. The fight will be broadcast on DAZN and will be for the IBF middleweight title, which was stripped from Canelo late this summer.
For the destroyer from Kazakhstan, it has to be something of a relief. Being away from the drama, away from the politics that surround fighting the biggest draw in boxing, and eager to get back to work of mastering his opponent. It really is a new day for Golovkin, as he will be fighting for just the second time with trainer Jonathon Banks, who replaced long time trainer Abel Sanchez in May, ending what had been a near father-son relationship for Golovkin.
GGG and Banks’ new endeavor started off well this June as Golovkin blew out undefeated Canadian Steve Rolls in just four rounds in MSG, showing improving defensive skills and the return of the varied punch selection, which had been one of the calling cards of Golovkin’s incredible run in the beginning and the middle of the decade. Through it all, Golovkin seemed to be having fun for the first time in a while, once again learning after plateauing under Sanchez. That Golovkin knocked out Rolls with an overland left from the southpaw stance, something we hadn’t seen for him before, was evidence of that.
Golovkin certainly must have his focus off of Alvarez, as Sergey Derveyanchenko presents as a legitimate a challenge as Golovkin could face at this time. Despite only having fourteen pro fights under his belt, Derveyanchenko is an Olympian who had over 300 amateur fights and also 24 fights in the World Series of Boxing, an amateur competition without headgear where fighters can’t fully close gloves. In his only pro loss last September, the Ukrainian gave Daniel Jacobs absolute hell for twelve rounds in an IBF title fight, and Jacobs needed a furious final effort just to get a split decision victory.
In many ways, Derveyanchenko is a poor man’s Golovkin, an aggressive boxer puncher who can come forward as well as box and move laterally. But Derevyancheko is a much slower starter than Golovkin, which he showed against Jacobs and in his last fight against Jack Culcay, where he let the former junior middleweight titlist take several of the early the rounds before he began to make his point. He will be looking to take his time, get inside and rough up Golovkin, and he may be one of the first guys Golovkin has faced in his pro career that can make that strategy work.
So Golovkin will be looking to box in this fight, use his educated jab to make distance and land the right punches to slow down Derevyanchenko. With that in mind, it is better that GGG has Banks in his corner rather than Sanchez, who seemed to have no idea what he wanted GGG to do as a fighter at this point.
While GGG needs to focus on Derevyanchenko, he will have many options if he gets past him on Saturday night, such as rising Mexican Jaime Munguia. That said, you have to think that Golovkin wants one more shot at Canelo. Sometimes in boxing, as in life, you have to move on to get what really want, and what GGG wants Saul Alvarez laying on his face, prone on the canvas.
But he’s gotta put Derevyancheko down first.