Daniel Jacobs and Sergiy Derevyanchenko will be fighting Oct. 27 at Madison Square Garden in a 12-round bout for the vacant IBF Middleweight title on HBO (10 p.m. ET), but this will be far from the first time the two have shared the ring together.
Jacobs and Derevyanchenko are both trained by Andre Rozier, and have sparred over 300 rounds together in preparation for their respective fights over the years. But now, with both having climbed to the top of the middleweight ranks, they are fighting each other on the biggest stage.
But while they were teammates and friendly with each other, when I spoke to Derevyanhenko he made it clear that there won’t be any mixed feelings about this fight, stating:
“I want this belt, Daniel Jacobs wants this belt, and it is a fight.”
Derevyanchenko made it clear that while teammates, they weren’t exactly drinking buddies hanging out together on the weekends.
“Only boxing. I’m on the team, Daniel Jacobs is on the team. But it was not a big, close friend thing.”
His friendship with Jacobs may not pose a problem for Derevyanchenko, but plenty of other things about the fight could. This fight is in Madison Square Garden, and while Ukranian fans have come to New York City in large numbers for guys like Vasyl Lomachenko, there’s no question Jacobs will be the fan favorite. Jacobs is the “Miracle Man,” a cancer survivor, the guy that almost beat GGG and although Derevyanchenko has lived in Brooklyn for years while training with Rozier, Jacobs is Brooklyn royalty.
Then there’s the issue of losing his trainer. Rozier had trained Derevyachenko for years, but will be working Jacobs’ corner for the fight.
“If the fight does happen, I will be working my son's corner - Daniel Jacobs,” declared the trainer. “We've been together since he was 14 years-old and that his truly my ephemeral son and that's just the way it will be with anything or anyone involved with fights against anybody in the middleweight division. I'm always with my son.”
With Rozier presumably knowing all of Derevyachenko’s strengths and weaknesses, it’s curious why he didn’t hire someone completely new in an attempt to become less predictable, someone outside of Brooklyn, like Freddie Roach or fellow Ukranian Anatoly Lomachenko. But Derevyachenko made it clear he would be sticking with the guys who got him to this title shot, minus Andre Rozier.
“Before I wanted Andre for my corner, but now I understand this is not a big problem, I have Gary Stark, I’ve worked with him on every fight. I’m faithful to him.”
Sparring matches are not world championship fights. There’s a reason Paul Spadafora was able to beat up Floyd Mayweather Jr. in sparring, but would never have landed a glove on him on the biggest stage. Still, all those rounds together have made Derevyachenko hyper-aware of the tools Jacobs will bring to the ring on Saturday night.
“Jacobs has good movement; a good jab. He’s strong. I’m mindful that this is not an easy fight. I’m training hard because I know this fight won’t be easy. If I knock him out I knock him out, if it goes 12 rounds then it goes 12 rounds, no problem.”
Derevyanchenko is also aware what having a belt would do for his career. He was a mandatory opponent for Gennady Golovkin following his win over Tureano Johnson, but “GGG” opted not to fight him because it didn’t make financial sense. With a high-profile win on HBO in Madison Square Garden, over a guy as well known and well liked as Daniel Jacobs, he’ll have his pick of the top names in the division.
“This is a big fight. If I win this fight, I’ll have a belt and it will give me more options. If you have a belt you can fight against the top guys.”
But before Derevyanchenko can worry about the guys who’ve avoided getting in the ring with him, or the guys who will avoid getting in with him in the future, he must worry about the guy who’s been in with him hundreds of times. And maybe after the fight, no matter who wins, they can finally go out for a drink.
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