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Gennady Golovkin shows his age as Sergiy Derevyanchenko almost pulls off the upset

Jason Gonzalez was ringside to witness the war between Golovkin and Derevyanchenko

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Gennadiy “GGG” Golovkin returned to the ring for the first time since dominating Steve Rolls in Madison Square Garden four months ago. The former middleweight champion, who had made 20 successful title defenses before suffering his first loss to Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, faced Sergiy Derevyanchenko in the main event, again in his home away from home [MSG] for the vacant IBF middleweight championship. The 37-year-old Golovkin, now 40-1-1, (35) captured the title via a unanimous decision before an announced crowd of 12,577.


Judges Frank Lombardi and Eric Marlinski both scored the bout 115-112, and Kevin Morgan had it a lot closer at 114-113 for Golovkin, who dropped Derevyanchenko in the first round, as well as opening a cut over his opponent’s right eye in the second stanza from a punch.


But as we saw last week with Errol Spence and Shawn Porter, props went to the loser of the bout instead of the victor. Golovkin struggled mightily with Derevyanchenko for much of the contest. Maxboxing’s scorecard was identical to Morgan’s, 114-113 for Golovkin. The early knockdown was the difference between a victory and a draw.


"I want to say thank you so much to my opponent. This was a great job. I respect his team. I told you, he’s a very tough guy," Golovkin said. "This is huge experience for me. Right now, I understand I need more focus on boxing. This was a tough fight. I need a little bit more. I need to still get stronger in my camp. Just more serious. I need to work hard. I need a little bit more focus.”


Golovkin showed every bit of his age in the fight. His reaction time and reflexes were noticeably slower. The Kazakh native drew first blood by dropping his opponent 45 seconds into the first round. The knockdown appeared to have come from a shot that landed on the top of Derevyanchenko’s head.


In the second round, Golovkin opened-up a bad cut over Derevyancheko’s right eye with a straight right hand. To Derevyancheko’s credit, he rallied back in the third. He had moments in which he momentarily stopped Golovkin in his tracks. Derevyancheko attained a lot of success, by turning on Golovkin and giving him angles. When he did that, he viciously attacked the body of his counterpart.


"He hit me in the back of the head. He hit me behind the ear. I didn’t really see the punch, but it didn’t really affect me that much," Derevyanchenko said. "I got up and I wasn’t really hurt so I continued to fight, so it was nothing, nothing too bad."


In the fourth round Derevyanchenko continued to implement the same strategy. As the round progressed it was plain to see that Golovkin was in the toughest fight of his career. In the fifth round Derevyanchenko hurt Golovkin with a body shot. A Derevyanchenko left hook to the body stunned Golovkin, forcing him to retreat backwards.


An odd moment occurred in the same round, when Golovkin, while visibly hurt was backpedaling, but somehow backed into referee Harvey Dock. By backing into the referee, it kept him up on his feet, which prevented him from going on the ropes.


This bought Golovkin some recovery time.


"I feel great. Thank you so much to all my fans, everybody who came to MSG. Thank you to my team. I want to thank everybody. It was a great night of boxing," Derevyanchenko said, now 13-2, (10) fighting out of Brooklyn. "The cut really changed the fight. I couldn’t see at times. And he was targeting the eye. But no excuses, it is what it is. I was trying my best."


For much of the encounter it seemed that the ‘Boxing Mecca’ was going to play host to another major upset within such a short time frame. Obviously referring to when Andy Ruiz Jr. stopped Anthony Joshua four months ago for the heavyweight title as the other.


In the sixth round Golovkin looked questionable. His body language was off. It had appeared that he hadn’t fully recovered from the body shot the round before. Derevyanchenko’s subtle movement presented issues for Golovkin, making him look vulnerable.


In the seventh round Golovkin came back strong, which was attributed to Derevyanchenko staying in the pocket and trading with Golovkin. Derevyanchenko wasn’t strong enough to trade with Golovkin nor did he have the hand speed to do so.


The brutal warfare continued in the ninth. In a tough round to score, it could have gone either way. In the 10th round Derevyanchenko won most of the give-and-take. The exchanges were hard and took place in the middle of the ring. In the 11th round a visibly fatigued Golovkin worked his jab, kept the fight in the center of the ring and was able to out box Derevyanchenko.


The fistic savagery resulted in both men being taken to the hospital as a precaution following the epic encounter. Both Golovkin and Derevyanchenko missed the post-fight press conference due to the fact.


"When I started moving, I felt like I was giving him room and I was getting hit with those shots that he threw -- and that’s why I started taking the fight to him and getting closer and not giving him room to maneuver," Derevyanchenko said. Derevyanchenko’s other loss on his resume came via a split decision to Daniel Jacobs last year.


Derevyanchenko swarmed Golovkin in the 12th, looking to make it a definitive round, but Golovkin fought hard as well. Golovkin landed a left hook that knocked Derevyanchenko back with just a minute to go as the fight seemingly hung in the balance.


"Sergiy proved he is one of the top middleweights in the world," manager Keith Connolly said. "The crowd booed GGG and cheered Sergiy after the fight. There has to be a rematch if he doesn’t fight Canelo next. There is no other fight people will want to see. Even GGG’s own network, DAZN, which is paying him $100 million under his three-year, six-fight deal, had Sergiy winning 114-113."


Golovkin was very complimentary of his opponent. He wasn’t shy about praising Derevyanchenko for the effort he put forth against him.


"Right now, it’s bad day for me, it’s a huge day for Sergiy, his team. This is huge experience for me. Right now, I know what I need exactly. I lost a little bit of focus. Sergiy was ready. I really respect him. He showed me such a big heart. I told him, ’Sergiy, this is best fight for me.’ I just respect his team."


Golovkin said that he would be very happy to give Derevyanchenko a rematch.


"Absolutely. Big fight for DAZN, for the people, of course I’m ready," Golovkin said. "I’m a boxer. I’m ready for anything."


Golovkin also expressed interest in fighting Canelo a third time. However, that doesn’t seem likely for two reasons. The demand for a rematch with Derevyanchenko will be huge. Besides that, Canelo has already committed to fight Sergey Kovalev at light heavyweight next month in Las Vegas.


"Absolutely, I’m just open to anybody," Golovkin said regarding his rivalry with Canelo. Golovkin fought to a heavily disputed draw in 2017, before a disputed majority decision loss in 2018. "There are so many great champions here. Sergiy, a lot of guys. Everything is ready. Just call Canelo. If he says yes, let’s do it."


After this recent outing, you would have to think that Canelo would be a huge betting favorite to beat Golovkin in the rubber match if it were to happen. Canelo could potentially win by knockout. Would that be shocking?


Forget about Canelo, for Golovkin, there are only two fights that matter. The first being a rematch with Derevyanchenko and the other being a unification bout with WBO middleweight champion Demetrius Andrade. Like Golovkin, Andrade is promoted by Matchroom and fights exclusively on DAZN. Golovkin-Andrade is a relatively easy fight to make. It also epitomizes the bull vs. matador matchup that we have all grown accustomed to find intriguing.


As for Derevyanchenko, it’s either a rematch with Golovkin or a fight with WBC middleweight champion Jermall Charlo. Derevyanchenko is aligned with PBC [Premier Boxing Champions] however, he doesn’t have any contractual network obligations. Derevyanchenko is free to fight anyone and anywhere that he chooses. Charlo is also with PBC. Derevyanchenko-Charlo would be another easy fight to make.


However, the Ukrainian native has his heart set on one fight only.


"I would like the rematch if it’s possible," Derevyanchenko said. "I’m ready."

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