Thursday, October 10, 2019

Examining Golovkin-Derevyanchenko

The fight between Gennady Golovkin and Sergiy Derevyanchenko had some interesting sub-plots. As has been the case since suffering the lone defeat of his career in September of last year in his second encounter against Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, the question of when or if a third fight between the two looms over every fight that involves Gennady Golovkin as it does for any fight that involves Alvarez. In addition to that question this fight also involved another indirect link to Alvarez, for the fight between Golovkin and Derevyanchenko would be for the vacant IBF and IBO Middleweight world championships. Two world championships that were previously held by Alvarez.

Some of the other questions that accompanied this fight revolved around Golovkin's new trainer Jonathon Banks, who took over as Golovkin's chief second following a nasty split with his longtime trainer Abel Sanchez earlier this year. Along with this being their second fight together after Golovkin’s successful return to the ring in scoring a knockout over previously undefeated Steve Rolls in June, questions concerning just how much the thirty-seven year old future Hall of Famer has left at this stage of his career were also asked.

While much of the attention centered on Golovkin, the story that followed Sergiy Derevyanchenko going into this fight was also compelling. Derevyanchenko’s only previous loss going into this fight was a razor thin decision loss to Daniel Jacobs in a fight that was also coincidentally his lone previous shot at a world championship. Despite this, there were those who did not see Derevyanchenko as a threat to Golovkin, perhaps due to Golovkin’s reputation as a “Knockout Artist.” 

Although some dismissed this fight as a “Tune-Up” for Golovkin, Derevyanchenko had scored knockouts in ten of his thirteen career wins and was a highly skilled fighter in his own right. As has been the case for many previous Golovkin opponents, the question would be whether or not he would be able to withstand Golovkin’s power.

The storylines of a seemingly aging former world champion attempting to regain a world championship going against a top contender, who was looking to make the most of his second chance culminated on October 5th at a legendary venue that has played host to similar compelling battles, Madison Square Garden in New York City, NY.

In previewing this fight, this observer stated that I felt the key would be for Derevyanchenko to get the respect of Golovkin early in the fight. It appeared for a time that this would be like most of Golovkin’s previous fights as he was able to make Derevyanchenko feel his power almost immediately upon the start of the fight. Golovkin scored a knockdown of Derevyanchenko in the first round. The knockdown came as a result of a short combination highlighted by a short uppercut to the head followed by what appeared to be a glancing hook that landed on the top of Derevyanchenko’s head that ultimately sent him down. Although Derevyanchenko did not appear hurt, it did create a 10-8 round on the scorecards in favor of Golovkin that thus also created a deficit for Derevyanchenko to attempt to work out of in terms of scoring as the fight went on.

This seemed like it would be a difficult task in my eyes based on Golovkin’s style and the fact that I felt Golovkin had dictated the fight in the first three rounds, which may not seem like much to some fans, but when one considers the knockdown in round one, which unless Derevyanchenko were able to score a knockdown of his own or able to win a round decisively where a judge could score it 10-8 in his favor, he started the fight down by two rounds. When you also factor in that I felt Golovkin won rounds two and three by margins of 10-9, Derevyanchenko faced an uphill battle to get back into this fight on the scorecards that while not impossible to overcome, it would be difficult to accomplish. Derevyanchenko also suffered a cut over the right eye from what appeared to be a Golovkin left hook in the second round. While this would be ruled to have been caused by an accidental clash of heads by Referee Harvey Dock and backed up by the New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC), there appeared to be no visual evidence to support the ruling.

Whether or not the call by Dock was blown and would have been corrected if the NYSAC used instant replay as some state commissions in the United States and international regulatory boards implement in circumstances to clarify/confirm rulings like this is a discussion for another time. It was clear that the cut only added to what was a stressful situation for Derevyanchenko and added a sense of urgency as it appeared the cut, which was not in a good spot could cause a stoppage of the fight at any time.

To his credit, in a situation where other fighters have resigned under pressure both from circumstances like a severe cut and facing a fighter like Golovkin, Derevyanchenko showed his mettle and gradually worked his way into the fight as it progressed. Much of the middle and late rounds were highlighted by consistent back and forth action between the two fighters, but Derevyanchenko was particularly effective when he was able to land to Golovkin’s body. Although it became evident as the bout went on that Golovkin’s punches had more power to them, Derevyanchenko was the more active of the two fighters.

While this has become a habit for this observer when talking about what is either thought to be a close fight from start to finish, or an encounter that evolves into a close battle over the course of a bout, a challenge for those who score a fight is to at times distinguish between a fighter’s overall activity and who is landing the more effective punches. A task that is not always easy for fans and observers watching a fight, but an even more difficult one for the three judges who score a fight. 

In this case it was a question of Derevyanchenko’s greater output or what seemed to be greater output in terms of offense versus what seemed to be Golovkin's more effective punches. I feel it necessary to state for the reader that I am providing my perspective as I always do on what I saw. While yours truly was criticized shortly after the fight by some fans for my final score of this fight, which will be shared later in this column, my perspective comes from someone who has spent over two decades covering the sport and even though there have been plenty of close decisions over that time that I personally did not agree with, various columns written over the years both online and in print expressing my disagreements whenever circumstances have emerged, I can only speak for myself as to what I saw and why I scored a fight the way I did, no different than any official judge who scores a fight. While this should come as no surprise to longtime readers and those who know me personally, I am objective and stand by any scoring I do when covering fights same as I stand by my points of view in covering the sport.

Now that I have cleared the air for any would be critic, just how did I see this fight?

Following Golovkin’s knockdown of Derevyanchenko in the first round and his winning rounds two and three in my opinion, Derevyanchenko did gradually work his way into the fight. He accomplished this both by his overall aggression as well as a consistent effort to attack Golovkin’s body, where it is believed by some that Golovkin is vulnerable. One of the more memorable moments for Derevyanchenko in this fight came in the latter stages of the fifth round when he was able to hurt Golovkin with a body shot that caused the former longtime champion to take a step backwards. 

Although this did appear to turn the ebb and flow of the fight in his favor and a round that I scored in Derevyanchenko’s favor, many of the rounds in the middle and late stages of the bout were extremely close. Despite appearing to hurt Golovkin in round five, one aspect that was difficult for me in terms of scoring was to give what were close rounds to Derevyanchenko on the basis of whenever he would land something significant, Golovkin would generally return offense almost immediately. This along with Golovkin’s seemingly harder punches allowed him to maintain what became a narrow edge on my scorecard as I ended up with a scorecard of seven rounds to five or 115-112 in points at the end of the twelve round world championship bout, with the extra point for the knockdown in the first round.

My scorecard was the same as two official judges Frank Lombardi and Eric Malinski, while the third judge Kevin Morgan had Golovkin ahead by a single point 114-113, giving Golovkin a unanimous decision victory and his second world championship. While as there always seems to be discussion, debate, and accusations of corruption after close fights from fans, the official scoring serve as an illustration of how close the fight was and just how crucial the knockdown in the first round proved to be.

Although yours truly took criticism from some fans for how I saw this fight, my opinion has not changed in the days since the bout took place. While it is indisputable that Sergiy Derevyanchenko put forth a very “Game” effort and more than showed his mettle in defeat, from my perspective he simply ran out of rounds and like many other fights that have resulted in close decisions through the years, I wonder if the fight had been scheduled for the former world championship distance of fifteen rounds, a distance that has not been used in the sport since the mid-1980’s, if the result of this fight would have been different.

Even though there are likely some that will say Gennady Golovkin is now in the latter stages of his career off of this performance, he did enough to get the job done and sometimes that is all you can ask of a fighter. Speculation and anticipation for a third fight between Golovkin and Saul Alvarez will likely continue, but with Alvarez attempting to move up to win a world championship in a third weight class when he faces WBO Light-Heavyweight world champion Sergey Kovalev on November 2nd, it leaves Golovkin with two options.

Option one, which might be the most logical, would be for Golovkin to wait on the result of Kovalev-Alvarez before deciding his next move. The second option however, if Golovkin wants to remain active might be to offer Sergiy Derevyanchenko a rematch early next year. While the second option should be viewed as dangerous especially given what took place when Golovkin and Derevyanchenko squared off on October 5th, a rematch would not only be one the public would want to see, but also would allow Golovkin an opportunity to answer those who feel he was given the benefit of doubt in this fight and a chance to remove all doubt. A rematch would also provide another opportunity to go from top contender to world champion. It is an opportunity that frankly he deserves.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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