Monday, December 17, 2018

The Middleweight Sweepstakes

There needed to be a flow chart, or at least a dry-erase board. 

"If Golovkin signs with DAZN, then he needs to have a dance partner and we all know that he won't be fighting Canelo next. So Sergiy Derevyanchenko could be available for that fight."

"But if GGG goes with ESPN, who is there for him to fight right now? Rob Brant?"

"But GGG could also sign with the PBC, so that could mean he fights Jermall Charlo next, or maybe Charlo fights Daniel Jacobs instead."

On one hand, it's an exciting time to be involved in the middleweight division. But it's also possible for one's eyes to glaze over when considering the myriad permutations and combinations that could occur at 160 lbs. The answers are few right now but the possibilities, endless.   

I'm sitting in a Manhattan restaurant with middleweight contender Sergiy Derevyanchenko, Keith Connolly, who manages Derevyanchenko and Jacobs, and Lou DiBella, who promotes Derevyanchenko. A number of writers have assembled for the meet-and-greet, which quickly shifts into parlor games: Which fighter would sign where? And who does each one fight next? 

Derevyanchenko and Jacobs before their October fight.
Photo Courtesy of HBO Boxing

All we know for certain right now is that Canelo and Andrade are tied to DAZN, although with different promoters. Jermall Charlo is with PBC. Brant and his recently vanquished foe, Ryota Murata, sit with ESPN, as could Billy Joe Saunders, with his promoter's existing relationship with Top Rank. (Top Rank has a deal to broadcast Frank Warren's promotional cards on ESPN. However, it's doubtful that Saunders would be kept from a Canelo fight if that was to materialize.) That leaves a number of other notable names, such as Golovkin, Jacobs and Derevyanchenko, without a permanent network home for the time being.

Connolly stated, "There has never been a better time to be in the middleweight division, and that includes the fighters, the managers and the promoters." The three big promotional platforms in the U.S. (PBC, ESPN and DAZN) have all made overtures to Golovkin, Jacobs and Derevyanchenko. Golovkin is clearly the next domino to fall, and there will be big money thrown at him by whichever party is successful in landing him. But the rising tide has lifted all boats.

"There is now a market for Sergiy's services," said Connolly, "where there wasn't before. He is now going to be paid what he's worth." 

And it's clear that no one really knows yet (or did know as of last week) where Golovkin is going to wind up. Connolly asked the assembled media to predict GGG's next move and each network was selected at least once as his possible next destination. When thinking about it more, any of the three platforms could conceivably make sense for Golovkin. 

Once that move is made, the other shoes will drop in the division. Connolly is looking for a multi-fight home for Jacobs. DiBella is more flexible for Derevyanchenko. "It could be a single-fight deal, a two-fight deal or a multi-fight deal. I tell my fighters that one of the advantages I have right now is that I'm not tied to a network and I can make the best deal for them. I have Tevin Farmer on DAZN. I've put Regis Prograis on ESPN. Obviously Sergiy has fought on both HBO and in the PBC universe. I'm looking for the best deal."

Derevyanchenko lost a split decision to Jacobs in October in an excellent fight. The bout was for the vacant IBF title. Having sparred hundreds of rounds against Jacobs in the past and fighting out of the same gym, Derevyanchenko faced an awkward situation: One of his co-trainers, Andre Rozier, cornered Jacobs in the fight while his other co-trainer, Gary Stark Sr. coached him. 

In talking to Sergiy, he believes that the Jacobs fight was very close and he felt like he did enough to win. However, he also hasn't watched the replay of the fight and doesn't plan to. Asked multiple times to elaborate on why he wouldn't watch the fight, he declined to answer. He noted that there were areas where he could improve, but in case of a possible rematch with Jacobs (more on that below), he wasn't necessarily keen on sharing what those may be. 

DiBella and Connolly both stated that Derevyanchenko is a network free agent (as is Jacobs). Even though he is advised by Al Haymon, who heads the PBC, Derevyanchenko isn't tied to the PBC networks, but he also isn't shunned by them. He (and Jacobs) has the ability to pick the best option and Connolly made it quite clear that Haymon has never stood in the way of Sergiy exploring the best deal in the marketplace. 

And those deals are out there. "I don't think that Sergiy felt wanted until recently," said Connolly. "He was from Ukraine and wasn't well known. No one had to fight him. He didn't have a natural fan base. But now he's wanted by three major platforms."

Derevyanchenko would love to fight GGG, but he also said that in order to become a superstar in the sport, he would need to beat either Golovkin, Canelo or Charlo; he would welcome any of those matchups. His immediate next step might be a title eliminator against Jack Culcay, a German-based fighter who gave Demetrius Andrade all he could handle in 2017. If Sergiy wins that, he would have another shot at the IBF belt, which, as it stands now, would mean a rematch with Jacobs.

The only thing Sergiy would commit to is that he was non-committal about staying with Stark and Rozier as his trainers. He still would like to talk that over with his team and if he decides to separate, that would constitute a significant change in his training and preparation. 

At 33, Derevyanchenko understands how important his next move is. At his age it's likely that he'll get one more shot at a title, but there are no guarantees other than that. To get to where he wants to go in the sport, he acknowledges that he will need to beat an excellent fighter. 

It seems as if each boxer in the middleweight division has multiple, attractive options at the moment and Derevyanchenko is right in the think of it. He might not be the prom king, but everyone knows the value of a good dance partner, and in the current climate where fighters have significant leverage, that value continues to rise. 

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of saturdaynightboxing.comHe's a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
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