Everyone knows that in sports -- and especially in boxing -- money often forces people who are otherwise friendly with one another to toss aside the personal in favor of the professional and compete for the biggest prizes on the biggest stages for the biggest purses. That certainly will be the case with the fight between Daniel Jacobs and Sergiy Derevyanchenko, men who have reportedly sparred more than 300 rounds and call Andre Rozier his chief second.
Because Gennady Golovkin chose to fight Saul Alvarez in a big-money rematch instead of facing mandatory challenger Derevyanchenko for far less money, GGG was stripped of the IBF belt and this fight was foisted on Team Derevyanchenko as well as Rozier. Rozier was presented with the same quandary as Angelo Dundee when Muhammad Ali and Jimmy Ellis signed to fightj in mid-1971. Ali solved the problem by granting Dundee permission to work with Ellis. The reason: As Ellis' manager, Dundee stood to make a bigger share of the purse and he wanted his loyal friend to maximize his pay check. Meanwhile, Ali hired Harry Wiley (who worked with Henry Armstrong and Ali's hero Sugar Ray Robinson) on a one-fight-only basis. Meanwhle, Rozier opted to work with Jacobs because he regarded Jacobs as a son while he saw Derevyanchenko as a nephew. For the record, Derevyanchenko's chief second will be Gary Russell Sr., father of WBC featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr.
How will this intramural match turn out? Will they fight like brothers who place love over competition or will they fight like brothers who want dearly to earn bragging rights for the rest of their lives? Let's hope it's the latter.
Life After Golovkin
Jacobs has fought twice since losing to Golovkin over 12 rounds, and, in light of his 12-round decision wins over heavy underdogs Luis Arias and Maciej Sulecki, one must wonder if Jacobs has lost his vaunted KO touch. That would be nit-picking, of course, because Jacobs was in control throughout most of those 24 rounds, control that included one knockdown each in round 11 against Arias and in round 12 against Sulecki. Arias produced plenty of pre-fight bluster but failed to back it up in the ring as he averaged a meager 26.5 punches per round and reached double-digit connects in only two rounds while Jacobs, who averaged a mild 48.4 punches per round, out-landed Arias 184-88 overall, 44-18 jabs and 140-70 power, produced a 12 rounds to zero sweep in terms of total connects and landed power shots, and led 45%-32% in power accuracy. In the end, the Arias fight was the perfect way for Jacobs to begin the next phase of his career.
Against Sulecki, however, Jacobs experienced more difficulty, mostly because Sulecki decided to engage Jacobs before Jacobs' hometown fans in Brooklyn -- and for those Polish fans who were there to cheer for him. Sulecki produced better output (54.8 punches per round to Jacobs' 52.6) and he had flickers of success that Arias never produced. But like the Arias fight, at least in a macro sense, Jacobs was in control throughout most of the contest as the CompuBox round-by-round breakdown had Jacobs up 11-0-1 in total connects and power shots, and ahead 205-143 overall, 39-37 jabs and 166-106 power as well as 33%-22% overall, 19%-12% jabs and 39%-30% power. Better yet for Jacobs: He produced the better finishing kick in both fights. In rounds 8-12, Jacobs out-landed Arias 107-43 overall, 21-6 jabs and 86-37 power while, against Sulecki, he prevailed 81-57 overall and 69-43 power during that same period. That's pretty impressive for a man who, before his current string of 12-round fights, had fought past round eight only once in his first 29 pro fights. In a nutshell, the evolution of Daniel Jacobs continues.
Playing the Numbers
Derevyanchenko is a statistician's dream because he blends excellent volume, exceptional jabbing and enviable accuracy no matter what target he spots. In nine CompuBox-tracked fights between March 2013 and August 2017, Derevyanchenko averaged 70.4 punches per round to his opponents' 47.4, more than doubled their total connects per round (26.1 to 11.5) as well as their power connects per round (18.9 to 9.1), dominated the battle of the jabs (30.5 attempts/7.2 connects per round to his foes' 18.1/2.4) and connected with far more precision in all phases (37%-24% overall, 24%-13% jabs, 47%-31% power). A good sign of Derevyanchenko's progression (and talent level) is that many of these gaps were maintained as he elevated his level of opposition. His most recent outing was against Tureano Johnson, who had secured a fight with GGG but had to withdraw due to a shoulder injury. Derevyanchenko scored a 12th round TKO win in this IBF title eliminator, and the numbers match up well with his previous profile: An activity gap of nearly 25 punches per round (72.9 to 48.1), dominant jabbing despite his 5-foot-9 stature (32.4 attempts/8.3 connects per round to Johnson's 9.6/1.2), connect gulfs of 336-170 overall, 93-13 jabs and 243-157 power, and accuracy differences of 41%-31% overall, 26%-12% jabs and 54%-36% power.
Like Jacobs, Derevyanchenko had plenty in the tank despite the demanding pace he set; in fact, it was Johnson who hit the wall in round 11 and who fell from a devastatingly precise combination early in round 12. If Derevyanchenko can perform at this level against strangers, how well will he perform against someone with whom he sparred hundreds of rounds?
Inside The Numbers
The selective Jacobs (47 punches thrown per round in last 6 fights), landed 41.8% of his power punches and landed/threw slightly below the middle. avg. for jabs. As a result of his selectiveness (and power), Jacobs opponents landed just 9.8 punches per round and just 6.2 power shots. Derevyanchenko, making a huge step up in class, landed nearly 40% of his total punches and a whopping 51.9% of his power shots (18.7 per round). Dere opponents landed a noticeable 34.5% of their power punches (10.6 per round/middle avg.: 11.8). The body attack, to this point has not been a factor for either fighter, as just 21.5% of Jacobs landed punches are body shots to 24.5% for Derevyanchenko (CompuBox avg.: 25.8%)
Derevyanchenko is the toughest opponent Jacobs has faced since Golovkin, and, unlike the GGG fight, Jacobs can't ignore the IBF-mandated morning-of-the-fight weigh-in to prevent fighters like himself to abuse the system (he reportedly rehydrated to nearly 190 pounds against Golovkin, a factor that likely helped him survive the fourth-round knockdown and absorb GGG's fire for the remainder of the bout). While Derevyanchenko is a natural middleweight, Jacobs is a cruiserweight masquerading as a middleweight. And, at age 31, the strain of managing his weight overnight following the first weigh-in is magnified.
Three factors will help Jacobs greatly: His talent level, the fact that this fight will take place in New York City and his familiarity with Derevyanchenko. The Ukrainian, starving for a title bout for years, will bring his best, and that best will test Jacobs like he's seldom been tested. But Jacobs is the bigger puncher of the two -- and the much bigger human being. Size does matter in boxing, and so does elite talent. Jacobs has both, and because of that he'll win on points.