Conventional wisdom would have fight fans believing that if Danny Jacobs scores a convincing win over Sergiy Derevyanchenko at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night that “The Miracle Man” would position himself as the front-runner to face unified middleweight champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez next.
Alvarez’s Dec. 15 bout against super middleweight champion Rocky Fielding further fuels that thinking, considering the timing for a possible Canelo-Jacobs fight during the spring would make sense.
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But there are no certainties in boxing and things that make sense on paper don’t always make sense to the promoting powers that be.
“It’s set for a Canelo fight [if Jacobs defeats Derevyanchenko], but the thing you have to realize is nothing is set in stone in boxing,” Jacobs’s trainer Andre Rozier told Sporting News on Thursday at the Garden following the final press conference for the Oct. 27 fight. “It might be easier to get ‘GGG’ at this point than Canelo because is riding the mighty wave of being the king of boxing. Next to [heavyweight champion Anthony] Joshua, who else compares? So, that’s a tough call.”
But for the 31-year-old Jacobs to reach that fork in the road with Alvarez as one option and Golovkin as the other, he’s likely going to have to defeat Derevyanchenko first. And that’s not going to be an easy task, considering Jacobs played a significant role in getting Derevyanchenko to this point.
Shortly after arriving from his native Ukraine to the United States, Derevyanchenko joined the shared fighting camp led by trainers Rozier and Gary Stark Jr. As Derevyanchenko made the move up to middleweight, it became a natural progression for he and Jacobs to spar.
The whole time that the two logged sparring rounds, Jacobs (34-2, 29 KOs) was entering his prime as a savvy veteran and legit pound-for-pound best contender, while Derevyanchenko (12-0, 10 KOs) was coming into his own as “The Technician,” adding impressive wins on his record as well.
Jacobs and Derevyanchenko wound up accumulating over 300 rounds of sparring, which included “The Miracle Man’s” preparation for his bout against Gennady Golovkin in March 2017 — a fight that many believe Jacobs won, despite the unanimous decision in favor of “GGG.”
“Anytime you spar somebody who’s good, that’s got great talent, you learn from them,” Jacobs told Sporting News. “I’m not sure how much I’ve learned, but I definitely think he’s been able to keep me sharp in the times I’ve had him as a sparring partner — especially for the Golovkin fight. Very similar European style. He was able to keep me sharp. Any time you’re in there with someone good, iron is going to sharpen iron.”
As steel sharpened steel, everyone from Rozier to Stark, Jacobs and Derevyanchenko saw this Oct. 27 date coming long before the actual fight was cemented.
Simply put: Derevyanchenko helped pushed Jacobs to the point of reaching middleweight supremacy. And Derevyanchenko, 32, had gotten so good in the process, that he became a threat to reaching that same mantle himself.
The two sparring to put one another on a fast track wasn’t going to work anymore. That track soon turned into a collision course and everyone knew what had to be done.
Rozier, who has trained Jacobs since the Brooklyn boxer was 14, stuck with “The Miracle Man.”
Stark shifted to training Derevyanchenko full-time.
Now, the question is, did the familiar fighters show too much of their hand — pun intended — to each other over the years?
Rozier says it’s tricky. The longtime trainer said Jacobs and Derevyanchenko did have to bring their best while sparring, but that doesn’t necessarily mean exposing their full arsenal.
“They do and don’t,” Rozier explains. “They do in a sense because we are fighting. We’re practicing and doing what we have to do to get right. On the other hand, sparring and fighting are two different things.”
If Jacobs wins Saturday night, he may just get that shot against Alvarez or perhaps he’ll watch the opportunity slide with a recently-victorious Demetrius Andrade — or another boxer — possibly sneaking into that position. Or maybe he’ll win and face “GGG” for a chance to exact revenge.
But before either route appears on Jacobs’s GPS, the familiar challenge of getting past Derevyanchenko awaits.
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