By Keith Idec
If Daniel Jacobs could’ve chosen his next opponent, he wouldn’t have picked Sergiy Derevyanchenko.
It’s not that Jacobs wanted an easier path to a middleweight title. It’s more that their fight Saturday night is complicated because Andre Rozier trains Jacobs and Derevyanchenko.
Rozier will work Jacobs’ corner. Gary Stark Sr. – who, along with Rozier, has trained Derevyanchenko – will be the unbeaten Ukrainian’s chief second.
Ultimately, Jacobs and Derevyanchenko weren’t about to allow their training predicament to prevent them from fighting for an unclaimed middleweight championship. The winner of their 12-round, 160-pound championship match in The Theater at Madison Square Garden will leave the ring with the IBF middleweight title that was stripped from Gennady Golovkin four months ago.
Sparring more than 300 rounds versus Derevyanchenko over the past few years has helped Jacobs prepare for what some might consider an awkward situation.
“This is a business and that’s how we’re both taking it,” Jacobs said during a conference call Monday. “So it’s really no different from me seeing Gary on the opposite side of the ring from me [in] sparring and Gary telling him how to get the best of me in sparring. I look at it just the same, but the stakes are just higher. It’s really not a personal thing for me, even though I’ve known Gary for longer and he once worked my corner.
“To me, it’s more so about he’s just doing the best for his fighter. So I have nothing but respect and I can’t do anything but respect the idea of it. My thing is this – there’s no one that’s gonna get in the way of me reaching my goals, and I see the same for those guys. So it’s really not awkward. But if I could have it a different way, obviously I would.”
Jacobs (34-2, 29 KOs), who’s ranked No. 3 among the IBF’s middleweight contenders, figured there’d come a day when he would have to fight the No. 1-ranked Derevyanchenko (12-0, 10 KOs), a 2008 Olympian who had more than 400 amateur fights.
“There’s truly no other way around it,” Jacobs said. “And I knew this could potentially be a fight once Derevyanchenko came [into] the stable. I knew it was another middleweight guy that could potentially reach the top, that I may have to fight one day. Because, you know, I don’t believe in sharing belts. I wanna be the undisputed [middleweight champion]. So the idea was always in the back of my mind.
“But I have the utmost respect for Gary, I have the utmost respect for Sergiy, and I think it’s just gonna go for a more interesting and better fight. We’ve known each other for so long and there’s history with us, you know, it’s just a good time. And the fans are gonna be ones that benefit off it the most.”
HBO will televise Jacobs-Derevyanchenko as the main event of a “World Championship Boxing” tripleheader set to begin at 10 p.m. ET/PT. The telecast will include two more title fights – a 10-rounder between New York’s Heather Hardy (21-0, 4 KOs, 1 NC) and Shelly Vincent (23-1, 1 KO), of Providence, Rhode Island, for the vacant WBO women’s featherweight crown, and a 12-rounder that’ll pit Puerto Rico’s Alberto Machado (20-0, 16 KOs), the WBA world super featherweight champion, against Cleveland’s Yuandale Evans (20-1, 14 KOs).
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.