“You can’t always get what you want,” goes the old saw, “but if you try sometimes, you get what you need.” And despite all the frustrations and disappointments of 21st century boxing and a year almost completely ruined by the dreaded Covid-19, in the end action-starved boxing fans did indeed get what they needed last night from Jermall Charlo and Sergiy Derevyanchenko with a twelve round donnybrook that can stand next to any of the best middleweight title fights of recent years. You won’t find me saying this very often, but thank you, Showtime Boxing. Thank you, Al Haymon. Nice job. Turned out, Charlo vs Derevyanchenko was what we needed.
Though, to digress for a moment, what this fight fan wanted, and has wanted for a while, was a middleweight division that made sense. As you might imagine, this makes me a rather frustrated individual because these days that’s just asking too much. I wanted to go back in time and compel Miguel Cotto to defend the 160 pound title against Gennadiy Golovkin, and then watch Canelo Alvarez try and fail to dethrone the Kazakh destroyer. We’re talking back in say 2016 or so, and the result would have been not only Golovkin gaining rightful recognition as one of the best middleweights of recent decades, but also an absolute dream match, that being, wait for it, Golovkin vs Jermall Charlo, say in early 2019. What a fight that would have been! Like a kid in a toy store on Christmas Eve, I’d had my eye on that match-up for a while. But you don’t always get what you want, right?
But last night we definitely got what we needed. And let’s just put aside for now the fact that what we needed came with a hefty price tag that I don’t blame anyone for bitching about. No one should have to pay serious dollars for regular season boxing matches, which is what last night was, folks. Let’s face it, that wasn’t playoff boxing, that wasn’t “superfight” material; it was solid stuff, but I’m an old fart who remembers watching Bobby Chacon vs Rafael Limon IV for free back in the day and this wasn’t anything close to that. But it was quality. And again, if Charlo vs Derevyanchenko wasn’t what I wanted most, I got what I needed.
And what I needed was to see what Jermall Charlo was really made of. What I needed was to see Sergiy Derevyanchenko, after almost a year of inactivity, demonstrate that his remarkable performance against Golovkin was no fluke. I needed to see a match-up that one could say with a straight face represented a showdown between two of the very best warriors in the middleweight division, both men going for it, pushing each other to the brink, paying the price and giving the fans a show. And that’s what we got.
The only thing missing here was some serious drama, which could have only come from the Ukrainian scoring a knockdown or otherwise nabbing a two point round. He definitely had his moments and landed his share of heavy shots, but from the opening bell Charlo’s natural advantages in regards to reach, mobility and handspeed gave him a significant edge that was hard to overcome. Even so, Derevyanchenko clearly took Jermall to places he’d never been before, even in rounds that Charlo clearly earned, as he bulled his way inside to land heavy body blows and solid left hooks. But he had to pay a price for any and all offensive success: Sergiy was seriously rocked in round three by a flush uppercut and by the seventh his face was turning into hamburger with lumps and cuts around both eyes.
Round eight was a turning point of sorts as Derevyanchenko came on strong and threatened to seize the momentum only to once again have his legs buckled by some heavy artillery before the bell. Those natural advantages were making the difference and it was clear that Sergiy had to work twice as hard as Charlo just to bypass Jermall’s jab and get himself into position to bring his guns into play. He slowed noticeably in the ninth and tenth and by that point it was evident he needed to find a way to seriously hurt Charlo to have any hope of winning, a prospect that appeared more and more unlikely with each passing second.
That said, both saved something for the final three minutes and we got an intense and action-packed ending to the battle, Derevyanchenko getting Charlo’s attention more than once with powerful blows that rocked him to his boots as “The Mechanic” kept boring in and looking for a miracle, the one big shot that would land him the jackpot. It didn’t happen, but he won the last round and gave us a great finale to a very good fight, a tilt that enhanced the status of both warriors. No, it wasn’t close, but still, who would object to Charlo vs Derevyanchenko II? I know I wouldn’t.
But one glance at the Ukrainian’s face makes it evident he will need quite a bit of time to properly heal and recuperate. Though as the fight unfolded I couldn’t help thinking how a grinder like Derevyanchenko might have had a little more jump in his legs had he been able to get a tune-up match in during the ten months since his brutal war with Golovkin, a hypothesis supported by the success he had in the last round when all the ring rust was out of his system.
In any case, the reality is we likely won’t see either man back in the ring for a good long time given current, virus-related circumstances, but we got what we needed: a damn good fight and a little more coherence for the middleweight division. And with Canelo once again doing all he can to avoid a third meeting with his Kazakh rival, who knows? Maybe Uncle Al and DAZN can make medicine and we might actually see Charlo vs Golovkin. Would be refreshing to get what we want for a change. — Robert Portis