Daniel Jacobs expects Sergiy Derevyanchenko to bring out the best in him

Combat columnist
Yahoo Sports
Daniel Jacobs (34-2, 29 KOs) could be next in line to fight Canelo Alvarez if he defeats Sergiy Derevyanchenko on Saturday for the vacant IBF middleweight title. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Daniel Jacobs (34-2, 29 KOs) could be next in line to fight Canelo Alvarez if he defeats Sergiy Derevyanchenko on Saturday for the vacant IBF middleweight title. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Sergiy Derevyanchenko has only 12 professional fights, and there has been speculation that as a result of that, Daniel Jacobs may look past him and toward a potential 2019 showdown with Canelo Alvarez.

Forget that.

There is no chance – zero – that Jacobs will look past Derevyanchenko when they meet for the vacant IBF middleweight title on Saturday at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York.

A loss wouldn’t kill Jacobs’ career, but it would derail what is perhaps his last, best opportunity to be the man in the middleweight division. For nearly a decade, Jacobs has been among the best middleweights in the world. Wins over Derevyanchenko and Alvarez in his next two bouts would make him the best.

Derevyanchenko and Jacobs know each other well. Both were trained by Andre Rozier and managed by Keith Connolly, and have sparred many rounds together. Jacobs said they’re not friends because Derevyanchenko doesn’t speak English, but he knows full well the enormity of the challenge he faces in Saturday’s HBO-televised title bout.

“He doesn’t know English, so it’s really hard for us to have any relationship outside of the gym or saying hello and goodbye,” Jacobs said of Derevyanchenko. “I haven’t heard him say five English words. So, it’s really like, it’s kind of hard to have a real relationship with somebody that can’t speak English. But, I do know that he’s a very nice guy. I do know that he’s always respectful. He’s very humble. I know these things.

“But none of that stuff matters when so much is at stake. You got to understand. When you’ve been fighting all your life and you get this close to your goal, it really doesn’t matter who is in there.”

Without a win over Derevyanchenko and the IBF belt that would go with it, Alvarez would probably not give Jacobs a second thought as an opponent. But a Jacobs win would position him almost perfectly to face Alvarez in May for middleweight supremacy.

The streaming service DAZN is paying Alvarez in excess of $30 million a fight to be exclusive to it, but that sets up well for Jacobs. Eddie Hearn, Jacobs’ promoter, is the face of DAZN and positioned to get Jacobs the bout with Alvarez. DAZN isn’t paying Alvarez that kind of money to fight the Rocky Fieldings of the world, whom Alvarez will face on Dec. 15 in New York in what looks on paper to be a gross mismatch.

Daniel Jacobs (L) and Sergiy Derevyanchenko (R) faceoff at Madison Square Garden on Oct. 24, 2018, in New York. (Getty Images)
Daniel Jacobs (L) and Sergiy Derevyanchenko (R) faceoff at Madison Square Garden on Oct. 24, 2018, in New York. (Getty Images)

Jacobs has the frame and the style to give Alvarez trouble, and if he brings the IBF belt with him, it will give him a leg up on getting what would be a rich match.

But Derevyanchenko is a veteran of 400 amateur fights and competed in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. He’s extremely hungry, promoter Lou DiBella said, and knows this could be his only shot. He will, DiBella vows, give Jacobs the fight of his life.

Jacobs knows Derevyanchenko is skilled from their many rounds spent sparring each other, and Derevyanchenko’s 400 amateur fights give him the kind of experience most modern fighters lack.

Jacobs was careful not to dis Derevyanchenko even while dismissing the lopsided experience edge Derevyanchenko enjoys.

“I do feel like I do have a lot of the experience, or I have more experience than he does in the professional world,” Jacobs said. “He’s fundamentally sound. He has that background which gives him the skill and the mindset of knowing what to do inside that ring. But actually, going inside that ring and doing it and putting in the work and going 12 rounds multiple times and having all of these different fights, I mean, you learn, you’re learning how to be a true professional fighter because there’s really not a lot of things used in amateur fighting.

“There’s not a lot of things to look out for in amateur boxing. Once the headgear comes off, once the 10-ounce gloves come on and you’re fighting men and you’re doing all these different things, that’s where the experience comes. So, I definitely have the edge on experience, but you really won’t know until you get inside that ring. This guy is a very talented guy, so I think he’s going to bring the best out of me and it’s really going to be a good fight.”

The best of Jacobs is sensational, and even his average isn’t bad. If he can put it all together for back-to-back fights, he’d finally hit the top of the division. He was expected to be the next in a long line of elite fighters from the Brownsville section of Brooklyn. Among the others are legends like Mike Tyson, Riddick Bowe and Mark Breland.

Jacobs has gotten close, but he hasn’t fully gotten over the hump. Beating Derevyanchenko would go a long way toward that. And while Derevyanchenko isn’t a big name to the casual audience, Jacobs knows he’s in for a test.

And that’s why if he wins on Saturday, it’s going to be celebrated in a major way.

“I think it’s a true blessing and great opportunity for me to represent, not only New York boxing, but coming from Brownsville where boxing has been the essence of the neighborhood,” Jacobs said. “We’ve had heroes, obviously, like Mike and Shannon [Briggs] and Zab [Judah] and all these different guys that I grew up watching. Having that same opportunity to fight for a world championship and bring the belt, not just back to Brooklyn, but back to Brownsville, that’s significant and I don’t take that lightly. But, all of these things I keep in the back of my mind when I’m training. I’ve just recently seen that there’s a billboard in Brownsville of the fight, which is a really, really big accomplishment.

“I was more excited about that billboard being in Brownsville than I was of a billboard being in Times Square. That just goes to show you how meaningful it is to our culture, how meaningful it is to Brownsville in bringing this belt back because the belt represents hope. God willing I get this victory, we’re going to have a parade in Brownsville.”

It has the potential to be a sensational fight. Jacobs, though, is a sensational fighter and he’ll prove that on Saturday.

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