Gennadiy Golovkin barely outpoints Sergiy Derevyanchenko in bloody 12-round war

Gennady Golovkin punches Sergiy Derevyanchenko during their IBF middleweight title bout at Madison Square Garden on Oct. 5, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)
Gennady Golovkin punches Sergiy Derevyanchenko during their IBF middleweight title bout at Madison Square Garden on Oct. 5, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)

NEW YORK — Who needs to see Canelo-GGG III? I’d much rather see Gennadiy Golovkin-Sergey Derevyanchenko II.

The two middleweights waged a bloody war of attrition Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, 12 rounds of pure violence with all the artistry of a demolition derby.

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Watching these two Eastern European warriors, the 37-year-old former middleweight champion from Kazakhstan and the 33-year-old relative novice from Ukraine smash into each other repeatedly only to back up and do it over and over again for 36 minutes had a kind of primal beauty.

And when the scorecards were read — a unanimous decision for Golovkin, giving him back a sliver of the middleweight title he had lost to Canelo Alvarez in their rematch 13 months ago — the Garden crowd, which had cheered raucously for Golovkin, greeting him with thundering chants of “Triple G’’ as he entered the ring, now showered the arena with boos.

That’s how much respect Derevyanchenko, in just his 15th professional fight, earned from the heavily pro-Golovkin crowd.

The most amazing thing about the fight was that it appeared it would end nearly before it started. Golovkin dropped an off-balance Derevyanchenko with a series of mostly glancing blows in the first round and opened a nasty gash above his right eye with a sharp left hook in the second.

But Derevyanchenko, whose only loss came to Daniel Jacobs last October, refused to be discouraged. He rebounded from the early onslaught to back Golovkin up in the third round, and repeatedly throughout the fight. And despite bleeding heavily from the cut between his eyelid and brow, an injury that caused the ringside doctor to twice hold up the start of rounds to check his fitness to continue, Derevyanchenko had his best moments in the last three rounds of the fight.

The opening minute of the 10th round was his best sequence of the fight. He drove Golovkin, who was never believed to have a reverse gear, backward with a series of 1-2s and appeared to have him close to a knockdown. But Golovkin was saved when referee Harvey Dock got caught out of position and found himself right up against Golovkin, his body virtually holding him up.

The rounds were close, the punches too numerous to distinguish, and the damage clearly visible. By the end of the fight, Derevyanchenko sported a large red blotch on his right cheekbone courtesy the leakage of his split eyebrow, which also dyed Golovkin’s formerly white trunks a sickly pink.

And Golovkin had swallowed so many right hands that his left cheekbone took on the look of a peach that had been dropped repeatedly on a concrete floor.

Judge Kevin Morgan scored the bout for Golovkin, 114-113. Eric Marlinski and Frank Lombardi had it 115-112, as did I.

But many of the rounds easily could have gone either way, and Derevyanchenko clearly has a stronger claim to a second shot at Golovkin than Golovkin has on a third fight with Canelo.

“Canelo’s probably licking his chops a little bit, but which fight would you rather see again?,’’ raged Lou DiBella, Derevyanchenko’s promoter. “That was (bleeping) World War III.’’

So great was the damage to both fighters that neither was available for a post-fight press conference. But it really didn’t matter. Their effort in the Garden ring, which has seen the violence from the likes of Ali and Frazier, Roberto Duran and Mike Tyson, spoke louder than their words ever could.

Golovkin, who will turn 38 in April, has been chasing a third meeting with Canelo since losing their second fight in September 2018, his only loss in 42 fights. Alvarez also dealt Golovkin the only other blemish on his 40-1-1 record when he earned a draw in their first fight in September 2017. Both fights were close and the decisions controversial.

But Golovkin, who has shown flashes of deterioration going back to 2016 in his victories over Kell Brook and Jacobs, looked very much like a fighter past his prime and perhaps nearing the end of his career. He started slowly against Derevyanchenko, not throwing a punch for the first minute of the fight, and even after he got untracked, his punches did not seem to have their usual effect on an opponent who has never shown a granite chin.

At the start of the ninth round, Golovkin hit Derevyanchenko as hard as a man can hit another man with a right uppercut flush on the chin. But instead of wobbling, as so many of Golovkin’s previous opponents have — he has scored 35 KOs in his 40 victories — Derevyanchenko fired back furiously almost immediately, and was scoring heavily by the end of the round.

And his punches had a visible effect on Golovkin, normally regarded as an iron man. Derevyanchenko was surprisingly successful at backing Golovkin up with his jab and particularly effective with his right to the body, which found a frequent landing spot beneath Golovkin’s left elbow.

It left the impression that even though Golovkin might have won this one, the result might be reversed in a rematch.

And it left the even stronger impression that a third fight between Golovkin and Canelo, who is eight years his junior and still improving, might not be such a good idea, for Golovkin or the fight fans who have been hungering for it.

Golovkin-Derevyanchenko was less technical than Golovkin Canelo, but a heck of a lot more violent, and many times more entertaining.

That’s the rematch I want to see next, and so should you.

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