Gennady Golovkin is a world champion once again, but he had to take an incredible amount of punishment to do it. The 37-year-old Kazakh star is known for ending fights early, but he needed all 12 rounds on Saturday night to earn a close unanimous-decision win over Sergiy Derevyanchenko and capture the vacant IBF world middleweight title at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
The judges scored it 115-112, 115-112, 114-113, per The Athletic's Mike Coppinger.
ESPN's Steve Kim reacted to the decision:
The win keeps Golovkin in the running for a third bout against Saul "Canelo" Alvarez. Golovkin has one draw and one loss against Alvarez, the only fighter to have stymied Golovkin in his otherwise spotless career.
Golovkin said he "absolutely" wants to fight Alvarez again, per the DAZN broadcast. However, his struggles against Derevyanchenko suggest he might have a tough time if a trilogy bout comes together. Derevyanchenko exposed some of his growing deficiencies.
GGG may be getting up there in years, but it's clear his power is still there. He was able to drop The Technician late in the first round with a hard uppercut followed by a few shots to the top of the head.
Ring's Ryan Songalia noted this wasn't the first time Derevyanchenko had gone to the canvas early:
In that fight, Derevyanchenko recovered well enough to battle Daniel Jacobs to a split-decision loss. Saturday's near comeback wasn't quite as straightforward. In the second round, a deep gash opened up over Derevyanchenko's right eye. It appeared on video replay a left hook opened up the cut, but officials ruled it was the result of an accidental headbutt.
Despite the early adversity, Lance Pugmire of the Los Angeles Times felt the underdog did well to recover in the third round:
That was the start of an excellent run from the challenger. Derevyanchenko looked faster and sharper as he forced Golovkin onto the back foot with a strong jab. He also put together some great body shots, at one point visibly staggering Golovkin, who is known for his ability to absorb punishment.
It's not often Golovkin faces a test between the ropes, but he showed he has a deep reservoir of willpower to go along with his famous strength. Ring's Douglass Fischer was impressed with the aging prizefighter's ability to interrupt Derevyanchenko's momentum:
He paid a heavy price to do it. Golovkin had little to no head movement, allowing Derevyanchenko to go right up the middle and tag him with fluid combinations. The body punches kept coming too, as this clip from DAZN USA shows:
The fight was an absolute war, with both fighters mounting comebacks and challenges within each round. Bleacher Report's Jonathan Snowden had it even through 11:
The 12th round was as exhausting and punishing as the 11 that came before it. Both fighters emptied the tank, but in the end, Golovkin did just enough to sway the judges and get the victory.
The bout certainly leaves Golovkin with plenty to think about. He said he needs more focus in his training camp if he is going to take on Alvarez, per the DAZN broadcast. It's unclear if a spectacular camp can make up for his diminishing skill set.
As for Derevyanchenko, both of his losses have been incredibly close. He absolutely deserves to be in the running for more title fights at 160 pounds. He said he would like a rematch with Golovkin, per the DAZN broadcast.