Just because the ball dropped doesn’t mean the party’s over.
And let’s be clear, the party most definitely rages on for middleweight star Gennadiy Golovkin, but it’s the part of the night where the soundtrack is a skipping Bongzilla record and all that’s left to drink is peach flavored Boone’s Farm with a garnish of cigarette ash.
The morning light exposes hard truths and each tick of the clock is another step toward the inevitable. The passing of time strips away all but the essential elements of our being.
This is all just an overly poetic way of saying that getting old sucks balls.
Golovkin’s core appeal has always been the dichotomy between the “aw-shucks” nature of his smiling, bilingual word salads outside the ring, and the pure, undiluted savagery he produced inside it. The Mr. Potato Head style rearranging of an opponent’s face followed by infantile quotes like “He is good boy…” became a cottage industry of sorts over the course of a 42 fight career.
In recent years, however, Mr. Potato Head has started punching back, and landing at a far higher rate than someone with Golovkin’s dominant pedigree is likely comfortable with. Not exactly Willie Pep to begin with, the dulling of his reflexes has forced Golovkin to stand and fight as his defensive inadequacies have become readily apparent.
And let me tell you, if you’re an aging fighter with holes in your defense, standing across the ring from Sergiy Derevyanchenko — as Golovkin was Saturday on DAZN — is quite a shitty place to find yourself.
Derevyanchenko is not your prototypical standup-style Eastern European fighter. In a professional career barely five years old, he has shown a remarkable ability to adjust on the fly and cater his unrelenting offensive output to his opponent’s protective shortcomings.
A razor-thin split decision loss to Daniel Jacobs a year ago proved Derevyanchenko belonged at the upper tier of the middleweight division. Would he be able to exploit the increasing tread on Golovkin’s tires and force the Kazakh Matthew Broderick to places he’s never been?
To quote Chris Arreola when he found out they made macaroni and cheese flavored dental dams: “Hell yes.”
It wouldn’t start off that way though. If you made a list of the things you wouldn’t want to deal with in a professional boxing match, Derevyanchenko crossed them all off a quarter of the way through the fight. A flash knockdown in the 1st round was followed by a nasty cut opening above his right eye in round 2.
The cut was ruled by referee Harvey Dock to have been caused by an accidental headbutt, but replay evidence seemed to prove otherwise. It’s almost as if a video camera is more reliable than the fallible human mind when it comes to recording events in real-time. If only there were some way to then show the results of what the camera had captured to the people tasked with making a determination. What a concept!
Regardless of the origins of the cut, Derevyanchenko now found himself parked about a city block behind the eight-ball. Like me in Disneyland Jail, he would be forced to punch his way out of this mess.
It was clear Derevyanchenko’s attack would be focused on Golovkin’s body. Thudding left hooks to the liver stopped Golovkin in his tracks on numerous occasions. The end of the round 5 saw a visibly hurt Golovkin taking long, labored breaths as he made his way to the corner.
As Derevyanchenko continued his assault downstairs, Golovkin found a home for his sneaky uppercuts inside and that insane, overhand corkscrew punch on the outside. Every landed punch is another shovelful of dirt. Whoever gets buried first loses.
As the rounds wore on, they became more difficult to decipher. Both men heavily marked and clearly winded, the fight seemed to hinge on every exchange. Just as Derevyanchenko’s body attacked appeared to have finally stymied his weary opponent, a counter uppercut from Golovkin would turn the tide once again.
When the final bell rang, the fighters embraced in the center of the ring in celebration as well as a shared sense of relief that it was over. Finally.
As the scorecards were read and a unanimous decision victory was awarded to Golovkin (114-113, 115-112, 115-112), the boos began to rain down from the Madison Square Garden faithful. This was clearly an appreciation of Derevyanchenko’s performance and not an indictment of Golovkin’s, but it appeared to make him visibly uncomfortable.
The normally exuberant Golovkin could only muster a “Come on, guys…” as the boos continued to flow during his post-fight interview.
Whether you agree with the decision or not, booing the fighter who was awarded it is wholly counterintuitive. It’s like booing the mailman for bringing you your bills. Emotion trumps reason in nearly every cognitive function though, so what can you expect? Just know that if you booed, you made Gennadiy Golovkin sad, and you’ll burn in hell for it.
These days Golovkin fights for an audience of one. A third fight with Canelo Alvarez is his white whale. How far being pushed to the brink by Derevyanchenko will go toward luring Canelo back into the ring remains to be seen, but if it does happen, Canelo will no doubt be the prohibitive favorite.
Canelo is in his prime and Golovkin can barely see his from the shore. That’s how aging curves work, and in boxing, they come for everyone.
Golovkin will now be forced to fight for everything, both in and out of the ring. His reflexes aren’t what they were, and his bargaining power has decreased along with them. He’s a special fighter though, and that he was pushed to this unfamiliar territory is a credit to the skill and heart of Derevyanchenko.
Both men will continue to navigate the waters of the middleweight division and beyond. Their paths may cross again if time and money allow for it.
Most of the party guests have gone home and the sun is starting to rise.
But as long as the object of your affection remains willing to dance, there’s reason to rage on.
(Photo by Ed Mulholland/Matchroom Boxing USA)