The Ukrainian Middleweight Takeover

By Cain Bradley on September 20, 2016
The Ukrainian Middleweight Takeover
Sergiy Derevyanchenko has yet to show a weakness. (Photo: Rosie Cohe/Showtime)

Ukraine currently looks like an absolute powerhouse of boxing and one weight they have yet to make an impression at is middleweight…

Ukraine currently looks like an absolute powerhouse of boxing and one weight they have yet to make an impression at is middleweight. In Ievgen Khytrov and Sergiy Derevyanchenko they have two boxers capable of changing that.

Someone always gets robbed at the Olympics. It seems to happen every single Olympics, perhaps unsurprising given the large number of bouts in a short time. Floyd Mayweather, Roy Jones Jr. and Michael Conlan are perhaps the most famous examples. It tends to be even more noticeable when the defeated boxer goes on to achieve big things. A boxer who was subjected to this fate at London 2012 but almost forgotten about was the Ukrainian Ievgen Khytrov.

So often the story of a boxer starts with bullying. For Khytrov his Dad took him to boxing as punishment for being a bully hoping he would be taught a lesson. Instead the Ukrainian took to it. Khytrov was a successful junior winning the European Championships but it took a while for him to get his chance in a loaded Ukrainian team. When he did—after 2009—he was dominant. His best result came in the 2011 World Championship when as an unseeded boxer he won in the middleweight division. To make the semi final he had four comfortable wins—two stoppages and two wide decisions. Then in the semi final he stopped Bogdan Juratoni who had beaten the number two seed. Then in the final he beat Ryoto Murata—the gold medalist in London who is unbeaten as a professional. Entering London, Khytrov was a strong favorite despite the presence of Murata. He was a boxer that was spoke of in hushed tone and probably the most feared (not the best which was Vasyl Lomachenko another Ukrainian) of all the competitors. Khytrov got the tougher half (all three would be opponents on route to the final are now unbeaten professionals) but was still expected to come through. His first opponent was Anthony Ogogo representing the home country. Khytrov knocked his opponent down twice but on the point scoring system it came back as 18-18. Next count back was applied and despite some controversy it was given as 52-52. This led to the application of a tiebreaker with the judges each picking a winner. Shockingly it was the home fighter, Anthony Ogogo who took the decision. In one of his final amateur bouts he stopped the Olympic Champion Zhanibek Alimkhanuly within a minute. With a final amateur record of around 480 wins and 23 defeats, Khytrov turned professional.

The Ukrainian Lion has started his professional career impressively. He has won 14 fights with no losses and 12 stoppages. In his sixth fight he stopped the experienced Willie Fortune. Paul Mendez his most recent opponent that he stopped and he currently holds the NABF middleweight title. He has always been matched aggressively and his last five opponents had a record of 68-9 entering the bouts. BoxRec has him ranked eleventh in the division and in the top fifteen of all four major governing organizations including fifth in the WBC. He has shown signs of struggling in the ring, notably when behind on the scorecards against Nick Brinson before producing a stoppage. The speed and combinations of Brinson kept Khytrov off him for a few rounds. He will surely improve over the longer distance as his stalking strong style will wear down opponents. Mendez was his most recent opponent and felt the force of over 50 landed punches a round. Maybe a lazy comparison is Gennady Golovkin. He has the similar come forward style as he stalks down his opponents. He is similarly powerful with his stoppage of Chris Chatman very impressive visually. Chris Middendorf who is the matchmaker for Iron Mike Promotions described him as having the potential of GGG. He seems to have a vicious streak in him where he really enjoys hurting opponents. At his best he switches effortless from head to body but perhaps does not set up the big left hooks well enough.

So Khytrov does look like a top prospect in the middleweight division, albeit with flaws. The greater prospect may be the man Khytrov replaced in the Ukrainian team, Sergiy Derevyanchenko. At 22, he was the World Championship bronze medalist when losing to the eventual winner Matt Korobov. At the Olympics he lost to the man who won the silver medal, Emilio Correa Jr. He was one of the highlights of the early WSB—going 23-1 over four seasons. In some ways, the WSB prepared Derevyanchenko better for the professional game than the more typical amateur pedigree of Khytrov. He finished with an amateur record of 390-20.

His first five opponents were dispatched nice and comfortably. Sounds par for the course until you realize his opponents had a combined record of 76-39-3 and he stopped four of them. His sixth opponent was Elvin Ayala, somewhat of an upper tier gatekeeper. In the five years prior only Curtis Stevens and David Lemieux had beaten him. Derevyanchenko added himself to that list with a terrific decision win. He did not lose a round on any scorecard and two judges even gave him a 10-8 round. Two stoppage wins followed over two impressive opponents before another step up with Sam Soliman. Granted the veteran is probably past his best but only Anthony Mundine has ever stopped him before and prospect Dominic Wade only got a split decision over him in his previous fight before being stopped by Gennady Golovkin. Derevyanchenko was marvelous, dropping Soliman in the first with a one-two. The second round saw him dropped twice and the referee showed mercy by calling an end to the violence. With that win he is now the IBF number two and surely in line for a title shot soon.

His professional fights and those under the WSB showed someone with great power. But his nickname is the technician which tells you more about his style. He is aggressive but in a more patient manner than Khytrov. For the weight he is short only coming in at 5’7 but has tremendous power, especially when going to the body. He has an efficient manner with his punches where nothing seems to be wasted. His defense will no doubt be underrated but he is willing to tuck up tight and take punches to the gloves. His experience means that he is a flexible boxer capable of taking on whatever role necessary to take the win. He is being fast tracked for big fights in the division and spars with Daniel Jacobs. Expect great things from these Ukrainians but whereas Khytrov looks like he can be outboxed, Derevyanchenko has yet to show a weakness. In a weight where Canelo (within 12 months) and Golovkin reside it is perhaps hard to predict where the title will come from, but Derevyanchenko will surely find a way, even if it means shocking the boxing world by defeating a star.

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Sergiy Derevyanchenko vs Sam Soliman

Ievgen Khytrov vs. Paul Mendez Full Fight HD

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  1. Old Yank 05:52pm, 09/24/2016

    GGG and Danny Jacobs in December at the Garden? If this bout actually comes off, I’m getting some nice seats. Can we get 18 to 20 together to buy a box for the night? Ain’t nothin’ that feels exactly like VIP treatment at the Garden for a high-profile bout.

  2. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 10:01am, 09/20/2016

    Memo to Mendez: You’re corner doesn’t like you, not even a little bit. Gathering of morons in the corner after the eighth round deciding to “give Mendez another round.” Mike Silver is right…it’s “brain bashing” nothing more, nothing less.

  3. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 07:09am, 09/20/2016

    Soliman was handicapped going in and hid it for the payday. The right knee is gimpy and never has been properly dealt with. Another example of boxing fans getting screwed.

  4. Eric 05:44am, 09/20/2016

    Derevyancheko looks very impressive. The Eastern Europeans are definitely leaving their mark. Have to wonder how different the boxing landscape might have been back in the 70’s & 80’s, had these guys been able to compete in the professional ranks.

  5. Koolz 05:27am, 09/20/2016

    Derevyanchenko and GGG will collide at some point.  And that maybe a challenge for GGG, much more then anyone else at Middle Weight right now.

    All Derevyanchenko needs to do is become that IBF Mandatory! 

    and what does Derevyanchenko(names are easy just remember to add chenko ot them)  say about fighting Golovkin.

    “I have known Golovkin for a long time and would be the greatest Honor to fight him.  He is a true champion”

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