Daniel Jacobs and Sergiy Derevyanchenko aren’t friends, but their trainers are close buddies and partners. This bout is a pugilistic game of chess.
On Saturday, Oct. 27, Daniel Jacobs (34-2, 29 KOs) and Sergiy Derevyanchenko (12-0, 10 KOs) compete for the vacant IBF middleweight title on one of HBO’s last boxing showcases. Most boxing matches consist of a Man vs. Man archetype, but this fight is different. There’s a dramatic subplot that forces boxing friends and partners to become rivals, and I’m not talking about the fighters but their trainers.
Andre Rozier is Jacobs’ head trainer, and he’s often credited as Derevyanchenko’s head trainer, but that’s not entirely accurate. Rozier has a partnership with fellow trainer Gary Stark Sr. Stark has put in at least as much if not more time with Derevyanchenko and several other fighters within their stable.
FanSided caught up with Derevyanchenko and Stark and discussed their history with Rozier and Jacobs. Stark explained how Derevyanchenko and other boxers such as Ievgen Khytrov and Ivan Baranchyk were brought specifically to him.
“They was brought [sic] to me through a fight promotion,” said Stark. “A guy named Max and Alex, they brought these guys over here. A guy named Morry, he called me up and asked me to train Ievgen Khytrov — he came first, and I think Sergiy came second.”
Stark added, “Everybody thinks it was Andre Rozier, but they brought him to me. We split them up. They came to me to train these guys. We split them up. We both trained them.”
A July report by The Ring portrayed Rozier as the main influence in Derevyanchenko’s corner, but Stark revealed that he and Rozier share training responsibilities equally.
“We have a team of fighters,” said Stark. “It’s fortunate that we have two good trainers helping with all of our guys because we have so many guys. We split them up. We share them, so we both work with them an equal amount of time. We both have 50/50 in all of our fighters.”
Stark never said it, but his tone radiated resentment that his name is commonly left out of the story behind Derevyanchenko’s rise as a contender. As the boxing media tries to build up this fight, they play up the angle that Jacobs and Derevyanchenko are stablemates with a close working relationship. That’s simply not true. Most of the time they don’t even train in the same building.
“We just helped Danny for his fight with Golovkin,” Stark said. “Danny trains over there in Sadam Ali’s gym in Brooklyn, and we train in New York City Fitness Club in Sheepshead Bay. We used to train in the morning, so me and Andre would come and train him in the morning and then Andre would go to Sadam Ali’s gym and train Danny over there. They weren’t really stablemates like that but when it came to when Danny fought GGG, Sergiy went over there and helped him work as a sparring partner.”
Several reports cited that Jacobs and Derevyanchenko sparred over 300 rounds in preparation for Jacobs’ fight with Gennady Golovkin, but Derevyanchenko and Stark said that they sparred “sometimes four rounds [at a time], maybe 30 rounds” total for that training camp. They’ve sparred outside of that training camp, but it seems like the number 300 is severely embellished.
In truth, Jacobs and Derevyanchenko don’t have much of a relationship. They share mutual respect, but that’s about it. While talking to FanSided during Wednesday’s media call, Jacobs stated:
"There’s no personal relationship. I don’t dislike the guy. I think he’s a really phenomenal humble gentleman. He doesn’t know English, so it’s really hard for us to have any relationship outside of the gym. I haven’t heard him say five English words. It’s hard to have a real relationship with somebody that can’t speak English. But I do know that he’s a very nice guy. He’s always respectful and very humble."
Jacobs and Derevyanchenko are just fighters vying for the same title. The real drama rests on the men in their corners, Rozier and Stark. They’ve spent years working together sharing the goal of advancing numerous boxers’ careers, but for this one fight, they’re forced to be adversaries.
“We’re like brothers,” Stark said. “We call each other every day. I just talked to him a little while ago. We don’t talk about the fight. We just talk about what’s going on and ‘how you feeling’ so we talk about other fighters. We know not to ask questions about each other’s champs. It’s a funny situation.”
It’s a tough situation for both men, but one that they’re taking in stride. As Stark said, they’re “like brothers,” but brothers are often ambitious and try to outdo one another. The same can be said for Stark and Rozier going into this fight.
“It’s gonna be a good chess match for both of us because Dre knows Sergiy and we know that Dre knows Sergiy,” Stark pointed out. “We got to try and work something out where Dre don’t know that we know things that can beat Danny.”
Despite the competitive nature of this contest, there are regrets that friends are forced to be enemies for one night. Stark would rather not be on the opposite end of Jacobs who he has known since Jacobs was a kid. Jacobs feels the same way.
“If I could have it a different way, obviously I would,” Jacobs told FanSided. “There’s no other way around it. I knew this could potentially be a fight once Derevyanchenko came on the stable.”
Jacobs vs. Derevyanchenko forces Stark vs. Rozier, which is far more compelling. Regardless of friendship, boxing is a business where someone wins, and another loses. Stark loves Rozier, but he doesn’t have any intention of being in the losing corner on Saturday, Oct. 27. He has a job to do and that comes first.
“We’re going there to win,” Stark said. “I want a knockout to tell you the truth. I don’t want a decision in the Garden. We got to work harder than him. They [judges] know Danny more than they know Sergiy. I don’t want to leave it in no judge’s hands. We need a knockdown or to really beat him good.”