New York, United States: Gennady Golovkin reclaimed his IBF title on Saturday, defeating Sergiy Derevyanchenko by a unanimous decision in a bruising middleweight fight at Madison Square Garden.
Golovkin knocked Derevyanchenko down in the first round and cut him over the eye in the second but had to dig deep to beat the stubborn Ukrainian, who made his opponent look all of his 37 years.
"It's a bad day for me but a huge experience," said Golovkin. "After the first round I didn't think this was an easy fight. I told myself this is a tough fight."
With the vacant middleweight title on the line, Derevyanchenko fought a brave fight, landing solid body shots and getting Golovkin in trouble several times.
He recovered quickly from the knockdown but it didn't help him in the scoring department in what was a surprisingly close fight.
One judge scored it 114-113 and the other two had it 115-112 for Golovkin.
The 37-year-old Golovkin improved to 40-1-1 as he regained the belt he first won in 2015.
Golovkin defended the title with wins against Dominic Wade, Kell Brook and Daniel Jacobs and a draw against Mexico's Canelo Alvarez.
Golovkin was stripped of the IBF title last year when he failed to make a mandatory defence against Derevyanchenko, opting instead for a rematch with Alvarez -- who handed Golovkin the first defeat of his career.
The 33-year-old Derevyanchenko, who falls to 13-2 with 10 KOs, was hoping to score a huge upset and dim the prospects for a third Golovkin-Alvarez bout in 2020.
The shadow of another Alvarez fight has loomed large over this bout.
Alvarez is making a November 2 return to the ring against light heavyweight titleholder Sergey Kovalev in a fight that will see Alvarez move up two weight divisions.
Golovkin, who contends that Alvarez "ran away" from a rematch, was clearly wearied by repeated questions about Alvarez in the build up to Saturday's bout.
Speaking in the ring immediately after the fight, Golovkin said would have to improve before he fights Alvarez again.
"Right now I know exactly what I need. I understand I need more," he said. "Everything is ready. Just call to Canelo and if he says yes, let's do it."
This may not have been the long awaited trilogy showdown but it was a surprisingly entertaining fight.
Golovkin started quickly in the opening round, landing strong left hooks and then knocking Derevyanchenko down with a grazing right to the top of the head.
In the second round, Derevyanchenko started bleeding from a nasty cut over the right eye that referee Harvey Dock mistakenly called a head butt.
Video replays showed the cut came from a vicious left hook to the brow that had Derevyanchenko pawing at his eye to try and wipe the blood off.
Once the blood started to flow, Derevyanchenko went to work. Down a 10-8 round from the knockdown and bleeding from a potential fight stopping cut he showed more urgency.
Golovkin was the aggressor through the middle rounds but Derevyanchenko managed to counterpunch effectively. When Golovkin tried to cut off the ring, Derevyanchenko did a good job of spinning out of trouble and throwing punches on the move.
Every time Golovkin appeared to get Derevyanchenko in trouble, the Ukrainian dug deep and battled back with a sense of determination and a steady volley of punches.
Both fighters landed solid punches in a furious 10th round. Derevyanchenko had Golovkin in trouble after a right hook and a right uppercut but Golovkin came back and connected on a couple of blows at the bell.
By the 12th round, Golovkin looked the more tired of the two but he had won enough rounds early on and scored the knockdown, which allowed him to take the close decision.