OPINION was sharply divided at ringside as to whether Gennady Golovkin had done enough to merit the unanimous decision he was given over Sergiy Derevyanchenko in their highly entertaining fight at Madison Square Garden, but what was obvious in the aftermath is that the man from Kazakhstan has seen better days.

Sooner or later all fighters start to decline. At 37, that day has arrived for Golovkin. He is still an elite fighter, just no longer the head of the pack.

Once one of the most avoided men in the sport, Golovkin will now have no shortage of opponents lining up to face him. First and foremost will be Derevyanchenko, who certainly deserves a rematch. But the bottom line is that in winning the vacant IBF and IBO middleweight titles, Golovkin is still in as strong a position to dictate his future opponents as he was before.

Gennady Golovkin

Technically Derevyanchenko, a Ukrainian based in Brooklyn, was fighting in his hometown, but you wouldn’t know it from the reaction of the over 12,000 in attendance as GGG entered the ring. And in the first two rounds it was vintage Golovkin, dropping his opponent with a chopping right to the head in the opener, then severely cutting his right eye with a left hook in the second.

As soon as the round ended Derevyanchenko’s trainer Andre Rozier did a brilliant job of convincing referee Harvey Dock to rule that the cut resulted from a butt. As a result, had it been terminated due to the injury, they would have gone to the scorecards after the fourth round instead of it automatically being declared a Golovkin victory. Not that it seemed to matter much at that point with Golovkin having raced off to a big lead, but then it turned.

Fearing the wound could bring a premature end, Derevyanchenko started to surge in the third round, hurting Golovkin to body. Golovkin had not been nearly as distressed in his two fights with Canelo Alvarez, arguably the best body puncher in the sport, as he was in this one with Derevyanchenko. That was abundantly evident in the fifth, when he backed away most of the round and kept his hands low to protect his sides.

Sergey Derevyanchenko

Both had their moments the rest of the way. Golovkin jabbed well and would land jolting uppercuts from time to time. Derevyanchenko unleashed a whirlwind attack in the 10th, driving Golovkin across the ring, but Gennady was resilient, finishing up the stronger of the two in the last, leading to the drama of how the official scorecards would play out.

I had Derevyanchenko up 114-113. Judges Frank Lombardi and Eric Marlinski had it 115-112, Kevin Morgan 114-113, all for Golovkin.

Despite regaining a portion of the title in which he had once made a historic 20 defences, Golovkin was subdued as he listened to the boos from the crowd after the decision was announced.

“Right now it’s a bad day for me, it’s a huge day for Sergiy,” he said. As long as Golovkin keeps winning, talk of a third fight with Alvarez will be unavoidable. “Absolutely I still want Canelo. Just call Canelo. If he says yes, let’s do it,” said Golovkin, who surely would be the underdog this time around. Alvarez, who has been reluctant to entertain the idea of late, would be wise to now pick up the phone.

Gennady Golovkin

In his first fight since losing his IBF super-lightweight title to Josh Taylor by hard fought decision, Russian Ivan Baranchyk overpowered Gabe Bracero, stopping him at 1-30 of the fourth round in a 10.

Baranchyk had no respect for his opponent’s power, taking the fight to Brooklyn’s Bracero, putting full force behind every punch. Bracero moved around the ring trying to make a fight of it, but Baranchyk’s heavy hands had him in survival mode.

Emotions ran high from both sides. Referee Arthur Mercante Jr. was quite animated in attempting to keep order, which was no easy chore considering how rough and foul-filled the fight was.

In the fourth, a left-right hook combination caught Bracero on the ropes and he tried to grab Baranchyk’s legs on the way down. Baranchyk broke free and Bracero pitched forward to the canvas. He regained his feet, but his corner requested it be stopped.

The pro debut of Irish amateur star Joe Ward ended disastrously. After controlling a slow-paced opening round of a scheduled six against Anaheim’s Marco Delgado, Ward’s left leg folded as he went down while backing away from his opponent in the second.

In as bizarre an injury as you will ever see in a boxing ring, his left knee became grotesquely dislocated, preventing him from continuing and resulting in Delgado being declared the winner at 1-00 of the round by referee Eddie Claudio. A stretcher was brought into the ring, but a distraught Ward insisted on leaving under his own power with an assist from his team.

Uzbekistan’s Israil Madrimov floored Mexico’s Alejandro Barrera for a five count in the opening round of a scheduled 10, then methodically broke him down before picking up the pace in the fifth. When a left hook landed flush on Barrera, referee Benjy Esteves made a superb stoppage at 2-36.

It took Kazakhstan’s Ali Akhmedov only 44 seconds to halt Phoenix’s Andrew Hernandez in their scheduled 12. A chopping right dropped Hernandez, who barely beat referee Claudio’s count. He stumbled back when he regained his feet and it was stopped.

The Verdict Golovkin’s best days are behind him, but maybe this will convince Canelo to fight him a third time.