Abel Sanchez reflects on time with Sergey Kovalev
As Sergey Kovalev faces his IBF mandatory challenger, Nadjib Mohammedi, this weekend at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nev., he will see a familiar face in the opposite corner: Abel Sanchez, who trained him for a period of time until his bout against Roman Simakov in Dec. of 2011.
Sanchez, best known for training middleweight powerhouse Gennady Golovkin, hasn’t been shy in the past about recalling the success “GGG” had against Kovalev during their sparring sessions up at the Summit in Big Bear, where Sanchez operates and you always got the sense that, since they parted ways, they wouldn’t exactly “friend” each other on Facebook.
So does the respected trainer have animosity toward his former pupil?
“I wouldn’t say that I dislike him,” he claimed, adding, “I think that he has said some things like he doesn’t even know me and stuff like that, which is kinda odd. But I have too many other guys to be worried about to be worried about Sergey Kovalev. He’s doing very well; he learned a lot in my camp. He spent eight fights with me and I think he is the best light heavyweight in the world right now, bar none. I’m very proud of what we did.”
Sanchez recalls what it was like working with Kovalev at a time before he had become a marquee prizefighter, “His manager had him in a house, so he was really only in the camp during training time, during our run. So he wasn’t fully like the rest of the guys that were with me all the time but he’s a hard worker. He’s got his pluses and minuses like the rest of the guys do.
“He comes from a country where he grew up hard. His ways are a little bit harder than, say, some of the kids here, unlike Gennady, who, I think, came up a little bit different but the bottom line is he worked hard and, as long as you work hard, all that can be overlooked and can be worked with.”
When you go to the Summit, one thing that is very noticeable is there is very much a team atmosphere with Sanchez’s fighters – including Golovkin – who train side-by-side and do many of the same drills together. Kovalev was a bit of a lone wolf.
“He’s got that kind of personality. He must’ve grown up where he had to fend for himself a lot. He did have that kind of personality but it wasn’t like he was stand-offish, an asshole or anything like that. He just grew up that way; I’m sure,” said Sanchez, who doesn’t believe that having worked with Kovalev in the past will have all that much of an impact this weekend.
“If this fight would’ve been two years ago – [it would have mattered] a lot. But this fight happens to be after [Kovalev] spent some time with a very good coach [John David Jackson] and I’m sure they’ve worked on things differently than I worked with him back then, so he’s kinda adapted to what John David does. I think it may affect him a little bit, mind-wise, but technically I think John David has him doing the things he likes done. We coaches all have our different ways.”
Mohammedi is listed as high as a 100-1 underdog. Yeah, there are long shots and then there is this. He comes in with a mark of 37-3 (23) and a 13-fight winning streak since his second round knockout loss at the hands of Dmitry Sukhotsky in 2011.
“I think he’s being overlooked. I think that’s a big plus for us right now,” said Sanchez, who understands what they are up against. “Everything about this fight is about Sergey, rightfully so. He is he premier light heavyweight in the world but Mohammedi has got enough fights and enough experience that, on a big stage, in front of a big crowd, he’s not going to freeze on me. So it’s just a matter of making sure that we get into the fight.”
The key, according to Sanchez, is to survive the early onslaught.
“We get into the fight and we get through the first third of the fight, I think we stand a great chance. By then, Mohammedi will have figured him out and it’ll be a chess match because he’s not a pushover,” said Sanchez, who is perhaps also banking on Kovalev suffering a bit of a letdown after facing the likes of Bernard Hopkins and Jean Pascal.
And yes, Sanchez has seen the steep odds the bookmakers have posted.
“I believe that,” he says laughing.”I believe that because not only [Mohammedi’s] losses but the way he lost them and also because we’re facing the best light heavyweight in the world.”
Word is a middleweight unification bout between Gennady Golovkin (who holds the WBA and IBO titles, in addition to the WBC interim belt) and IBF champion David Lemieux is getting very close to being consummated for Oct. 17 at Madison Square Garden in New York. All I can say about that fight is sign me up and I’ll see you there.
As for the highly anticipated bout between Miguel Cotto and Saul Alvarez, the organizers of this event were hoping to have this announced already but the word is: If it’s Nov. 7, it will take place at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. If this event takes place on Nov. 21, then it will be at the Garden. I’m told HBO prefers Nov. 21 with the replay taking place on Thanksgiving weekend.
So there ya go; plan accordingly.
Lightweight Jose Felix Jr. is slated to return Sept. 19 on an UniMas show…So is the next Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight taking place on CBS and against Andre “Petro” Berto or not?…Andy Vences has signed a promotional pact with Top Rank Promotions…There’s nothing quite like going to Phil Trani’s for dinner. Ohhhh, if those walls could talk, they’d have some stories to tell…Yes, I’m going to the Kovalev-Mohammedi fight, Hey, it’s the Mandalay Bay, where the flying fishes play!…I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and I tweet (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.