Abel Sanchez shoots from the hip
Trainer Abel Sanchez isn’t afraid to express his opinion. Ask him a question and he’ll give you an unfiltered – if not unbiased – opinion. And when it comes to unified middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin, he doesn’t hesitate to tell you how highly he thinks of his charge, which has seemingly ruffled more than a few feathers recently.
There was a time when Sanchez was best known for working with the Norris brothers, Terry and Orlin, and Miguel Angel Gonzalez, but the day Golovkin walked through the doors of the Summit Gym several years ago is when his career-defining fighter arrived. He’s never been shy from the very beginning in stating this guy – not the incredibly talented “Terrible Terry” – was the best guy he’s ever worked with.
Thus far, Golovkin, who takes on IBF welterweight titlist Kell Brook this Saturday at the O2 Arena in London, England, had made Sanchez look like a prophet. And Sanchez has not shied away from telling anyone that Golovkin is more than just the goods but destined to be an all-time great. Of course that remains to be seen but his (over?) confidence has rubbed some the wrong way.
But hey, if you’ve got a thoroughbred that you think can win the Triple Crown, wouldn’t you be a confident jockey? Right now, Sanchez must feel like Ron Turcotte riding Secretariat.
The question Sanchez is often asked nowadays is if he thinks his guy will face former WBC middleweight champion Saul Alvarez anytime soon. In the lead-up to his own fight versus WBO junior middleweight titlist Liam Smith on Sept. 17 at AT&T Stadium near Dallas, Texas, “Canelo” has made comments that disparaged and downplayed Golovkin’s presence. To this, Sanchez replies, “I think he’s trying to save face. He’s saying stupid things that he really doesn’t think out and it’s getting him deeper and deeper in a hole and making him look like an idiot with fans.”
OK, that said, they will meet up in September of 2017, right?
“Absolutely not,” answered Sanchez, without hesitation. ”I don’t think (Canelo)’s got the balls. I’ve said it before. I just think that eventually it’s not (Golden Boy President and CEO) Oscar (De La Hoya). It’s not (Eddy) ‘Chepo’ (Reynoso). It’s not anybody – It’s Canelo. Just like it’s Gennady. It’s not me. It’s not Max (Golovkin’s brother). It’s not Oleg (Herman, his co-manager). It’s not (K2 Promotions Managing Director) Tom (Loeffler). It’s Gennady that signs the contract. It’s Gennady that says he wants the fight. The same for Canelo. Canelo doesn’t want the fight.”
So how does Sanchez keep his charge motivated?
“I think (Gennady) just wants to be focused and fight whoever they put in front of him. He doesn’t really care. (WBA “regular” titlist) Danny Jacobs is talking about wanting to fight, except he made a stupid comment, in my opinion, that, if the price is right. What does that mean? A hundred million? Who knows?” says Sanchez, who continued, “Hopefully (WBO middleweight beltholder Billy Joe) Saunders will come to the table. We got (WBO super middleweight titlist) Gilberto Ramirez who keep talking about fighting Golovkin. So there’s four or five fights out there for us to keep us busy and who knows after that?”
Golovkin is facing Brook, the current IBF welterweight titlist, ironic and, to some, hypocritical, given the statements Sanchez made regarding Alvarez’s match-up with Amir Khan on May 7th. But Sanchez states, “You have to go back and listen to my remarks to that. I never criticized Canelo for fighting Khan. What I criticized him for was making an artificial weight, 155. In fact, I have Khan a chance. Listen to all he interviews. I gave Khan a chance because of his hand speed and his foot speed and he’s a welterweight. I thought he’d be faster. He proved me right for five rounds until he got stopped and thought he was more than he is.
“He didn’t listen to (trainer) Virgil (Hunter). He didn’t pay attention. He didn’t follow the plan. He lost focus and he got caught. But I never criticized (Canelo) fighting Khan.”
That said, they are still facing a fighter who has never had a full-fledged middleweight bout or even had a tune-up to prepare for such a daunting task. Many consider “Special K” the best welterweight in the world but he is a totally unproven commodity at 160. So just what type of middleweight is he?
“Against anybody else besides Gennady and he can be very good,” is his answer. “He’s a big kid but, as soon as Gennady touches him, it doesn’t matter what he’s done as a welterweight. It doesn’t matter what he’s done as a middleweight or junior middleweight. As soon as Golovkin touches somebody, it’s a different fight.” (When asked if he thought Brook was the top 147-pounder in the world, Sanchez says, “Absolutely, I think he is. I think right now he is. (Errol) Spence (Jr.), in about four more fights, he’ll be one of the best ones.”)
As we see Golovkin train, it’s clear that he still has a certain drive. On this conditioning day, he out-works everyone else in the gym. A full week or so before the fight, he was already within striking distance of 160 pounds. “He’s just as determined now as he was back then. He works hard. This group of sparring partners are probably the best group we’ve had to date,” said Sanchez, speaking of Darnell Boone and Kenneth McNeil. “We’ve had good sparring partners but, these guys, they’ve given us the best work – speed and movement and ability. So I think it’s brought a little more out of (Golovkin) this time.”
Currently Golovkin is 34 years old. Recent form suggests he’s still in his physical prime but 34 is 34. Perhaps his middleweight contemporaries are trying to run the clock out on him and play a waiting game, which makes Sanchez chuckle.
“Because you’re talking about five years. If you’re talking about this guy getting old, maybe when he’s 40 years old. He hasn’t had that many difficult fights. He’s only been a pro since 2006 and, so, he hasn’t had the wear-and-tear that, let’s say, Canelo has,” opined the veteran trainer, who, at times, can make Freddie Roach seem modest when talking about Manny Pacquiao. “(Golovkin)’s been a pro less years than Canelo has, so I think he’s got five more years. If you’re going to wait it out, then the fans will crucify you for it.”
Golovkin and his team left from LAX to Britain on Saturday night, which some believe could lead to jet lag, given they arrived less than a week before the fight. So did that concern Sanchez?
“Actually no,” Sanchez said last week in Big Bear, California. “We’re leaving a lot sooner than I wanted to. We usually leave on Mondays when we go to Monte Carlo, to be there on Tuesday. But they have some sort of workout on Tuesday and interviews on Sunday, so Tom thought we should go early this time.”
From his fights in Monte Carlo over the past few years, Golovkin has experience fighting overseas while based in California.
“That’s the way it’s always been with all my guys. When we go to Europe, three or four days is good enough,” he explained. “I want to make sure that I teach them mentally not to be afraid of that. I’ve had guys in Germany the day before the weigh-in. So I think if you believe it’s going to hurt you – it’s going to hurt you. If you’re in shape and confident, you get your sleep, it’s not going to hurt you.”
To Sanchez, jet lag for boxers can be every bit mental more than physical. Asked if he has ever had a boxer suffer from jet lag, “Never,” he answered, before adding, “Of course I haven’t gone to China yet with a fighter. I’ve gone to Thailand with a fighter three days before the fight and it didn’t affect him.”
Sanchez has no set rules for boxers as they arrive in foreign lands.
“If my guy goes there and he’s tired and he wants to go to sleep, let him go to sleep. I don’t care what time of day it is,” he told UCNLive.com. “When you get inside the arena, it’s going to be dark and, so, a lot of people think it’s got to be dark for you to sleep but I can sleep for a couple of hours during the day and it doesn’t matter what time of day it is.”
Speaking of Smith-Canelo, Golden Boy has announced that the pay-per-view can be purchased online at GoldenBoyPromotions.com and will have “Colonel” Bob Sheridan and Larry Merchant on the call…Diego Magdaleno-Fidel Maldonado will headline the Oct. 7 edition of the “LA Fight Club” at the Belasco Theater…Can anyone make play calls and keep his team poised in tough times any better than Jimbo Fischer of FSU?…How bout dem Texas STRONGhorns?…Someone needs to tell Brian Kelly that Deshone Kizer is, by far, his best quarterback…If you want to see the Golovkin-Brook fight at the Forum in Inglewood, California, there will be a special viewing area in the terrace section as HBO goes live at 2:30 p.m. PT, from England…Me, I’m not leaving for the Forum till at least halftime of the Miami Hurricanes-Florida Atlantic University game…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.