GGG goes to work
As you watch WBA middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin at the Summit in Big Bear while he prepares for this weekend’s defense in Monte Carlo, Monaco versus Martin Murray, you’re immediately struck by the zeal and enthusiasm he puts into his day’s training. After all the years of fighting, the hundreds of amateur bouts and 31 professional contests, Golovkin is still the hardest working guy in the gym.
And he seems to actually relish it.
“Everyday is hard work because I understand my situation; I understand my life,” he told UCNLive.com back in late January. “This is serious business. This is business; this is very important to me.”
But even the perpetually upbeat fighting machine from Kazakhstan has to get fatigued of boxing once in awhile, right? The long training camps, secluded and tucked away in faraway locales with strict regimens that must be adhered to for months at a time, can physically and mentally strip away most fighters’ zeal for the sport.
“No, it’s no problem,” he claimed. “I’ve had a lot of fights, amateurs and pros. Pros is different; I like pro style because it’s fight. It’s 12 rounds, not game. This is fight.” And the pro game likes him back; Golovkin is unblemished in 31 bouts, scoring an impressive 28 knockouts in the process. His trainer, Abel Sanchez, who sees the effort put in on a daily basis, doesn’t necessarily marvel at his pupil’s work ethic. “No, because I think he understands his responsibility. He understands that in order to stay at the top and in order to keep pleasing his fans, he needs to train as hard. He needs to be prepared for whatever comes fight night.
“He’s a true professional.”
Several years ago, Golovkin – then a virtual unknown to the general boxing fan in the States – strolled into Sanchez’s gym (which Sanchez built from the foundation up) and, in essence, asked for a tryout with the accomplished trainer who had worked with Terry and Orlin Norris and Miguel Angel Gonzalez. Back then, Sanchez started having thoughts of transitioning from a full-time trainer to someone who would rent the Summit out to fighters in need of a camp in the mountains of Big Bear.
They clicked and suddenly Sanchez found himself taking over the reins of another world-class prizefighter. And immediately, “GGG” made an impression on the trainer with his dedication. “When he was with me for a year, he ranked number one. He just understands – maybe it’s his age, he’s 32; at the time he was 28, 29 – what is necessary to make sure that he doesn’t disappoint. I gather – and I’ve never talked to him about this – that he is very aware of what the expectations of him are.
“He doesn’t want to disappoint anybody: himself, his family, his coach, his managers but, most importantly, his son.”
Much of what Golovkin does is the same as many other fighters. There is shadowboxing, work on the heavy-bag and mitts but there are some very unique aspects to his training. Sanchez explained, “We do a lot of weight training in a way that helps him snap his punches and turn his hips. We do a lot of things that obviously nobody else does because I’ve never seen it done. But with a guy with 350 amateur fights and the kind of career he had when he came in here, to adapt to me and be willing to do everything that I wanted him to do is very important for a fighter to understand that there’s a lot of different ways to do it and he understood that and he’s doing it in all the ways that I want it and now he’s mastered it.”
In watching Golovkin, you see he does a lot of work on strengthening his wrists and forearms with various free weights and other apparatus. He leads the others in doing these drills.
”Now he’s trying to teach the younger guys how to implement those in their training so that way, everybody benefits at the same time,” said Sanchez. When asked if Golovkin has an influence on the other boxers in camp, Sanchez answered emphatically, “Absolutely, because he’s always teaching; he’s not one of those guys that’s going to sit in the corner and not share his knowledge.”
After most days, Golovkin and his sparring mates will sit inside the ring and talk shop for a good half-hour. David Imoesiri, who has been with Golovkin for several camps, says of his influence, “It rubs off more so because of the fact he’s a people person. He’ll speak to everybody and stuff. He’s really open and he treats you like family.”
On this particular day, Imoesiri and Julius Jackson each sparred three rounds with Golovkin. They both held a distinct advantage in size over the middleweight. In the past, Imoesiri has worked with the likes of Alexander Povetkin, Antonio Tarver, Denis Lebedev and Librado Andrade. He says of Golovkin, “Absolutely, he makes the best decisions; he’s the strongest guy, clearly.”
A couple of years ago he told Doug Fischer of RingTV.com that Golovkin hit harder than Povetkin – a world-class heavyweight – and he stands by those claims but says it isn’t just the raw power that separates him. “He knows what he is, who he is; he knows how hard or not hard [to punch]. He knows how to get your respect and he understands just different levels of when the round is going to get serious and when to take it. He’s just very knowledgeable about just the whole aspect of being powerful.”
So what’s it like getting hit by Golovkin?
“It’s something like you’ve never experienced before,” says Jackson, a young, rising super middleweight. “A lot of us sparred different guys, light heavyweights, heavyweights; he hits harder than a heavyweight, more than any heavyweight that I’ve sparred before.”
To keep sparring partners around, Sanchez has them wear a body protector to shield their ribs and because Golovkin is reduced to facing naturally bigger men, he does the same. But even with the armor, Jackson says he still feels the heavy hands of Golovkin, who has scored 18 consecutive stoppages.
“I don’t know what it is about him; he just hits that hard. They compare him to my dad, which I feel it,” said the son of Julian Jackson, one of the most prodigious punchers in boxing history. “Naturally he just throws it and you feel the heavyness, the power behind it, the punches. It’s amazing.” The 27-year old super middleweight is 19-0 but he admits, none of his real fights compare to this kind of work he gets up in Big Bear. “Before this camp, going to the Olympics was my hardest fight but now I tell everybody this is the hardest job in the world.”
Imoesiri points out, however, “A lot of people overlook the way [Golovkin] has his feet in such opportune positions. He doesn’t really take shortcuts as far as where to have his feet and body in order to land a good shot at any given second of the round. It’s not ever a time that you think you’re going to be OK with him. If he’s in there with gloves on, you can get knocked out and get hurt. It’s just a matter of time when he’s in the right position and wants to throw a good punch. But he knows how to put himself in good position to do that every time.”
Golovkin is the epitome of how to use solid fundamental footwork to cut off the ring and punch with leverage. It’s something simplistic that has been perfected over time. He has very little wasted movement in the ring.
“It’s pretty impressive to see him work on that every day. He works on it as if he just learned it,” says Imoesiri.
Regarding his days sparring, Golovkin explains, “For me, it’s just practice more strategy, how I’m going to slide, my position, my situations, my timing, my speed. Just very important for me, for my strategy.” He did admit, “Right now, my speed is not perfect. I’m slow; for me, it’s very important for me, my position and next week, more concentration for speed.”
For Golovkin, this was just another day at the office and instead of being worn down by the grind of the sport, as he heads into such a pivotal stretch of his career, he actualy seems more motivated than ever.
“Yes, absolutely, because I feel I have just a couple of years for my career,” he states. “It’s hard business, serious business, very dangerous business.”
Sanchez not only has his boxers warm up with hand weights (that are between two and three pounds), he also has them shadowbox after sparring with their gloves on, which is unusual.
He explained, “First of all, before they even spar, hit the bag or hit the mitts, we’ve worked 35, 40 minutes. I want them tired before they start to do anything technical because I know that any fighter can do good technique when they’re not tired. I want them to do good techniques when they’re tired. So the gloves being on at the end it just continues that after the sparring.”
Something I found intriguing at the Summit was the Aqua Bag, which stood on the corner of the gym adjacent to the ring. It’s a bag shaped like a teardrop and hung from the ceiling. It’s an apparatus Golovkin utilized extensively as he worked continuously on his overhand right.
“A heavy bag is so wide it makes everybody’s punches wider, it hurts their shoulders but with this bag it moves around a little bit better and they’re able to throw their punches at a head, more or less,” explained Sanchez.
“And they seem to like it; the fact it’s an Aqua Bag, it’s filled with water. It doesn’t hurt their elbows or shoulders or their wrists.”
Golovkin says of the Aqua Bag, “I like it because more power, more focus and hard punch.”
And less stress on his joints and ligaments that are used when punching?
“Exactly, my shoulders, my arms, just body.”
It’s going to be an extremely busy day of boxing on April 18 as Showtime will air a bout between Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Andrzej Fonfara while HBO will air a split-site doubleheader featuring Terence Crawford-Thomas Dulorme and in the evening’s best match-up, Ruslan Provodnikov versus Lucas Matthysse.
It hasn’t been announced where these fights will land. It’s assumed that Chavez-Fonfara will take place somewhere in the Los Angeles area and because March 28th at the StubHub Center was blocked by Al Haymon, Provodnikov-Matthysse will most likely head to the East Coast. Meanwhile, Top Rank Promotions is still looking for a suitable venue for Crawford-Dulorme.
GOOD BOY KILLA
IBF featherweight titlist Evgeny Gradovich will go to the UK on April 25 to face his mandatory challenger, Lee Selby…Look for WBO featherweight champion Vasyl Lomachenko to return in May…HBO’s “Road to Sergey Kovalev-Jean Pascal” will debut on Feb. 28 (check your local listings)…ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights” has the heavyweight kick-off to “Boxcino” tonight…The NBA trade deadline sure had a lot of activity…OK, time to hunker down and start watching the NFL Combine. Nothing quite like the thrill of the vertical jump and 40-yard dash…So what else was in Warren Sapp’s phone?…The Raiders and Chargers in LA? No thanks…I can be reached at email@example.com 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.