Stacking the deck in Las Vegas
And you thought the lead-up to the May 5 rematch between unified middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez would be rather mundane. Well, this week kicked off with the news that the Mexican superstar had tested positive for clenbuterol, a banned substance.
While all this will have to be sorted out by the Nevada State Athletic Commission (and, as of now, the rematch is still scheduled for the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas), Golovkin’s side, perhaps seeing an opening, detailed how they felt Alvarez had his hands wrapped illegally for the first encounter, last September.
Golovkin’s trainer, the always out-spoken Abel Sanchez, said, on Wednesday, “First of all, I think there’s certain commissions in the U.S. that are lenient to particular fighters, Texas being one of them. Canelo’s gotten wide scores in an Austin Trout fight, where two judges had it real close and one judge had it far apart. He got it in the (Erislandy) Lara fight in Vegas; he got it in the (Floyd)Mayweather (Jr.) fight – who schooled him – a ’14-’14 scorecard. He got it in our fight.”
Sanchez is referring to the now infamous cards turned in by C.J. Ross and Adalaide Byrd. Byrd scored the first match-up between Golovkin and Alvarez 118-110 in favor of Alvarez. The fight was ruled a draw.
As for what happened before the first encounter, “In the dressing room, there was an issue with the hand wraps. The hand wraps were being viewed by me and they had somebody in my dressing room to view when I went to do it. What happened was that the inspector sat next to (Canelo) and they started to put gauze on his hand and they put a couple layers of tape, like making it a cast – that’s illegal. That’s called ‘stacking’ and they continued and I said, ‘That’s illegal; you can’t do that,’ and the inspector said, ‘It’s my state and I can do that here,’ and there were four different cameras that were recording this. HBO was recording this also, (360 Promotions’ President) Tom (Loeffler) has a video of it.
“But I kept protesting and protesting and (the inspector) said, ‘If you dont be quiet, I’m going to kick you out of the dressing room.’ I said, ‘I’m going to tell you this: I’m going to file a protest after the fight because that’s illegal.’ The fight goes on and obviously the draw comes off. On Monday, I call (Executive Director of the NSAC) Bob Bennett and I asked to meet with him. We met about a week later but, in that week, Tom and I did some more research.”
Sanchez says that Loeffler “called the New York Commission. He called the California Commission; he talked to the heads. I talked to the organization presidents, which were (Daryl) Peoples (of the IBF) and (Mauricio) Sulaiman (of the WBC). I talked to the people at the ABC (Association of Boxing Commissions). Tom talked to (noted cornerman Jacob) ‘Stitch’ Duran and some other guys that wrap hands – and that’s definitely illegal and that’s definintely not allowed in our rules. Everybody said that.
“When we met Bob Bennett, we told them this. We explained who we had talked to and he said, ‘Well, it’s not in our rules but we’re going to look into it.’ I mean, they were very apologetic. They felt like (Team Canelo) had done something wrong, according to what I gathered in the meeting. The inspector that was in that dressing room. I remember him telling me, ‘I’ve been doing this for two years; I know what I’m doing and I allow this.’ In my mind, I’m thinking, ‘Really, you been doing this for two years; you’re an expert.’
“‘I know how to wrap hands,’ and I said to him – and I think this is why he threatened to kick me out – ‘You’ve never hit anybody with your hands, you’ve never had your hands wrapped. It’s nothing you know anything about. This is illegal and I’m going to protest it.'”
According to Sanchez, who hosted a throng of media at his gym on Wednesday afternoon, “When we left the meeting, Bob Bennett assured Tom and myself that there would be something done; there would be research done on it. There would be something done on it. It’s been what, four months?”
Bennett did not return messages from UCNLive.com, requesting a comment from him on this issue but he did tell Yahoo! Sports that he felt Alvarez’s hand-wraps were under their guidelines.
So with that being settled, will Sanchez go a “stack for stack” on the night of May 5?
“No,” he answered without hesitation, “because it’s not something that is a fair thing to do. I don’t want to change what I do in preparation for a fight and, for the fighter, it’s something different too. It should be a level playing field for everybody. I’ve been doing this shit for about 40-something years. I’ve been going to Vegas for a long time. I’ve never seen that in Vegas. I’ve never seen anyone do that in Vegas. It’s just particular fighters that they’re very lax with the rules, lenient with the rules.”
Another noted trainer Ronnie Shields faced Alvarez back in the summer of 2014, with Erislandy Lara, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, and said he had his own experience which differed from Sanchez’s. “They tried to do it and I stopped them from doing it,” said Shields of what took place prior to that fight.
“At the rules meeting – because someone else had told me that they were going to do that, they told me before – so I went up to the commission and said, ‘Look, is stacking legal?’ They said, ‘No, stacking is not legal.’ So, when I got back there, they didn’t even try to stack.”
So perhaps it’s just ambiguity in the rules or maybe inspectors just have differing views on the interpretation of the regulations that exist. After all, every baseball umpire has a different strike zone behind the plate.
“I always say at the rules meetings, ‘Fuck the gloves.’ The rules meetings should be for guys to show how they’re going to wrap the hands,” said one boxing veteran, who’s worked many corners. “Show the hand wraps exactly how you’re going to do it. Thats what I want to see because there’s so many arguments the night of. They should make the guys demonstrate how he’s going to do the hands and make sure everybody is on the same page, so you don’t have a guy standing there watching and all of a sudden saying, ‘You can’t do this; you can’t do that.'”
While all this was going on, Golovkin seemed very relaxed, as he spoke openly with various members of the media, who wanted his thoughts on the Canelo controversy. Other than that, it was just another day’s training for him.
Sanchez says of his best-known pupil, “He’s a pro; he knows that we need to get ready like we’ve always done. He’s been in these situations before – maybe not the controversy – but he’s been in big fights before. So really it’s just another fight, just get ready for another fight and go kick the shit out of Canelo.”
Here’s this week’s edition of “The Next Round,” in which Victor Conte joins Gabe Montoya and me to talk about the Alvarez situation in-depth.
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