Behind the Gloves: Meet the trainer behind Gennadiy Golovkin's best moments

“I think that a lot of coaches today, unfortunately, are not protected contractually. We are probably the most significant part of a fighter’s team."

Abel Sanchez is undoubtedly one of the most well-known trainers in boxing. He does, however, have very humble beginnings.

Born in Tijuana, Mexico, Sanchez moved over to the US with his mother and siblings when he was just five years of age. Although he never really competed at a high level within fighting, he did have six amateur bouts, winning three of those alongside his amateur kickboxing record of 15-0.

Sanchez got his first break from the owner of his local gym, Ben Lira, who let Sanchez help out in training some of his fighters at the time. That same Lira is now Sanchez's assistant in the corner.

Sanchez originally made a life for himself in America as a building contractor, something which he says taught him the skills he would later rely on as a boxing trainer.

Those skills were being able to manage personalities and characters and knowing how to manipulate someone's psyche in a positive and reactionary way.

Big Bear Lake

Sanchez is famous for his affectionately named 'Big Bear Lake' gym in California, but it almost never existed.

The self-confessed workaholic suffered a stress-related heart attack in 2001, and for the second time, he walked away from boxing altogether.

However, in 2007, in part due to the impact of the financial crash upon the construction industry, Sanchez decided to complete the project he started and open the now famous training camp.

The completion of the high-altitude gym would prove the catalyst for a great upturn in Sanchez's career. While he had already enjoyed relative success as a trainer, by helping Lupe Aquino become the junior middleweight champion in 1987, a request by Oscar De La Hoya's team to use his California gym took Sanchez's career to the next level.

A number of other high-profile fighters subsequently followed suit, including a certain Gennadiy Golovkin. Before pairing with Sanchez, Golovkin was more of a strategic counter-punching fighter.

Sanchez encouraged the Kazakh fighter to adopt a traditional Mexican fighting style, which roughly translates as possessing an aggressive, relentless approach.

Together, they formed one of the most successful partnerships in the modern era. GGG is now a two-time middleweight titlist and has now overtaken Bernard Hopkins with most world title defenses at 160-pounds with 21.

Gennadiy Golovkin is regarded as one of the greatest middleweights of all-time alongside the likes of Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Bernard Hopkins
Gennadiy Golovkin is regarded as one of the greatest middleweights of all-time alongside the likes of Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Bernard Hopkins

Under Sanchez's tutelage, Golovkin destroyed the likes of Daniel Geale and Matthew Macklin inside three rounds and forced a white flag stoppage from Kell Brook's team in 2017.

Golovkin would then defeat Daniel Jacobs via unanimous decision before being robbed against Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez in their first encounter which ended as a split-draw.

Their 2019 rematch also created a lot of controversy with Canelo earning a majority decision victory.

Sanchez has been victorious himself too, winning the Futch-Condon best trainer award in 2015, awarded by the Boxing Writers Association of America.

The Split with Golovkin

"I think that a lot of coaches today, unfortunately, are not protected contractually. We are probably the most significant part of a fighter's team; yet at any time, on a whim, they [the fighters] can decide that they don't need us no more".

How pertinent the above quote from Sanchez seems now, after Golovkin's decision in 2019 to split from his long-time coach.

The split came just six weeks after Golovkin had signed a six-fight $100million deal with DAZN - no prizes for connecting those dots.

Sanchez said the former deal between the two saw him receive a 10% cut. He clarified that after the new deal was made, he would have been receiving less than a fifth of what he previously enjoyed - an "insulting figure which my pride simply would not allow me to consider," Sanchez claimed.

After the split, Golovkin went on record to say the following: "This was not an easy decision for me, and it is not a reflection on Abel's professional abilities. He is a great trainer, a loyal trainer, and a Hall of Fame trainer."

That quote seems like the right tone on which to end this story.

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