Gennady Golovkin's trainer calls Canelo Alvarez 'a slapper,' questions his punching power

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist
Middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin (L), with trainer Abel Sanchez (center), faces Canelo Alvarez on Sept. 16 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. (Getty Images)

Abel Sanchez’s work in helping turn Gennady Golovkin into one of the most fearsome middleweights of recent vintage is likely going to land him a spot sooner or later in the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

Sanchez, who guided Terry Norris during Norris’ Hall of Fame career, has trained 16 world champions but his greatest impact has been with Golovkin.

Golovkin, 36-0 with 33 knockouts, faces the biggest fight of his career on Sept. 16 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas when he defends his WBA-WBC-IBF middleweight titles against the 49-1-1 Canelo Alvarez in what on paper looks to be the best fight of the year.

The Golovkin-Alvarez fight is getting swallowed in terms of publicity by the Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor match, which will be Aug. 26 at T-Mobile, but Golovkin-Alvarez is the one fight that has a legitimate chance to overtake Anthony Joshua’s April 29 TKO of Wladimir Klitschko as the Fight of the Year.

Sanchez added a bit of spice into it Thursday when he questioned Alvarez’s punching power and insisted Golovkin didn’t compete as hard as he could have against Daniel Jacobs in March because he was afraid if he looked too good, the fight with Alvarez would never have occurred.

Alvarez has 34 knockouts in his 51 bouts, and since 2015, has knocked out James Kirkland in three, Amir Khan in six and Liam Smith in nine.

None of it, though, did much to impress Sanchez, who questioned the caliber and size of the fighters that Alvarez stopped.

When Yahoo Sports suggested that it would be unwise for Golovkin to stand and trade with Alvarez, Sanchez scoffed.

“Amir Khan was a lightweight and he got knocked out by [Breidis] Prescott,” Sanchez said. “And you’re going to make it look like a huge deal that he hurt Kirkland? Kirkland hadn’t fought for two years and he gets hurt by everybody. Ishida knocked him out. Who has [Alvarez] knocked out that you could say, ‘Yeah, that was a great KO of a guy who is tough to KO?’

“He’s a slapper. He’s a slapper who throws very good, fast combinations. He’s going to have to do more than slap to keep Golovkin off of him.”

Canelo Alvarez is 49-1-1 with 34 knockouts, but his punching power has been questioned by Abel Sanchez, the trainer of middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin. (Getty Images)

Golovkin is clearly going to have the power edge going into the fight, but the conventional wisdom has been that Alvarez hits hard to keep Golovkin from rushing in on him.

There has also been criticism of Golovkin in the last year for his early struggles against Kell Brook and his performance in March in a unanimous decision over Daniel Jacobs.

Golovkin stopped Brook in the fifth round of their Sept. 10, 2016, match and knocked Jacobs down once en route to a unanimous decision on March 18.

The fight with Alvarez hadn’t been made at that point, and it wasn’t finalized until after Alvarez whitewashed Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in May. Alvarez promoter Oscar De La Hoya had promised to make the fight happen in September, but Sanchez wonders whether it would have occurred had Golovkin torn through Jacobs in two or three rounds.

Golovkin, who began camp with Sanchez in Big Bear Lake, Calif. on July 1 but who won’t begin sparring until mid-August, has heard the criticisms about his performances. Sanchez pointed out that Brook and Jacobs entered their matches with Golovkin with a combined record of 68-1 with 54 knockouts.

But he also said something astounding about Golovkin’s effort against Jacobs.

“Do you think if he would have come in [and blown Jacobs out] that we would be having this fight on the [Sept. 16]?” Sanchez said of the showdown with Alvarez. “Yes, I absolutely believe that. Oscar was talking about 2018. I don’t think this fight would be on if Gennady had just gone in there and blown Danny away.

“It’s funny, isn’t it, that as soon as the fight was over with Jacobs, [Team Alvarez] all of a sudden started talking about making the fight with us. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.”

To De La Hoya’s credit, even in the face of strong criticism, particularly when he chose to pair Alvarez against Smith last September instead of against Golovkin, his public comments were that he’d make the Golovkin-Alvarez fight. And when Alvarez bested Chavez in a highly successful pay-per-view fight in May, De La Hoya announced the match with Golovkin.

Gennady Golovkin (L) moves in for the finish on David Lemieux in their 2015 middleweight title fight in New York. (Getty Images)

Though Golovkin has become something of a cult figure among boxing fans because of his power and the perception that many in the middleweight division were avoiding him, Sanchez is convinced the bout with Golovkin will be a coming-out party for his fighter.

“Absolutely, Canelo is not [a big puncher],” Sanchez said. “He’s about to find out what a puncher is all about. It’s OK. I want this fight where people think it is competitive. All this talk of Gennady fading or of Canelo being that great a fighter, where people are saying ‘Canelo’s going to do this,’ and ‘Canelo’s going to do that,’ I hope that the same people who are saying that then don’t turn back and say that Canelo was a bum or he wasn’t ready for Gennady or that he was too small. They always find an excuse.

“It happens every time. When we fought Macklin was the first time we heard it. We heard, ‘Oh, Matt Macklin is going to be this huge test for Golovkin.’ Gennady went out there and destroyed him, but instead of giving us credit, we heard, ‘Oh, he was washed up and he was a bum.’ ”

Sanchez said he expects the first three or four rounds will be difficult for both sides, but said once Golovkin has him figured out that things will change in a hurry.

“This is a middleweight fighting a smaller guy with fast hands,” Sanchez said. “It’s the same scenario when [Marvelous Marvin] Hagler fought [Sugar Ray] Leonard. I think once Golovkin gets distance, once Golovkin gets timing, I think Golovkin will wear him down.

“We’ll touch him, we’ll touch him, we’ll hurt him, we’ll drop him – I think Gennady will drop him at least once – but I think he’ll take over. It’s going to be a difficult fight. It’s not going to be an easy fight for Golovkin, but I know for sure it’s not going to be an easy fight for Canelo.”

Canelo Alvarez (L) and Gennady Golovkin (R) pose with promoter Oscar De La Hoya (center). (Getty Images)