BY STEVE BRENNER
Abel Sanchez will never forget the day his life changed forever.
It was March 2010 and Sanchez, already a great if unheralded trainer, was just carrying on with life.
The construction company he owned was ticking along nicely while his gym in Big Bear Lake , California was a hive of activity.
Then came a call out of the blue. One which gave him an opportunity of a lifetime.
A fighter by the name of Gennady Golovkin was coming to the United States and wanted a meet.
Sanchez had absolutely no idea who the Kazakh was.
Five years down the line, Golovkin is now the name on everybody’s lips.
His brutal destruction of hard hitting David Lemieux in New York last weekend ensured the IBF middleweight title is now in the 33 year-old’s grasp along with his WBA belt.
His push for total unification is one step closer. Legendary status becomes a reality with every swashbuckling power show.
Golovkin is the kind of exciting, all action warrior boxing has been desperate for. In this allegedly post Floyd Mayweather era, the sport needs a new leader.
Sanchez’s man has all the qualities by abundance and if the 20,000 packed into Madison Square Garden were anything to go by, Triple G is the undisputed people’s champion.
Yet it was under the watchful guidance of a wily guru who never courts the limelight where this supremely skilled son of Kazakhstan was equipped with the devastating tools which have allowed him to brutalize his way to the very top.
His transformation of Golovkin has rightly drawn comparisons with the job Freddie Roach undertook when first working with Manny Pacquiao.
So it’s no wonder a smile breaks out across Sanchez’s face when we talk about his pairing with arguably the best pound for pound boxer on the planet right now.
“I got a call from his managers in March 2010. They wanted to see the gym and come meet me. We all met up, we watched some videos together and then went out for dinner that night, “ he told Sport 360.
“When I went home afterwards, I did some research on the computer and though ‘wow , this guy is great.’ I had never heard of him before. I couldn’t even pronounce his name.
“The following day we had breakfast and said our goodbyes. Gennady said he would me see me in a couple of months. I said ‘oh yeah sure.’ After seeing how good he was on the videos , I was sure I would never see him again.
“Two months later I got a call to pick him up from the airport. Five years later and here we are.
“He is a coach’s dream. It’s fun. I am blessed that they called me to start training him and he walked into my gym. He is the kind of a kid a lot of the great trainers could have done very well with. I feel blessed. “
Golovkin’s quite incredible amateur record of 345 wins from 350 bouts laid the foundations for his transition into the big time. It was left to Sanchez however to create a monster. His all-out , attacking ‘Mexican style ‘ approach is why the Kazakh is one of the hottest tickets around.
There is none of the safety first approach displayed by Mayweather in his last , ultimately disappointing, final appearances. Fight fans , especially those on this side of the Atlantic, want bloodthirsty performances, the kind of which leave you yearning for more.
Golovkin delivers on every count.
“Gennady is a special talent, “ added Sanchez. “He’s something we don’t see very often. I saw it straight away when we started working together, I saw it in the Olympics. He is by the far the best fighter I have ever worked with – and I have been with guys who have got to the Hall of Fame.
“It’s his intelligence in the ring. He does nothing which isn’t premeditated. He does everything with a purpose. He will go rounds just to find a spot, to let someone into the fight because he is so confident of what he can do.
“Big shows like the one we had against Lemieux don’t faze him. It really doesn’t matter. His vast amateur experience, the situations he’s found himself in the ring during the Olympics in 2004 are standing him in good stead right now. It has made him smarter, more relaxed in the ring. His boxing IQ helps him stand out.
“To me, being the best pound for pound or not doesn’t really matter. People in the media and the critics can say what they want , we just want him to keep getting the big fights.
“I think Gennady has the character and the style to a leader in boxing. One it’s star attractions for sure. When you’re selling out Madison Square Garden , that says something. “
Golovkin’s decision to move his family to Los Angeles has proved crucial. To see a Canadian and a European sell out the mecca of boxing speaks volumes. The 33 year-old has broken into the mainstream – he stars in an Apple Watch TV advertisement which his backers believe was huge for his future in the United States and beyond.
There is no vomit inducing Mayweather largess when dealing with Golovkin. The respectful nods, his somewhat charm inducing broken English and warm smiles for the camera have helped turn him into a box-office superstar, something made all the more remarkable considering his challenging upbringing on the rough, dangerous streets of Karaganda .
The unexplained death of his brothers in the army when he was a child steeled an intensity and drive within his character which has seen him rack up an incredible 90% knock-out rate in his professional career.
Golovkin , who has a twin brother who works with his team, has an enduring humbleness to his character. A deep love for his family remains. When Curtis Stevens viciously taunted him before their encounter last year , the American had crossed a line.
The repercussions were felt in the ring.
“I have never seen him react like that, “ said Sanchez. “His brother was very mad, they thought what Curtis was saying was very disrespectful. That’s not sport but the fact that his brother was so upset enraged Gennady.
“He really went out to punish him. If it would have gone 12 rounds that would have been great. Did I think he had that sadistic side in him? I thought his brother did. He never smiles. But they are twins so maybe it translates from one to the other.
“When his brothers died, it changed him dramatically. His outlook on life and his responsibilities changed. They were killed in very suspicious circumstances and his whole attitude changed. The responsibility of looking after the family grew even bigger.”
Last Saturday’s Big Apple crunch was Golovkin’s first , big pay-per-view show. It was his chance to shine – and it was taken with brilliantly ruthless aplomb.
HBO revealed they sold just over 150,000 at around $50 which generated a cool $8 million in revenue, thoroughly decent figures which proves the US network’s faith in him was handsomely rewarded.
The winner of next month’s super fight between Miguel Cotto and Canelo Alvarez is almost certain to fight Golovkin and produce the sternest test to an unblemished record which now reads 34 wins out 34 with his last 21 triumphs ending with a stoppage.
That will be a blockbuster of an event. Yet K2 promotions chief Tom Loeffler, who has helped guide Golovkin to the top, was never in any doubt it would come to this.
“I knew his career would have this kind of trajectory. I have been close to Abel for 20 years and he never overhypes a fighter. Straight from the start with Gennady he knew he was very special. He hits harder than anyone, “ Loeffler told me.
“Abel has really honed his professional style, great experience in the amateurs but his style has changed from the old Soviet school to what he calls a ‘Mexican style.’ It’s really seek and destroy, putting on a great show for the fans.
“Gennady works harder than anyone. What you see is what you get. There is nothing fake about him.”