Hi, my name is Lance Pugmire, and welcome to our weekly boxing/MMA newsletter. This newsletter will be delivered right to your inbox every week if you sign up here. Let’s get right to the news.
Adversity is revealing, and Gennady Golovkin’s decision to end the previously dominant connection with trainer Abel Sanchez last month after their first loss seemed like a panic move.
“We did have a great run, but while I felt everything was adequate and good, I needed to go farther, to evolve. Boxing is all about going farther,” Golovkin told The Times during a Saturday meeting with boxing reporters in Las Vegas.
“I didn’t feel any panic. Maybe if you heard what Abel said you would have this feeling. I just wanted to get better. With new people, I believe I can get better.”
Golovkin (38-1-1, 34 knockouts) named former Wladimir Klitschko trainer and Emanuel Steward protégé Jonathan Banks as his new trainer Saturday. Golovkin will remain with Banks in Big Bear, where he studied under Sanchez, because the former long-reigning middleweight champion embraces high-altitude training effects and the solitude of the mountains.
Golovkin is in his third week of training under Banks as he heads to start a new six-fight deal with DAZN that might surpass $100 million in value as the fights escalate beyond the mismatch that is his June 8 bout at Madison Square Garden versus Canada’s Steve Rolls — a meeting that possesses a pre-made post-fight headline in its banner: “Golovkin Rolls.”
Sanchez chafed at Golovkin leaving him, calling the move “greedy” because Golovkin offered a pay cut after finally cashing in on the massive deal the pair had long fought for together.
“I don’t want to throw a stone, but mostly everyone noticed there was an inactivity from Triple-G in the ring,” Banks said of Golovkin’s September defeat by majority decision to current three-belt middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez.
“He was not as active as you’d normally see him — [there was a] lack of punches, period. He used to throw a more complete arsenal and it’d be consistent.”
Banks claims Golovkin, who’d knocked out 23 consecutive foes before going the distance with Daniel Jacobs in 2017 and then watched his record-tying run of 20 consecutive middleweight title fights without a loss end against Alvarez, grew too infatuated with the pursuit of Sanchez’s desire for the knockout.
“If everyone’s saying you’re a puncher and you revert to start depending on that one punch — if that one punch doesn’t land properly — then you’re out of it,” Banks said.
Banks breaks with Sanchez by incorporating the use of mitts while practicing in the ring, a discipline that increases punching volume and accuracy and was schooled in him by Steward, the late legend from Kronk Gym in Detroit who trained Thomas Hearns and many other greats. Banks describes Steward as his personal “Mt. Rushmore.”
“He wanted me to do more boxing, not just more power punches, so we started doing certain things I wasn’t doing with Abel,” Golovkin said, assessing he believes, even at age 37, that he can implement a fight plan with more velocity and movement.
“I don’t believe there’s such a thing as hitting the wall. I think I can go farther and by learning new skills, I can be better in the next fight. The fight will be a different fight.”
Golovkin said the new lessons will not strip him of the “Mexican style” he was known for under Sanchez.
“I have my own style and everything I have remains with me. There’s some new approaches,” Golovkin said. “I want to add something. All those Mexican fans will not be disappointed by what I add.
“I want a third fight [with Alvarez] to happen. I want to be at the highest pinnacle.”
While Alvarez has not yet committed to meeting Golovkin in September, DAZN executives will probably press hard for the bout as a route to continue building its subscriber base. Would Golovkin be willing to fight Alvarez at any expense, including meeting him in Mexico?
“Would he be interested in fighting in Kazakhstan?” Golovkin asked in reference to his own native land.
No laughing matter
Part of the job is to see through a fight promoter’s con game, and while many have chided English promoter Eddie Hearn for selecting big-bellied, Snickers-eating Andy Ruiz as the June 1 replacement opponent for three-belt heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua’s U.S. debut, Hearn’s defense of Ruiz struck me as authentic.
Original Joshua opponent Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller “cheated the sport of boxing with three positive [performance-enhancing drug] tests — he couldn’t bring himself to fight Anthony Joshua on a level playing field,” Hearn said.
“The fighters who talked about stepping up … my first thought was, ‘Who is it going to be?’ My concern was to make a real fight on June 1. I’m a fan. I didn’t want to bring Anthony Joshua to Madison Square Garden knowing we can’t lose. A couple guys reached out, but when I heard this man [Ruiz], I thought, ‘This guy really wants it. He thinks he can win. This is a tough fight. This kid can fight. This guy has Mexico behind him. This is a no-brainer.’”
Ruiz, of Imperial, Calif., weighed 262 pounds when he weighed in for his April 20 co-main event at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, then won the fight by fifth-round stoppage. His only loss was by a narrow margin in a heavyweight title fight in the home region of then-champion Joseph Parker.
“Andy Ruiz is not carved out of stone, but once this begins, this a real credible fight,” Hearn said. “There’s going to be a lot of British fans, a lot of Americans and a lot of Mexicans [in Madison Square Garden] because he has the chance to become the first Mexican heavyweight champion, and that’s an opportunity that may never happen again. If he wins this fight, he’ll be a national hero.
“I’m a little bit scared. And I want to be scared. This is a new test for Anthony Joshua and now he has to fight a guy with a big set of cojones who will let his hands go, and show his entire heart.”
Trained in Norwalk by Manny Robles, the former cornerman of featherweight champion Oscar Valdez, Ruiz has remained in camp and appeared in better shape than his recent fight night Saturday in Las Vegas.
“We’ve got the ring rust out of the way, and we’re going to take advantage of that. A lot of people will doubt Andy because of his physical appearance. Don’t worry about what you see on the outside. What this kid has on the inside is … he’s got it,” Robles said. “He’s a pressure fighter. We’d love to get on the inside and break down that body. I don’t think Joshua’s ever dealt with that pressure that a Mexican fighter loves to bring.”
Ruiz showed a Snickers, but only to explain he eats one before a fight as a routine of good luck started with his father.
“Everyone underestimates me because of the way I look, but I throw a lot of punches. I’m going to show the world who I am, prove everyone wrong and bring those belts back to Mexico,” Ruiz said. “I’m going to give it all I’ve got. He has a heavy punch, but June 1, it will be two big guys hitting each other. I can box, move around, slip punches … I’m here to shock the world. I have a chance to make history.”
It was only a few years ago when Banks was cornering the now-retired Klitschko in a vast wasteland of a division now fortified by Joshua, Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury.
“The decade he ran on top, people hated him,” Banks said. “The minute he sat down, now people are offering him a ridiculous amount of money to come back. Now that he’s gone, they say, ‘We need one face for the division.’”
Banks said Twitter chatter of a Klitschko return was “all rumors.”
He instead is focused on Golovkin and his women’s unified welterweight champion, Cecilia Braekhus, who is being lured to a super-fight against women’s unified middleweight champion Claressa Shields at 154 pounds.
“In my opinion, the reason the fight hasn’t happened is me. I don’t want the fight,” Banks said; Braekhus is a true 147-pounder.
“One of the biggest differences between females and males is that if you want to gain weight [as a man], you can put muscle on top of it and adjust to being a heavier person. Females don’t add on muscle like that. The genetics are completely different. Cecilia really wants the fight — and it’s bigger money for Claressa — but Cecilia can sell out a 20,000-seat stadium in Norway in five minutes.
“Claressa hasn’t sold out nowhere. She’s an awesome fighter. She’s from my state [Michigan]. That would be big for women’s fighting, but do I personally want the fight? No.
“But Cecilia does.”
A showdown of Bellator champions heads a busy fight weekend Saturday when lightweight champion Michael Chandler meets featherweight champion Patricio “Pitbull” Friere on a DAZN card from Chicago that begins at 6 p.m. Pacific.
The card also offers a welterweight Grand Prix semifinal between Douglas Lima and Michael “Venom” Page, and Long Beach’s A.J. McKee meeting Pat Curran in a featherweight fight.
UFC has an ESPN Plus pay-per-view from Brazil that night headlined by women’s straw-weight champion Rose Namajunas (8-3) meeting Jessica Andrade (19-6). Brazilian legends Anderson Silva and Jose Aldo are also on the card in separate fights.
On ESPN at 7 p.m. Pacific from Tucson, WBC super-featherweight champion Miguel Berchelt stages a rematch with the man he took his belt from, Mexico’s Francisco Vargas.
At 5 p.m. Pacific on Fox, unbeaten IBF/WBA super-welterweight champion Jarrett Hurd (23-0, 16 KOs) defends his belt against Julian Williams (26-1-1, 16 KOs).
Until next time