‘The new Triple G!’ – trainer Sanchez on Russian IBF world champion Gassiev
Gassiev will take on Poland’s Krzysztof Włodarczyk at the Prudential Center in Newark in a quarter-final fight in the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS), a tournament which pits eight of the world’s elite cruiserweights in a straight knockout format, with the winner pocketing a cool $50 million in prize money.
It will be his first defense of the IBF title he prized from veteran Denis Lebedev in Moscow in December, the last time the 24-year-old graced the ring.
Since then, Gassiev has been training with Sanchez at the latter’s state-of-the-art 'The Summit' gym in Big Bear Lake, California. The two-story, 2,000 sq ft facility located 8,000ft above sea level also acts as the training base for middleweight champion and pound-for-pound number one fighter Gennady ‘Triple G’ Golovkin.
Although he sees differences in the two as fighters, Sanchez believes Gassiev, who is unbeaten in 24 fights with 17 knockouts, will go on to match the success of his stablemate.
“I think there’s a big difference. I say the new Golovkin in time he will be,” says Sanchez, whose resume includes training former light middleweight king Terry Norris.
“Golovkin had over 350 amateur fights; this young man only had 25 amateur fights, so we have a lot of development to go still. I feel that in time, he will become the next Golovkin. I think he will be a ruler in the cruiserweight division and maybe even the heavyweight division.”
The WBSS is a unique concept which sees fights taking place between past and present champions all over the world.
Sanchez admits the opportunity for Gassiev to fight in the tournament was too good to turn down, and presents a platform for the division his charge wishes to dominate.
“First of all, the tournament itself for all these eight cruiserweights to really shine and being put in this kind of position in the US - I think is important for the cruiserweight division,” he says.
“I think it’s something that’s long overdue for boxing and for the cruiserweight division. The cruiserweight division is the forgotten division.
“Nobody really pays attention to it but in this tournament I think it’s going to show it’s going to be exciting like the last fight between Dorticos and Kudryashov. Anything can happen. These guys are big guys and one punch can change a fight. It can change a fight for the better, too.”
Sanchez accompanied a rookie Gassiev to Moscow to fight Lebedev, 38, in December, when Gassiev became champion by way of split decision.
Intriguingly, Lebedev’s WBA title was withdrawn from that fight just days before it was about to take place, meaning he remained a belt holder despite the loss, and Sanchez refuses to rule out an all-Russian rematch and return to Gassiev’s homeland.
“Absolutely. I have always believed a world champion should fight wherever there’s a fight, wherever there’s a chance to show your skills and Lebedev is still the WBA champion so we’d love to go back. It all depends on the promoters,” admitted Sanchez, who went on to outline in his idiosyncratic Californian dialect that he “only trains the kid.”
Although himself a Russian, Gassiev faced a fiercely loyal Lebedev following in Moscow, finding himself very much the ‘away’ fighter, something he is likely to experience on Saturday.
Sanchez is quick to rubbish the idea that a frosty reception will affect the fight.
“The people are not going to help him, they are not going to help us trying to battle a battle-tested warrior like Włodarczyk who’s got 57 fights, ex-world champion. It’s going to be a difficult task but we’re going to come through,” he says assuredly.
“Yes there’s going to be a lot of Polish fans at the fight. I hope its full but once the fight starts and once the bell rings, like I said, it will just be two guys and the referee, Earl Brown, inside the ring.”
Saturday’s fight is the first step for Gassiev in the WBSS. The tournament that, Sanchez says, could propel him towards the heavyweight division, following in the footsteps of hall of famer Evander Holyfield, the man to most successfully make the transition.
“We talked about this several years ago because he’s only 24 now so he’s growing a little bit more not only height wise but his body is filling out. I think that the winner, or the two guys that end up in the finals have a great chance to move to heavyweight.
“I think the TV notoriety of fighting in the tournament will make [the fighters] household names and be able to challenge for heavyweight titles. Evander Holyfield did it when he was unified cruiserweight champion, and hopefully the guys in the finals will be able to do it also.”
Sanchez’s long-time pupil Golovkin, who holds the IBO, WBA, IBF and WBC portions of the middleweight world championship, fought to a draw last time out against Mexican wonder Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, with many observers feeling GGG had done enough to win. Sanchez also revealed that talks are ongoing to arrange a rematch on the weekend of Mexican holiday Cinco De Mayo (May 5th).
“You know right now I don’t know I think [the promoters] are in constant negotiations. That’s what we hope and I think Canelo’s team are hopeful of that too. I’ve read he wants to fight in May.
“So hopefully [the promoters] can come together and put a package together, where it is going to be I don’t know, that’s what they are trying to find out. So if they do I think it’s a fight that boxing needs, a rematch to make sure that everything gets ironed out.”
By Danny Armstrong for RT Sport