As much as I detest the long and winding drive up to Big Bear Lake, Calif., I knew I would eventually return to the mountain resort town sometime this year.
I’d been hearing too many stories about Gennady Golovkin, the undefeated WBA middleweight beltholder coached by Abel Sanchez at the veteran trainer‘s gym in Big Bear, to stay away.
When Sanchez told me last month that rising Mexican star Saul Alvarez would not only arrive to train at The Summit, his high altitude training center, in May but also spar with Golovkin, I knew my time to return had come.
By sitting in on a sparring session between the two, I’d find out whether there’s any truth to the outlandish gym rumors I’d heard about Golovkin, a 28-year-old native of Kazakhstan who goes by the nickname “Superman,” and I’d see how talented and tough the 20-year-old 154-pound beltholder really is.
I realize that sparring is not the same thing as an actual fight. However, given what I’d heard and read about Golovkin (20-0, 17 knockouts), a 2003 world amateur champ and 2004 Olympic silver medalist who defeated the likes of Lucian Bute (by KO), Andre Dirrell and Andy Lee in the amateurs, I figured he could tell me more about Alvarez (36-0-1, 26 KOs) than the kid’s fights with faded old Carlos Baldomir and naturally smaller recent opponents such as Jose Cotto, Lovemore Ndou and Matthew Hatton.
I was able to stave off my usual altitude sickness during the drive up to the remote San Bernardino mountain town with thoughts of all the hype I’ve heard on Golovkin in recent months. It began with a text message from Sam Garcia late last June.
“Perro is getting lit up in sparring by this Russian dude!” read the text message from Garcia, an assistant trainer for junior lightweight prospect Eloy Perez, who frequently trains in Big Bear.
“Perro,” of course, is Alfredo Angulo, the rugged junior middleweight contender who was preparing for his HBO-televised fight against Joachim Alcine last July when he locked horns with Golovkin at Sanchez‘s gym. Garcia later gave me a more-detailed account of the sparring session. Lightweight contender Urbano Antillon, who is trained by Sanchez, supported Garcia's story.
A few months later I got a phone call from the producer of a Spanish-language sports show, who swore that he witnessed Golovkin "embarrass" Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. at the Wild Card gym during an open workout held for the Latino media a few weeks before the unbeaten middleweight pulled out of scheduled Dec. 4 card.
A Wild Card regular who spotted me at the Alvarez-Hatton fight in Anaheim, Calif., this past March whispered that he saw Golovkin give undefeated super middleweight prospect Peter Quillin all he could handle at Roach’s famous boxing club.
The producer and the gym rat didn’t want to go on record for fear of being banned from Wild Card, which is understandable (I guess), but Garcia, who watched Golovkin and Angulo spar in Big Bear, has no problem sharing his observations with his fellow boxing fans.
“Alfredo Angulo is a very strong, very competitive, prideful guy who has a great team behind him, but Golovkin is on another level,” said Garcia, who says he watched three sparring sessions between the two over the course of one week. “His strength, his demeanor, his skill, everything he did in there was just too much for Angulo, which surprised the hell out of me.
“I’ve seen Angulo spar many times before and he‘s always the one doing the hurting. He’s so damn tough I’ve never seen him take a step back, let alone get hurt. I was expecting him to test this Golovkin guy that I’d never seen before, but ‘Superman’ was in there taking and giving, and he hurt Angulo a couple times, especially to the body. Angulo had to get on his bike against Golovkin, which was just bizarre to see.”
I didn’t know what to expect to see when I finally arrived to The Summit (along with RingTV.com videographer Daniel Morales and photographer Scott Kilbride), but I was ready to see it.