Gennady Golovkin made the four-hour trek from his home in Santa Monica, California, on Wednesday to Big Bear Lake, California, to the gym that Abel Sanchez had built specifically for him, to collect his things and end his nine-year relationship with his trainer with a shake of the hands.
Unable to agree on financial terms, Golovkin announced Wednesday that he will no longer work with Sanchez and will hire a new trainer.
The decision is so fresh that Golovkin hasn’t yet decided who will train him for his June 8 fight against Steve Rolls in New York.
He’ll be hard-pressed to replace the success he had with Sanchez, whom he hired in April 2010 after relocating to the U.S. from Germany. They debuted as a tandem on Aug. 14, 2010, when Golovkin knocked out Milton Núñez in 58 seconds in Panama City, Panama, to win the interim WBA middleweight title fight.
They won their first 19 fights together, of which Golovkin finished 18 by knockout. After a hotly disputed draw with Canelo Alvarez on Sept. 16, 2017, Golovkin knocked out Vanes Martirosyan before dropping a disputed decision to Alvarez in their rematch on Sept. 15, 2018.
“They had a great relationship and they had great success together, and as far as I’m concerned, they are unbeaten together,” Golovkin promoter Tom Loeffler said Wednesday. “I still believe Gennady won both of those fights.”
Golovkin’s decision to part ways with Sanchez means he’s made nearly a clean sweep of the team that had worked with him so long. He’d previously parted ways with co-managers Max and Oleg Hermann and attorney Ron DiNicola. Loeffler has reportedly been on shaky ground, as well.
The decision seems primarily, though not fully, about money. Sanchez had a contract that entitled him to 10 percent of Golovkin’s purse. There were five or six fights when the two first began working together in which Sanchez worked for free, because the money was so small and Golovkin needed it.
But as Golovkin blossomed into a superstar under Golovkin’s tutelage, his paycheck swelled as well. Golovkin asked him to take a cut and when they couldn’t agree on an amount, they split ways.
Veteran trainer Joe Goossen — who actually would be a good choice as Golovkin’s next trainer given his history working with elite fighters and his ability to motivate and make adjustments — said 10 percent is a “normal percentage” for a trainer.
Managers are able to take 33.3 percent of a fighter’s purse, though Goossen feels trainers deserve more than managers. But Goossen said that when some fighters make extremely large purses, they want to negotiate a lower purse with their trainers.
While the split could pose problems, Goosen thinks Golovkin will be able to move on from it.
“These fighters, guys at the level that Gennady and Canelo are at, they’re pretty strong-minded guys,” Goossen said. “Everything I’ve heard, he had a fantastic relationship with Abel and they were good for each other. But as far as the change impacting [Golovkin’s] performance, well, the guys like Gennady who have been around, they’re able to compartmentalize pretty well. And when it’s time to work, they get to work.
“A lot of it depends upon the way it went down, and I’m not privy to what occurred between them. I’ve been involved in these kinds of things on both sides and sometimes, you’d be surprised, it’s not really a distraction or a deterrent. It’s something they see as uplifting.”
A boxer has the right to have who he wants as a trainer, and so Golovkin is within his rights to make a change even though he told Yahoo Sports in March that he wanted to retain Sanchez as his trainer.
Asked on March 11 if Sanchez would continue to train him, Golovkin said, “I hope so. Abel is an integral part of this team, and I hope he’ll stay with me and continue to be part of my team.”
Golovkin did not speak of Sanchez on Wednesday other than in the statement he released.
Oscar De La Hoya, Alvarez’s promoter, had six different trainers during his Hall of Fame career. He said learning that Golovkin and Alvarez split over finances was a bad sign to him.
“In my case, I had six trainers for a reason: I wanted to get better and I was hungry to learn and try to better my game,” De La Hoya told Yahoo Sports. “It was never financial; never financial. It was all about finding a trainer who would push me to that next level. But if Triple-G is doing this because he’s thinking of finances, it means he’s thinking about this as a business and not for the integrity of the sport, wanting to take that next step, or because of a passion for winning.
“It’s a really bad thing [to put business ahead of competition]. You lose your focus and your mentality is not one to try to make history and become the best but you’re thinking about how much money you’re making.”
De La Hoya said he continued to pay Robert Alcazar, his original trainer, even when he split with him and hired Jesus “The Professor” Rivero.
“I didn’t care about finances; I cared about legacy,” De La Hoya said.
He said he thought it would take Golovkin a minimum of three fights to adjust to his new trainer and be fully comfortable.
Goossen has been on both sides of this equation. He has been the trainer let go and he’s been the trainer brought in as the savior.
He said that watching from afar, he thinks Golovkin will be able to remain at a high level because of the attention he pays to his conditioning.
“It’s pretty obvious he’s conscientious about his physical well-being,” Goossen said. “He’s a guy who, if he wants to, could fight an extra two or three years because of the way he’s taken care of himself. Someone who hasn’t taken care of himself or whose body has begun to break down may have more trouble with a change. But Gennady, he doesn’t balloon up and down in weight, he looks fit and he looks healthy and I think he’ll be able to continue to perform at the same level for a while.”
More from Yahoo Sports: