Big Bear Camp

Photo by Al Applerose

Labor Day at the Summit with Abel Sanchez and his disciples 


By Igor Frank

BIG BEAR LAKE-Labor Day is traditionally a day of rest, but there is no rest for the weary. High above sea level at the Big Bear Mountains, training facility dubbed “The Summit” run by Abel Sanchez like a military boot camp is sizzling with hard labor. I use the word sizzling because it is hot inside, at least 85 degrees. Old school coach Sanchez likes it that way to give his students maximum work out and benefit.”Once they warm up, there’s less of a chance of them tearing anything,” commented Sanchez on high temperature. 


My boss, a veteran boxing scribe, David Avila and my lovely colleague, Anna Dragost and I decided to take a field trip to Summit on Labor Day to check up on Abel’s star student, Gennady Golovkin who was hard at work training for his unification showdown with IBF middleweight champion from Canada, David Lemieux. They are scheduled to collide on October 17th at the Mecca of boxing, Madison Square Garden in New York City. HBO PPV will televise the event live. 

He is a leader here,” said Sanchez about Golovkin:” Because he is doing it everybody else is doing it too.” Indeed, Gennady leads by example. His afternoon workout stretched passed three hours and featured sweat, sweat and more sweat. 

You might wonder who everybody else is. It’s like United Nations of boxing training here at the Summit right now. Undefeated light heavy weight from Cuba, Sullivan Barrera (16-0,11KO’S), who doesn’t have a fight scheduled but rumored to be negotiating with another undefeated power house, Artur Beterbiev. 

There is undefeated welterweight from Ghana, Frederick Lawson (24-0,20KO’S) and unbeaten lightweight from Japan, Rikki Naito (13-0,5KO’S). There are four more Russians: undefeated welterweight Konstatntin Ponomarev(28-0,13KO’S), young lightweight, protégé of Golovkin, Ruslan  Madiev(5-0,3KO’S), lightweight Denis Shafikov(36-1-1,19KO’S) who is scheduled to face Rances Barthelemy for IBF  title on November14th, and last but not least, a cruiserweight dynamo, Murat Gassiev(22-0,16KO’S). 

They all train together. Training starts at 7:00 am. They go for a morning run with Abel Sanchez following them in his white Chevy Tahoe.” I need to know how they are feeling every day,” explained Sanchez:” Then I can decide how I am going to work them during a workout.” Abel works them hard. 

Watching and listening to Murat Gassiev hit a heavy bag I had a frightening thought” thank god he is not hitting me”. Abel Sanchez is very high on young cruiserweight who is still growing and who should grow into a full fledged heavyweight in a few years. But he is not the hardest puncher in the gym. 

“Gennady is the hardest puncher,” said Abel breathing hard after working mitts for power with GGG:” His shots pierce through you.” Abel knew he found someone special the first time they worked mitts. 

“ From the first day he came in here  five and a half years ago Golovkin and I had a talk about what we wanted to accomplish,” said Sanchez:” And he was willing to do whatever it was that I asked him and till this day he hasn’t asked why, he hasn’t said nothing. He does everything that he is asked. He is not above anything.” 


They eat together, they sleep together and they work together; there are no distractions at the Summit. Teamwork is not an original concept, but it seems to be of great benefit to Sanchez and his students. Fighters motivate and encourage one another to do better and to keep up with training.  Murat Gassiev brought an amateur named Giorgi with him from Russia, a six one middleweight. Giorgi admitted it was very tough for him at first, but he was inspired and forced to keep up with veteran fighters. Abel sees good instincts and a lot of potential and plans to turn him pro in six months. 

“We have a new crop right now,” said Sanchez:” That’s fortunately working just as hard as Gennady is working and we are getting results.” 

There are three reasons why I consider Abel Sanchez an old school coach. First of all he doesn’t subscribe to a new fad of hiring strength and conditioning coaches. The team does strength and conditioning exercises on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but they are required to incorporate those drills into their daily routines. Secondly, there aren’t any nutritionists in camp. “These are grown men. They need to eat what they are used to eating. They cook for themselves,” said Sanchez. Yet none of Abel’s fighters have trouble making weight. 

And finally Abel’s word is like gospel for his disciples. You do what you are told and you don’t question the coach or you are asked to leave. 

Abel opened the Summit at the tail end of 2008, originally to help train his friends. 

“And then a young man named Golovkin calls me up and walks through my doors,” said Sanchez:” And things changed. 


Contact Igor Frank via email at or via Twitter(Fightmonger)