David Benavidez describes sparring with Gennady Golovkin
SANTA MONICA, Calif. – Upstairs at the Wild Card West Gym on Tuesday afternoon, Gennady “GGG” Golovkin held a print media sit-down before working out for the cameras downstairs.
Golovkin (36-0, 33 knockouts) is looking to defend his IBF, WBA and WBC middleweight titles against Daniel Jacobs (32-1, 29 KOs) on March 18 (HBO Pay-Per-View), and while there was plenty of discussion about the matchup, his return to Madison Square Garden in New York City, and, of course, Canelo Alvarez, there was really good insight when it came to his preparation.
Abel Sanchez, who was sitting next to his protege, was asked by a reporter about the sparring Golovkin had with David Benavidez, a 20-year-old super middleweight prospect.
“Great,” Sanchez said slowly and emphatically with his eyebrows raised, seemingly glad the question was asked. “David is, as they say in baseball, a five-tool star. He’s not quite at the level of Golovkin yet but he will be soon. He’s a very, very good fighter and he’s given us great rounds.”
Sanchez then admitted it wasn’t the first time Benavidez had sparred with Golovkin.
“We saw him five years ago. He was 15 years old and he wanted to spar with Gennady. We allowed him, and he actually held his own. He didn’t do bad. He’s completely different now, obviously. Not only being a nice young man, he’s a hell of a fighter.”
Since day one of this training camp, Benavidez has been up at “The Summit Gym” in Big Bear, California, with Team GGG – and he was also waiting downstairs to speak with RingTV.com once Golovkin kicked everyone out of the sit-down so he could change into his trunks.
“When I first met him, I didn’t know who he was,” recalled Benavidez about sparring with Golovkin five years ago. “It was my first time being in Big Bear and my dad told me we were gonna spar this dude right here. I remember looking across the ring; he was getting ready, and he just gave me this penetrating look. It was horrifying, to be honest with you.”
Considering Golovkin would’ve been nearing 30, Benavidez wasn’t afraid to admit he was intimidated, albeit understandably, but he also recalled doing well under the circumstances. “I held my own ground. Imagine being 15 and sparring Golovkin. His power was amazing, but like I said, I held my ground and I learned a lot from it.”
Benavidez (17-0, 16 KOs), who turned professional a few months before his 17th birthday, was brought into Golovkin’s camp for sparring along with John and Julian Jackson – sons of Julius “The Hawk” Jackson – and KeAndrae Leatherwood, who will be facing Andy Lee on the Golovkin-Jacobs undercard.
“I was invited again to spar him and I was really able to see where I’m at,” said Benavidez about what it’s been like returning to Big Bear. “It’s an honor sparring a great champion like Golovkin. He puts so much pressure. He’s so strong in there and it helps me think a little bit more, too, and I’m also able to push him a little more, too. It’s very great to be a part of this training camp.”
Golovkin, from Karaganda, Kazakhstan, is renowned for his offensive pressure, most notably his ability to cut off the ring before suffocating opponents, but Benavidez revealed it’s much more than that.
“There’s other things he does to set that up,” he said. “He just waits for that little exact moment to counter. He has a strong jab. He also likes to jab to the body a lot, and it gets you tired when you get so many jabs to the body. He cuts the ring off good. His overhand rights are good, and he’s been hitting me a little bit with those looping hooks hit at the top of the head. Those are really dangerous shots, too.”
For a visual reference, Marco Antonio Rubio was knocked out by that shot in the second round of their 2014 match. Since then, Golovkin has knocked out five more to extend his KO streak to 23-straight. Benavidez’s scarred lip was another visual reference to the brute power Golovkin imposes.
“Left hook to the body, without a doubt,” answered Benavidez to the question of what’s Golovkin’s best punch. “The way he sets it up is, he throws strong hooks upstairs and then as soon as you bring your guard up thinking another shot is gonna come to the head, he brings it down to the body. To see power-punchers like this, I’m able to learn off him everyday. The thing about him is that he follows all the way through with his punches. Like he’s trying to punch through a brick wall. It’s also his technique – the way he moves his feet. He’s always set perfectly for that big power shot.”
Most recently, fighting on January 28, Benavidez knocked out Sherali Mamajonov in the second round on the Frampton-Santa Cruz II undercard, and coming off that impressive win, the experience of sparring Golovkin has been tremendous for his development.
“I’m able to see how these tough fighters put pressure and how I deal with the pressure. He’s helped me to learn a lot for my my career.”
Benavidez says he was never dropped to the canvas in any of these sparring sessions, but as for how he measured up competitively in them, Benavidez replied, “I feel like we’re doing really good. He’s a tough fighter and he has a great chin. That’s all I’m gonna say – we have great sparring sessions.”
HBO will air “24/7 Golovkin/Jacobs” at 10:30 p.m. ET / 7:30 p.m. PT this Saturday night, two weeks to away from the fight.