Photo: Will Hart
With the end of the year approaching and Boxing's Best airing, HBO Boxing Insiders take a look back at the fights that aired on HBO and HBO PPV in 2016. Here, they make their selections for Best Corner – not just for the boxer’s trainer and cutman, but the promoters, managers and entire teams that put their man in the best position to do what they do best.
Eric Raskin: Gennady Golovkin
Even though “GGG” didn’t advance his career in the way he hoped to in 2016, you have to marvel at how well the legend keeps growing despite the list of willing opponents constantly shrinking. Aside from convincing Canelo Alvarez -- the lineal middleweight champion -- of the moment to fight him, Golovkin’s team of Tom Loeffler, Max and Oleg Hermann and Abel Sanchez seems to have all the right answers. It’s tempting to give this award to Sergey Kovalev, since his managerial and promotional teams did get him his dream fight. But in the heat of battle, Kovalev’s opponent, Andre Ward, adjusted better than Kovalev did and the decision went Ward’s way, which is a tough combo to overcome when assessing a support team. Golovkin’s team edges them out, despite the continuing elusiveness of Alvarez.
Kieran Mulvaney: Gennady Golovkin
Not just for his trainer, although Abel Sanchez is one of the best; and not really for anything that has particularly stood out this year. But the relationship between Sanchez and Golovkin is one of the tightest in the business, and it extends beyond X’s and O’s. From the very beginning, Sanchez – in tandem with manager Oleg Hermann and promoter Tom Loeffler – sketched out a plan, one that involved not just adopting a particular style of fighting but also a comprehensive approach to the sport and the business: from walking out to the ring every time to the sound of “Seven Nation Army” to always speaking in English and producing some catchy, idiosyncratic soundbites in the process. It has worked extremely well for Golovkin so far, with the only disadvantage being that at times it works so well that nobody wants to face him.
Diego Morilla: Gennady Golovkin
In a year in which fight dates were scarce for some of the sport’s biggest stars, Golovkin continued his solid pace and kept his level of opposition respectable enough to continue both winning and impressing. The team of trainer Abel Sanchez and advisor Tom Loeffler has achieved a perfect balance between their training habits and careful matchmaking that has allowed Golovkin to grow just enough to continue cementing his place as boxing’s next big pay-per-view attraction, all while leaving the impression that he has even much more to give.
Nat Gottlieb: Manager Egis Klimas
Klimas has assembled a stable of quality fighters that is the envy of boxing managers, virtually cornering the market on the best Eastern European boxers. Among his stable of fighters is Vasyl Lomachenko, Sergey Kovalev and unbeaten power punchers Oleksandr Usyk and Egidijus Kavaliauskas. His 15 fighters share a total of only 10 losses among them. With two current world champions and Kovalev -- who’s hoping to recapture his three belts in a potential rematch with Andre Ward -- Klimas will be a major player in the ring for many big fights in 2017.
Hamilton Nolan: Sergey Kovalev
I am basing this purely on the fact that Kovalev’s team agreed to bring him to my office to be the celebrity judge of an arm-punching tournament between skinny bloggers. With this level of smart media engagement he cannot fail.
Oliver Goldstein: Joe Smith Jr.
Smith does the fighting, but someone’s got to work out the fights. In that respect, Smith’s promoter, Joe DeGuardia, of Star Boxing, and trainer, Jerry Capobianco, did marvelously in stepping him up against Andrzej Fonfara and Bernard Hopkins. Two very risky fights later and Smith is reaping the rewards. “Nobody is really paying attention to Joe,” Hopkins said somewhat ominously before their fight. They are now.