Hand-wrapping controversy hangs over Canelo Alvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin fight ... again

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist
The “stacking” method of hand-wrapping used by Canelo Alvarez, which is only allowed in Nevada and Texas, has drawn the ire of Gennady Golovkin’s trainer Abel Sanchez. (Photo courtesy Golden Boy Promotions)

LAS VEGAS – Less than an hour before Canelo Alvarez was to make his walk to the ring to face Gennady Golovkin for the middleweight title in one of most anticipated fights of 2017, a controversy erupted in Alvarez’s locker room.

Trainer Eddy Reynoso was wrapping Alvarez’s hands, with Francisco Soto, an inspector for the Nevada Athletic Commission, seated to his left observing. As is the custom, a representative of Golovkin was also in the room to make sure nothing untoward occurred. Golovkin sent trainer Abel Sanchez, who quickly raised his hand to object.

Sanchez raised his hand to get Soto’s attention and then said, “He’s going to put tape and then gauze and then tape? You can’t do that.”

Soto said there was a layer of gauze first on the skin and then tape over that, which he said is permitted. Sanchez said, “That’s stacking,” prompting Soto to make an angry face. “I can’t have that,” Sanchez said. “No, I can’t have that.”

Soto replied, “There is nothing wrong with that,” and Reynoso continued to wrap Alvarez’s hands as Alvarez sat quietly. When Sanchez said he would file a protest, Soto said, “Go ahead. Go ahead. We’ve done this about 2,000 times, or more.”

It is a controversy that has yet to be resolved, and will hang over the rematch between the two on Sept. 15 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The issue is over an interpretation of the rules, and in what order gauze and tape are allowed to be placed on a fighter’s hands to protect them from breaking.

Jacob “Stitch” Duran, who is arguably the finest hand wrapper in the game, said wrapping is done to protect the metacarpal bones on the back of the hand.

Duran wrapped my hands, one with what he called the basic method that Sanchez uses to wrap Golovkin’s hands, and the other with the stacking method that Reynoso uses to wrap Alvarez’s.

The only difference I felt – and I’m no fighter – was that on my right hand, which was wrapped using the stacking method, there was more support around the wrist. I had less movement and more tension in my left wrist than I did in my right.

“That was the first time I wrapped you and like I said, everything is based on tension,” Duran said. “Maybe I pulled it a little tighter here [on the left], than I did on this one. But it’s the same amount of tape and gauze, it’s just different techniques.”

Gennady Golovkin has his hands taped by trainer Abel Sanchez during a media workout at L.A. Live’s Microsoft Square on August 28, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Getty Images)

Sanchez and Golovkin promoter Tom Loeffler continue to protest, though Nevada Athletic Commission executive director Bob Bennett said the commission won’t change its rules.

Trainer/cutman/hand wrapper Rudy Hernandez, who is friends with Sanchez, vehemently disagreed with Sanchez’s opinion. He said it was a psychological thing with fighters but said there is no difference.

“I like to stack my fighter’s hands because it feels like a custom-tailored suit,” Hernandez said. “But it is no different. It’s most a psychological thing with the fighter.”

Hernandez said he has wrapped hands using the stacking method all over the country and said he recently stacked in fights in California and Idaho. Sanchez said the only states that allow stacking are Nevada and Texas.

Sanchez said he won’t stack the wraps on Golovkin’s hands because he doesn’t want to change what the fighter is used to and if he happens to like the feel of the stacked wraps and goes to fight in a venue where stacking is not permitted, it will put him at a disadvantage.

“We just need to have consistency in the rules,” Sanchez said. “That’s what we want.”

On Aug. 8 in Hollywood, California, Sanchez wrapped the hands of a young fighter named Ali Akhmedov. As Mike Relyea, the chief inspector of the California State Athletic Commission observed, Sanchez began wrapping Akhmedov’s hands using the stacking method.

It wasn’t by accident.

“I did that on purpose because I wanted to get Mike to say something,” Sanchez said.

And sure enough, Relyea intervened as he saw Sanchez began to stack the wraps and made him take it off and begin over.

Loeffler agreed that it is a matter of how states interpret the rules, but pointed out most disagree with Nevada’s interpretation. And he noted that just because Hernandez was able to stack in California and get away with it proves nothing.

“If the speed limit is 65 and he’s driving 85, it doesn’t mean the speed limit is 85,” Loeffler said. “It meant he exceeded the speed limit and got away with it.”

Loeffler and Sanchez had two prominent supporters unknowingly come forward on Saturday. Former world champion Timothy Bradley was calling the Ray Beltran-Jose Pedraza WBO lightweight title fight Saturday in Glendale, Arizona, for ESPN. When play-by-play man Joe Tessitore noted that Beltran’s wraps were stacked, Bradley quickly added. “That’s illegal. You can’t do that. You punch harder.”

That prompted IBF-WBA women’s middleweight champion Claressa Shields to take to Twitter decrying it.

She called the practice “illegal as hell!”

It’s probably going to take a directive from the Association of Boxing Commissions to make the policy uniform.

On Aug. 8, as he was wrapping Akhmedov’s hands, Sanchez turned to Relyea after Relyea prevented him from wrapping and said, “I can’t put gauze and tape and then gauze again?”

He knew the answer, but asked for a reporter’s sake to try to prove a point. Relyea quickly said “No.”

One controversy was averted on Tuesday when Bennett decided not to permit Alvarez to wear a pair of custom-designed gloves called “No Boxing No Life,” for the rematch with Golovkin.

Bennett said the gloves, which were designed by Reynoso and manufactured in Mexico, weren’t adequately tested. He said he wasn’t sure what brand of gloves Alvarez will wear.

“I can assure you this, though: It won’t be those gloves,” Bennett said.

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