By Jake Donovan
The press conference in Los Angeles on Tuesday should tell you all that you need to know about Tom Loeffler as a business man. The managing director of K2 Promotions is the lead promoter for an April 23 doubleheader airing live on HBO from The Forum in Inglewood, California.
A two-city press tour to promote the event kicks off on Tuesday in Los Angeles before shifting cross-country to New York City on Thursday. The L.A. leg will include all of the show’s participants, as Golovkin (34-0, 31KOs) faces unbeaten mandatory challenger Dominic Wade (18-0, 12KOs) in the main event, while Gonzalez (44-0, 38KOs) will defend his World flyweight championship – and mythical pound-for-pound crown – versus Puerto Rico’s McWilliams Arroyo (16-2, 14KOs).
For the third time in as many fights, Golovkin and Gonzalez will appear on the same show. None of the occasions have been the typical package deal, where the promoter of record finds opponents from the same stable for the sake of reducing the number of people with which you need to conduct business.
Golovkin is of course promoted by K2 Promotions, who is partners with Teiken Promotions as it relates to Gonzalez. Wade is promoted by Tom Brown’s Ten Goose Boxing (TGB) Promotions and advised by Al Haymon, who enjoys a steady working relationship with Peter Rivera’s Puerto Rico Best Boxing Promotions (PRBBP), Williams’ promoter.
So why is it that Loeffler is able to accomplish what so few in the sport can seem to figure out these days?
“I just try to make the best deal possible for my fighters; I don't have an agenda,” Loeffler stated matter-of-factly to BoxingScene.com. “I just want the best fights for Gennady and Roman. It was our goal to have them on the same show once again, to give the fans and viewers more value for the hard-earned money they spend to support our events.”
Both fights were announced earlier this month, in fact just a couple of days apart from one another. Process of elimination narrowed down Golovkin’s opponent even before Wade’s name was revealed. The only other alternative to a mandatory title defense was a unification bout with the other middleweight titlists as recognized by the International Boxing Federation (IBF).
That meant Daniel Jacobs was out, as the IBF does not recognize secondary titlists when another exists. Jacobs owns the World Boxing Association (WBA) “regular” title, while Golovkin is recognized as the WBA “super” champ along with his status as IBF and International Boxing Organization (IBO) champ as well as the World Boxing Council (WBC) interim titlist.
Given that, the only two remaining choices were WBC/lineal champ Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez and World Boxing Organization (WBO) titlist Billy Joe Saunders, both of whom just recently won their belts in the 4th quarter of 2015.
Loeffler has been in constant contact with Golden Boy Promotions regarding a coveted showdown between Golovkin and Alvarez. Alas, the superfight shall wait a little longer as Alvarez is booked for a May 7 voluntary defense versus Amir Khan, a former 140 lb. titlist and current Top 10 welterweight contender who will move up in weight.
Talks with Saunders proved to be a non-starter despite being offered a handsome sum for his services. Golovkin and Loeffler even went on a trip to jolly old England to survey the landscape for a future fight there, perhaps even versus Saunders if it meant making the fight happen.
The radio silence that followed meant having to negotiate terms for a mandatory defense versus Wade. A lesser promoter would’ve stressed over finding a way to do business with Haymon for an HBO-televised fight, given that the network has previously declared its intention to not do business with the high-powered adviser for the foreseeable future. Some would have even pulled their fighter from such a scenario for fear of the fight going to a purse bid and landing in the “wrong” hands.
The only thing that Loeffler worries about is doing what’s right for his fighters. That meant doing business with what appeared on the surface to be unfamiliar bedfellows. In reality, it was a chance to catch up on the past and move towards the future.
“There was no hesitation at all in working out a deal with Dominic Wade and his team” Loeffler, noted of the negotiations. “We reached out to his promoter, Tom Brown, whom I’ve known for more than 20 years. We were able to agree on all terms in about a week.
“K2 Promotions is open to do business with all promoters and managers. I’ve never had any issues whatsoever with Al, and there certainly weren’t any road blocks in making this fight. I dealt with Tom Brown directly, who worked with Al in making the fight happen.”
It was a different matter entirely with Gonzalez.
Not only does there exist the need to negotiate with other promoters, but Loeffler also has to consult with Gonzalez’ co-promoter, the honorable Akihiko Honda – or Mr. Honda, as affectionately referred to by most in the industry – to ensure that all are on the same page in meeting the needs of the unbeaten star from Nicaragua.
It was a team effort in bringing Gonzalez on board to HBO, where he will appear for his third straight fight. An explosive debut was enjoyed in knocking out former 108 lb. titlist Edgar Sosa last May, stealing the show from Golovkin, who stopped Willie Monroe Jr. in six rounds in front of a crowd of 12,700 at very same venue that will host the April show.
Naturally, the two best fighters in the world will not only want to win every time out, but also do their part to raise the other’s game knowing that their fights will now be compared. For Gonzalez, it meant finding the right opponent – one that HBO would approve for its airwaves, as well as further entice fans to tune in.
Some of the choices offered just weren’t moving the needle.
Faded former World junior flyweight champ Giovani Segura was once mentioned as the opponent for an originally scheduled March 5 appearance for Gonzalez. Thankfully, a blow torch was taken to those plans.
Unbeaten Nawaphon Sor Rungvisai (nee Por Chokchai) from Thailand currently resides in the WBC number-one slot and was even mentioned as a candidate following a recent stay busy win last month which aired on Thailand Channel 7. However, there remains uncertainty as to whether he is the mandatory challenger or simply occupying the top spot.
Adding further confusion was the fact that the WBC declared a week or so ago that Mexico’s Juan Hernandez was in the mix. The one-time title challenger was fresh off of a 2nd round knockout of former strawweight titlist Jesus Silvestre, which apparently was enough to put him in the running.
Instead, Loeffler’s willingness to think outside the box provided Gonzalez with a different look, one where the reigning pound-for-pound can be challenged to a degree, at least on paper. Arroyo’s situation is unique – his twin brother McJoe Arroyo signed with Haymon last summer, while Rivera has regularly business with the adviser over the past several months.
Whatever politics existed that stood in the way of other promoters wanting to work with the perennial Top 10 flyweight contender, weren’t at all a factor in piecing together this fight.
“It was in discussion, but not finalized until the last couple of days before we formally announced,” Loeffler said of the talks. “It wasn’t a drawn-out process, but rather two sides understanding each other’s needs in order to make a deal work.
“It’s a huge opportunity for Arroyo, who arguably should’ve won his fight with (Thailand’s Amnat Ruenroeng, an IBF flyweight titlist who scored a debated split decision in their Sept. ’14 clash). It’s also a big test for Roman, something he needs every time out now that he’s being recognized as the best fighter in the world by so many outlets. Satisfying those needs were key in making this fight for him. We have to give the viewers what they want.”
Meeting those goals sometimes means reaching across the aisle. Whereas other promoters are content to stay the course and insist this is the best they can offer the sport, K2 Promotions has managed to keep the top two fighters in the sport on an active schedule regardless of outside network, promotional or ‘political’ affiliation.
“A lot of it is relationship-based, that’s really my “big” secret,” Loeffler notes. “Peter Rivera is now another promoter I can add to the list of those with whom I’ve done business and to do so again as the need arise. My job is to do the best for the fighters we represent. That's always been the focus with Gennady and now also with Roman.
“Putting the best fights we can together. For Roman, he’s now on a platform where – thanks to Gennady’s exposure and popularity – his fights are now being aired in over 100 countries. Especially for the lower weight classes – once you shine that kind of light on terrific fighter like Roman, there’s no limit to his popularity growth. That doesn’t happen if you are selective in who you do business with and limit the number of fighters to choose from.”
It’s so simple that any promoter can do it. Just ask Tom Loeffer, who continues to keep the line moving in an industry where it’s easier to make enemies than compelling in-ring fights these days.
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox