Tom Loeffler answers Floyd Mayweather, Gennady Golovkin critics
WBA/IBF middleweight titleholder Gennady Golovkin is still without an opponent for his April 23 ring return.
Tureano Johnson appeared to be at the front of the line for the tough assignment until a shoulder injury took the IBF mandatory challenger out of the running.
Billy Joe Saunders’ name was briefly in the hat but the newly crowned WBO titleholder priced himself out of a lucrative title unification offer from K2 Promotions.
It might be another week or two before a suitable opponent is found and announced but Golovkin – who hasn’t fought since outclassing David Lemieux in October – remains a very hot topic in the boxing world.
There are many reasons for this. One reason is that Golovkin’s name has been connected to Canelo Alvarez since the Mexican star earned THE RING and WBC middleweight belts by outpointing Miguel Cotto in November. The 33-year-old Kazakhstan native is the mandatory challenger for Alvarez’s WBC belt and the fighters’ promotional companies have agreed in principle to match the stars after their first bouts of 2016 (presumably a mega-PPV showdown on the Saturday of Mexican Independence Day weekend in September).
Another reason is that Golovkin (34-0, 31 knockouts), who stopped Martin Murray and Willie Monroe Jr. before relieving Lemieux of his IBF title before a sold-out Madison Square Garden in 2015, was also named a Fighter of the Year candidate by several notable boxing writers, publications and websites.
Numerous appearances at (non-boxing) entertainment events, such as the 73rd Golden Globe Awards, have also kept Golovkin in the public eye.
“His popularity hasn’t happened overnight or by accident,” said Tom Loeffler, managing director of K2, which promotes Golovkin. “We’ve cross marketed him as much as possible. Golovkin just attended his third Golden Globe Awards. He’s been to two Emmy Award shows. We’ve taken him to Rangers games, Kings games, Clippers games, Dodger games, Yankee games. We want the general public to get to know him.”
The boxing public knows about “GGG,” and while he’s respected and celebrated by most fans and media, he’s not loved by everybody. And when the Golovkin admirers and detractors start going at it in social media or in the comment sections of articles and videos, it can get ugly. It’s the only time Loeffler is not happy to see Golovkin’s name in the media. He says it’s especially upsetting when these heated “Twitter fights” become racially charged.
“I don’t understand the division between some fans on social media,” Loeffler said. “Fans of every nationality and ethnicity come to see Golovkin fight. I think he embodies the everyman. His style in the ring is what draws people to watch him. His likability and personality out of the ring make them appreciate him even more.”
But some believe Golovkin’s rise up the rankings and media ballyhoo has more to do with the color of his skin than anything he’s accomplished in the ring. Floyd Mayweather Jr. is probably GGG’s highest profile critic.
The recently retired pound-for-pound king mentioned Golovkin as an example of racial bias in boxing during an interview with FightHype.com that ran on Dec. 30 and has since been heavily debated in sports media.
Mayweather told FightHype:
“You gotta really look at things like this, when Bernard Hopkins was a middleweight trying to fight Oscar De La Hoya, Shane Mosley, and Felix Trinidad, they [the media] said he was calling out smaller guys. When the guy Triple G does it, they don’t say s__t. Once again, I’m not racist; I’m just saying racism still exists. Do I think that they’re (HBO, the media) trying to get Andre Ward beat? Absolutely! Andre Ward, if you’re reading this article, if I was you, I wouldn’t move up to 175 pounds to fight the guy, Kovalo [Sergey Kovalev], if that’s his name, because I really don’t know his name. I know he’s a light heavyweight. Andre Ward is a 68-pounder and I think he should continue to dominate at 168. This is what I think should happen. You know, everybody keeps talking Triple G, so I just started taking notice probably last year. If this guy Triple G is so tough and so bad, you know, from what they say, then let him go up and fight Andre Ward. Once again, these guys in boxing [media], not me, are rating this guy, Triple G, super high. He’s good with a stationary target in front of him. When he’s fighting a guy that’s straight up and down with no special effects, is he good? Absolutely! But do I think that Triple G can beat Andre Ward? Absolutely not! Easy pickings! It’s going to be very, very, very easy for Andre Ward.
“I’m surprised that Floyd is critical of Golovkin for wanting to fight him when he was the top junior middleweight champ,” Loeffler said, “while coming to the defense of Andre Ward. It wasn’t long ago that Ward wanted to fight Mayweather at 160 pounds and was calling him ‘Lil Floyd.'”
Loeffler, who represented Mosley, Kevin Kelley and Oba Carr in the late ’90s and has been in boxing for 25 years, was also perplexed with Mayweather’s advice to Ward to stay at super middleweight.
“Floyd is degrading Ward in my opinion,” he said. “He’s implying that Ward accepted a bad deal (with HBO). If Ward could make 168 pounds, you’d think that he would have had his first fight back (against Paul Smith last June) at super middleweight. You’d think he would have held on to his WBA super middleweight title.”
[Editor’s note: perhaps Mayweather was too focused on his own career in the late ’90s and early 2000s to really pay attention to Hopkins and what was being written about the middleweight titleholder at the time, but his take on how the media perceived Hopkins’ desire to face Trinidad, De La Hoya and Mosley is a case of severe revisionist history. There was no talk of Hopkins facing Trinidad until the former welterweight and 154-pound beltholder won a major middleweight title. Hopkins, who faced Trinidad in the finals of a middleweight title unification tournament in 2001, was 3¾-to-1 underdog against the Puerto Rican star and was given almost no chance by most of the major boxing writers at the time. Nobody was saying Trinidad was “too small” for Hopkins, who weighed-in a pound and half lighter – 157 to 158¾. Even after unifying IBF, WBC and WBA titles, Hopkins’ 2004 showdown with De La Hoya, who held the WBO 160-pound belt at the time, was viewed as a competitive fight by most of the media and was close to even money – 17-10 – at the MGM Grand’s sports book by fight time. There was little media talk of Trinidad and De La Hoya being “smaller fighters” at the time. Most of the talk was centered on Hopkins’ advanced age.]
Loeffler is also puzzled by Mayweather’s issue with Ward being below Golovkin in various pound-for-pound rankings (including THE RING, ESPN.com and SI.com), especially when considering the unbeaten former super middleweight champ has fought once since November 2013 – against the unrated Smith – and may not settle on a ranked opponent for his March 26 bout.
“Golovkin has been the most active WBA champ over the last three years,” Loeffler said. “Ward had been the WBA’s least active champ over the last three years before he recently vacated the belt. He was stripped of THE RING title for inactivity and for not facing a top-five contender over a two-year period, if I’m not mistaken. Golovkin’s rankings are a product of his activity and dominance. He’s knocked out 21 consecutive fighters, many who had never been stopped previously. So Floyd’s claims of racism or bias seem baseless.
“Racism exists in almost every facet of society,” he continued, “but to imply that Golovkin is rated over Ward due to his skin color rather than his merit degrades everything Golovkin has done since he debuted in the U.S.”
What has Golovkin (34-0, 31 knockouts), a 2004 Olympic silver medalist, done since his first fight on American soil – a fifth-round stoppage of Grzegorz Proksa – on Sept. 1, 2012?
He has scored 11 consecutive knockouts (including Proksa). During that 11-bout run, Golovkin defeated seven RING-rated middleweight contenders (Proksa, Matthew Macklin, Curtis Stevens, Daniel Geale, Marco Antonio Rubio, Martin Murray and David Lemieux), upped his title defense count to 14 (second only to division record holder Hopkins and tying with the great Carlos Monzon) and he’s appeared on HBO nine times.
Golovkin has become one of the staples of HBO’s boxing programming over the past three and half years thanks to constantly increasing ratings and an ever-growing fan base.
However, some of Golovkin’s more vocal critics in the boxing world – most notably Mayweather, Ward and Angel Garcia, the father and trainer of former 140-pound champ Danny Garica – claim he receives an unfair push from HBO, unbridled boosterism, they say, that isn’t given to American boxers that fight on the subscription cable network.
Loeffler says that’s nonsense. He says those critics are looking at Golovkin’s current stature with HBO and assuming that it’s always been that way. It hasn’t, says Loeffler.
“Golovkin had a much harder road to get to where he is than Mayweather or Ward – two U.S. Olympians,” he said. “Golovkin had to go from Kazakhstan to Germany to the U.S. and then build a fan base in a foreign country.
“Golovkin wasn’t immediately well received when I first shopped him to HBO and Showtime in early 2012. They didn’t want Golovkin at first because he was from Kazakhstan and he didn’t speak English. He was a hard sell.
“When I sat down with HBO I said I have an undefeated Olympic silver medalist who holds the WBA title and is willing to fight anyone for reasonable money. There was no reason not to put him on but it took time to find a place for Golovkin on their schedule. Kerry Davis (the former vice president of HBO Sports) finally acquiesced and said they’d put him on a Boxing After Dark show in September of that year, but later there was no place for him on that show.”
However, a series of fighter withdraws gave Golovkin and K2 the opportunity they needed.
“Daniel Geale was supposed to fight Dmitry Pirog in the main event of that show but Geale got a bigger offer to fight Felix Sturm in Germany. Geale pulled out. Nobody wanted to fight Pirog, so HBO called us. That’s how we got our break. Golovkin filling in for Geale saved that show. Then Pirog got injured and pulled out. Proksa, the European champ at the time, replaced Pirog. Now, Pirog was an orthodox fighter with a big right hand. Proksa, who Golovkin had about two weeks to prepare for, was an awkward left-handed fighter. Totally different styles, but it didn’t matter to Golovkin.”
Golovkin and K2 continued to make the necessary concessions – taking short money and a back seat to other promoters (Top Rank, Lou DiBella, Main Events) – to get on more HBO-televised cards until the ratings merited both fighter and promoter assuming more influence with the network.
“Golovkin fought his way to where he is now,” Loeffler said. “He’s been the most active world champion in boxing since his U.S. debut.
“Floyd’s motto is hard work and dedication. That’s the great thing about America. If you come here and work hard, you can be a success. Nobody has worked harder than Golovkin and our team. Golovkin kept a busy schedule and we made sure fans knew about it. We held L.A. press conferences for every one of his fights in New York. We did five press conferences in five different countries – Monaco, Kazakhstan, London, Los Angeles and Mexico City – before Golovkin fought Murray. The result is that he’s gone from being unknown to an international star with the ability to sellout Madison Square Garden.”
Even Golovkin’s toughest critics respect his activity, but they are quick to claim that he didn’t fight the best of the 160-pound division during his rise up the ranks and he didn’t face a fellow titleholder until his most recent fight.
“Golovkin has always wanted to face the best of his division,” Loeffler counters, “but the best of the division hasn’t always wanted to face him.”
Loeffler rang off a list of middleweight titleholders that avoided fighting Golovkin going back to 2010:
“There were (WBA titleholder) Felix Sturm and (WBC interim beltholder) Sebastian Zbik, who were promoted by Universum in Germany along with Golovkin. Part of Golovkin’s contention with Universum was that he couldn’t get either promotional stablemate into the ring. There was (RING/WBC champ) Sergio Martinez, who was never obligated to fight Golovkin but his promoter, Lou DiBella, clearly was not into that matchup. Hassan N’Dam was Golovkin’s mandatory as the WBA’s interim champ but he vacated that belt.
“There was Peter Quillin when ‘Kid Chocolate’ held the WBO title. I called Richard Schaefer when he was still CEO of Golden Boy to see if there was any interest in Quillin-Golovkin. That didn’t go very far. I think he knew that Golovkin would do what Daniel Jacobs just did. (IBF/WBA) Geale was offered a fight a couple times when he held world titles but he didn’t accept.”
Loeffler says HBO considered holding a four-man middleweight tournament in 2013 that would have included Martinez and Geale, the RING/WBC and IBF titleholders at the time.
“As soon as the promoters of the other champions found out that Gennady would be included, they said no thanks,” Loeffler claims. “At least Geale was willing to fight after he lost his belt.”
GGG critics (and, to be fair, some of his fans) say he’s wasting his time in the 160-pound division. They want him to venture to super middleweight where tougher matchups can be made. K2 and Golovkin have considered the move in previous years, but serious negotiations with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. fell by the wayside in 2014 and Carl Froch opted for retirement late last year after briefly talking up the match in the media.
Golovkin’s most ardent detractors say he has avoided Ward. One of the endless (and pointless) Twitter debates is between Ward boosters, who claim Golovkin is afraid of the unbeaten American, and GGG fans, who ask “Who’s Andre Ward?”
Loeffler knows who Ward is and has a lot of respect for the 2004 Olympic gold medalist. However, he says Golovkin is dedicated to his goal of unifying all major middleweight titles and has a lucrative fight lined up with Alvarez. That goal and that fight, which are intertwined, come first.
“We get a lot of heat from Ward fans because we were willing to go to 168 pounds to fight Chavez and Froch, but that was before Golovkin had a bona-fide star (Alvarez) to fight in his own division,” Loeffler said. “Super middleweight was only about high-profile matches. Froch was a star in the UK. He sold out Wembley Stadium. Chavez Jr. was big at the time, he pulled in huge ratings and had a large fan base two years ago.”
For those who criticize Golovkin for mixing business into the sport, Loeffler says the fighter is only following the lead of the most accomplished and respected American boxers. Hopkins unified all of the major belts at middleweight (making his name and very good money doing so) before he moved up to light heavyweight. Once Mayweather settled into welterweight, Loeffler points out that “TBE” was very choosy about stepping up to the junior middleweight division.
“Floyd’s a very savvy businessman, and we respect him for that,” he said. “If you look at who he fought at junior middleweight it was only against opponents who brought the most fans and the most money to the table: Oscar De La Hoya, Miguel Cotto and Canelo Alvarez. Even in his comfort zone, welterweight, he waited five years until fighting Manny Pacquiao. Nobody was able to rush Floyd into a fight, even a mega fight.”
Loeffler believes Ward has the potential to be that kind of star rival for Golovkin, after the Californian gets back into a regular fighting schedule and beats a high-profile opponent (such as Kovalev). In the meantime, he says he will continue to focus on building Golovkin into an international brand, a pursuit he believes is good for the sport.
“Gennady is that unique boxer that brings new fans to boxing,” Loeffler said. “A lot of fans I talk to at his fights tell me it’s their first boxing event. I expect a to hear a lot more of that with his next fights.”
Email Fischer at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @dougiefischer