Marinated and ready: Loeffler sees throwback classic in Canelo-GGG
I’m not keen to tell you how to live your life, but if I may offer this: Please do consider taking a step back, putting your hands together and offering a clap salute to Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez for signing on to a throwback fight, one involving two role-model athletes who are auditioning some of the very best attributes the sport and its practitioners have to offer.
Saturday night is, indeed, a throwback fight, and it isn’t rude or inappropriate to be reminded by this middleweight championship fight — for Golovkin, the 35-year-old fighting pride of Kazakhstan, and the Mexican heartthrob, the Gary Cooper of the square ring — of the Four Kings era.
OK, no, it’s not a perfect analogy. Because this is a different age, and not, arguably, in a good way. Sugar Ray Leonard, Tommy Hearns, Roberto Duran and Marvin Hagler flourished in an age where caution was not the overriding mentality in the realm of both booking fights or in the ring. That is not to say men were men then, and are not now. But in this era, more pugilists operate as boxer-businessmen, and thus the career trajectory of a guy like Golovkin, who owns some of that “Four Kings” type of swagger, is negatively impacted. He tried to get Canelo to fight two years ago and wanted bouts with Felix Sturm, Sergio Martinez, Carl Froch and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and was rebuffed. Saturday, that pattern of rejection ends, and GGG will fight, finally, his career-defining tussle.
His promoter, Tom Loeffler, deserves a clap on the back as well. His low-key grinder attitude doesn’t get the bounty of praise it deserves, because he isn’t one to draw attention to himself. He’s always been about building up GGG since the Bieber-faced banger came to the U.S., and his resolute determination is a blueprint for continuing to build an attraction even when cooperation from dance partners is oft lacking.
Loeffler checked in with THE RING and shared his takeaways to this point on this promotions and how we got here. “I think what everyone hoped for is coming to fruition. You can feel the excitement here. We arrived Monday evening and the international media and fans were packed in by Tuesday at noon,” he said.
“This is the fight and the platform the entire team has been working for the last five years.”
He allowed himself the luxury of acknowledging that the road has been pockmarked with some speed bumps. The hoped-for fights and rivalries didn’t emerge, time and again. Miguel Cotto, add him to the list. He pursued a fight with Canelo rather than traveling to 160, full on, and defend the belt he took off Sergio Martinez. Would the Four Kings have chosen the same route had they been plopped down into this era? Impossible to say. But yes, there have been pockets laden with frustration for Team Golovkin, despite all of them putting on that brave and cheery face over the years when, again and again, pens were running out of ink when it came time to sign.
“September 2017 is as big as we could have hoped for … clearly this is the biggest fight that Gennady could be involved in, much bigger than any of those we mentioned before,” said Loeffler, going with the “better later than never” angle of reasoning. They can now blow off the steam built up as Felix Sturm got reprieve after reprieve in not having to accept his mandatory challenger GGG. Loeffler noted that maybe that road-not-taken brought GGG to a better place, being that a win over Sturm in Germany likely would have brought on a lucrative golden-handcuff German TV deal, rather than a cemented pairing with HBO. Instead of being a big-shot in a smaller pool, in Germany, like Wladimir Klitschko, GGG has sold out arenas coast to coast and now finds himself on the cusp of making a career-best payday, with the prospect of a sequel not at all unlikely.
“HBO gets credit,” Loeffler pointed out. They were flexible and patient and televised GGG fights, even when the hoped-for rivals shied away.
Time and again, they were close. Chavez Junior was offered $7 million and a $5 million comeback fight purse if he lost, by Top Rank, and chose another route. Carl Froch boasted of his manliness on social media and Loeffler thought the Brit would take on GGG at 168 … but his ink dried up, too.
“It’s been a very frustrating pattern. Fighters like to talk about fighting GGG and then don’t sign. Same thing with Billy Joe Saunders and Chris Eubank.”
Like we said, this era is different. Fighters are smarter. The warrior instinct, the pure variety, is more rare. The jury is in, and everyone knows about head trauma and the calculus of risk-reward is not the same. Athletes know that 30 years down the line, punches from now could come back to bite them.
Canelo, some hammered him for talking big and then shying away, but that’s history. He found his pen, and has spoken like a (soft spoken but supremely confident) “Four King” in the lead-up to the Saturday scrap. He wants to fight the best, as he proved by taking on Floyd Mayweather, and is now a more dangerous power-puncher, and he wants to give fans their money’s worth. Props, too, are deserved for the Mexican who walks tall, carries a big stick and doesn’t feel the need to boast about it.
Loeffler thinks fans helped push Canelo to getting ‘er done, this superfight. After he beat down Amir Khan in May 2016, remember what he said in the ring? “In Mexico, we don’t fuck around. I don’t fear anyone. We don’t come to play in this sport. I fear no one in this sport.” (Would he fight GGG?) “Right now. I will put the gloves on again.”
OK, it wasn’t “right now.” More marination occurred.
“We would have loved to fight Canelo last year and we only had to wait one year,” Loeffler said. “So many superfights never happened or took much longer.” So, he said, he’s satisfied.
Oscar De La Hoya will, I think, get a heap of credit for being the catalyst to make Team Golovkin wait while Canelo grew into his body and GGG got older and engaged in a couple more rough battles. “We were clearly disappointed on our side (at the wait) but then Canelo felt so much pressure on social media from fans, after being the first Mexican to vacate a WBC title, it was almost blasphemy,” said Loeffler. “That created the foundation for this fight to happen, and for him to restore honor for what happened last year (i.e. not fighting GGG in fall of 2016).
“If it happened last year … clearly it’s much bigger this year…though if we fought last year, and GGG was victorious, we could have been talking rematch,” Loeffler continued. “I can say on the Golden Boy side, they always said, after Canelo vacated, Eric Gomez always wanted to do September 2017. From that perspective, they kept their word. Of course, after the Danny Jacobs fight, GGG looked human and won a close but unanimous decision, negotiations really sped up tremendously. There are always a few different ways to look at things in boxing.”
Indeed; the calm demeanor and ability to not get overly frustrated and make an errant choice in order to secure a career-definer, like going to 168 and being an underdog against Andre Ward, also earns Loeffler plaudits if we’re reviewing his stewardship of GGG’s career.
“The end result, we had to make concessions, but this will still be GGG’s biggest financial and highest profile fight. And it’s Canelo’s biggest fight of his career … it makes sense for both to take this risk, and be financially rewarded for the risk getting into the ring.”
And they have done it in a fashion that is immune to most all critics, I think. All class, ample dignity, and it makes it easy to point to the event and the fighters and brag a bit about our sport, and what can make boxing the leader of the pack among all sporting sectors. I communicated that admiration to Loeffler.
“I appreciate that and agree one hundred percent. GGG has said this is old-school; it’s two of the best middleweights and pound-for-pound best and we don’t need to throw money onstage or whatever happened in that other fight. That fight brought a big spotlight and the goal on our side has been hold on to that momentum, show fans that was an over-the-top event, and that this the real throwback fight, one that evokes memories of the old middleweight contests.”
I do admit, I wonder how close to peak GGG is. He’s 36 in April … critics who think every boxer should never get hit and are exposed if they do point out Kell Brook tagged him … and some thought Danny Jacobs beat him. Did Team Canelo hit a pre-fight homerun in making GGG wait … and wait … and is Father Time conspiring with the Mexican to help usher him a W?
“I think this is the best version of Canelo, and even though GGG is 35, the motivation and the long wait has made him sharper. Trainer Abel Sanchez has said this was his best camp, his best sparring … at 35 he’s still in his prime,” Loeffler stated. “You saw guys like Wladimir being dominant to 40. His style, efficiency and not getting hit cleanly, I think GGG’s defense is very underrated. We will see Sept 16 … but yes, these are the closest odds in a GGG fight. It’s looked on as a 50-50 fight.”
And has been selling itself accordingly …
So, any surprises planned for the final presser, today? Will Loeffler come onstage juggling flaming chainsaws?
The promoter laughed. “They both have respect for each other, they sparred, there will be no surprises. It’s just going to be the best fighting the best type of fight … they sell themselves. This is the type of fight you could see two or three times; the styles make sense, the financials make sense. I believe it’s one of those classic matchups.”