The Boxing Esq. Podcast, Ep. 35: Tom Loeffler
THE BOXING ESQ. PODCAST, EP. 35
The Ring is proud to present “The Boxing Esq. Podcast with Kurt Emhoff”. Emhoff, an attorney based in New York City, is a top boxing manager who has represented over 10 world champions in his 20-plus years in the sport.
His guest on this podcast is Tom Loeffler of GGG Promotions and 360 Promotions. They spoke about the recent Middleweight title fight and “Big Drama Show” at Madison Square Garden between Gennadiy Golovkin and Sergiy Derevyanchenko and Tom’s upcoming 360 Promotions show in Hollywood with Serhei Bohachuk. They also talked about Tom’s background in sports memorabilia (with his partner Harlan Werner) and their list of clients including Muhammad Ali, Sandy Koufax, Joe Namath, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev.
Additionally, they discussed his time as a boxing manager of Kevin Kelley, Oba Carr and Shane Mosley and his transition into promoting with K2 Promotions and the Klitschko brothers.
Below are a few excerpts from the interview:
On how he saw the GGG-Sergey Derevyanchenko fight:
“I saw it like two of the judges. I had it 7-5 GGG, plus a knockdown. So I didn’t think there was really a lot of controversy. You know, Lou (DiBella) and Keith Connolly (Derevyanchenko’s promoter and manager) were trying to stir up the controversy saying that Derevyanchenko landed more power shots. But they forgot to mention that GGG landed more punches overall in the fight. And GGG’s jab, you know, as you saw the effect of it, GGG’s jab is just as hard as most of the guys’ power punches. So, I think he controlled the fight a lot with the jab. There’s no question that it was a tremendous fight, an all-action fight, fought at a very high level, a very high ring IQ as GGG likes to say and with 12 rounds providing some great entertainment for the fans.
But I didn’t think the decision was controversial at all, especially with the knockdown, especially with the big gash that GGG opened up with a punch. You know, there was some debate whether it was a head butt or a punch. But it clearly showed from the replays. It was from a left hook, a clean left hook that landed right on the eye that opened up that cut. And then, GGG also finished strong in the championship rounds. So, I had it easy, 7 rounds to 5 and the knockdown. It didn’t seem that hard to score from my side. I thought the Canelo decisions were much more controversial than this fight. And even the Danny Jacobs fight where it was a split decision. I thought that would have been more controversial than this fight. But either way, you can’t take anything away from Derevyanchenko. I think he’s definitely raised his profile in this fight. He’s always going to be a tough competitor regardless of who he fights. He just didn’t have enough to beat GGG on that night.”
On whether the Derevyanchenko fight showed that GGG is getting older and slowing down:
“I (saw) GGG beating a young hungry guy that wanted to do everything he could to win the title. (Derevyanchenko) came up short in a split decision loss against Danny Jacobs and I think GGG put to rest a lot of the doubters that said that he was avoiding him last year. GGG hasn’t avoided anyone. In fact, he gave Derevyanchenko an opportunity, it was clearly Derevyanchenko’s biggest payday of his career by far, and he gave him a shot at the, uh, well it was a vacant title, but it gave him a shot to fight him. Derevyanchenko was in the big arena at Madison Square Garden. Again, there were no losers in this fight. He raised his profile from where he was before.
Now people know, because he fought GGG. Now people know, who he is. He was one of those guys that I could see would have easily been avoided ’cause he’s a tough guy to fight and he wasn’t really that well known prior to this fight. But with that performance, I think he’s definitely earned a shot at some of these other guys in the Middleweight division. As far as anything you take away from GGG, you’re taking away from Derevyanchenko and his performance. When you can beat a guy like that and knock the guy down the first round, and do that type of damage, not only to the eye that was cut, but the other eye. I mean, I saw Derevyanchenko the next day and we have a lot of respect for what he did in the fight. But, I mean he clearly took a lot of punishment. Both of his eyes were closing and swollen.
But, it was a great fight between both guys and I don’t see anything to the rumors. I mean, there’s no question, GGG is 37 years old. But there’s also no question that he’s one of the biggest punchers in the sport of boxing and one of the best-conditioned athletes in the sport going 12 hard rounds like that. I mean, you saw with the Canelo fights where most people thought he won both fights against a much younger Canelo in the prime of his career. And, so I don’t see in any one of those three fights, even the Danny Jacob’s fight, he had the knockdown in the Danny Jacobs fight.
So, when you’re dominating or when you’re beating guys like that. I don’t see him slowing down and I think there’s still a lot of action and a lot of gas left in his tank, especially with his style. We didn’t want to blow out of proportion – the fact that he was sick. In fact, I didn’t even really bring that up until somebody asked me about it or I didn’t acknowledge it. Not really. Nobody, I don’t think on the GGG side had acknowledged it until it was brought up as a question. But, I would say no fighter goes into the ring at 100%. I would say he was much worse in the Gabe Rosado fight, going into that fight. So we’re certainly not gonna use that as an excuse to take away from his performance against Derevyanchenko. You gotta give Derevyanchenko all the credit in the world fighting the way he did for 12 hard rounds.”
On the likelihood of Canelo-GGG III:
“We knew it was not a legitimate excuse (to not fight GGG in 2019) about (GGG) having to win a title. But, you know that’s really a question for Canelo. Gennadiy’s not dwelling on Canelo. If that fight happens, Gennadiy is certainly up for it. He was up for it in September when it was supposed to happen. I think the DAZN folks thought it was going to happen. I just saw a recent interview with Joe Markowski. He says he’ll be able to deliver that fight in 2020. So, you know, but that’s really not a question for me or for Gennadiy. The answer is GGG is ready to fight Canelo whenever Canelo’s ready to get back into the ring with him. So, when those fights were on pay-per-view, there was an incentive for Canelo to fight GGG because both of those fights broke a million pay-per-view buys. They sold out the T-Mobile Arena in Vegas and did tremendous international business.
So, you know, there was a big incentive for Canelo to fight GGG at that time because when you have a GGG-Canelo fight, it’s really the sum of both fan bases and both of them have huge fan bases. That made it a mega event. When Canelo fought other like lower-profile names, it didn’t always translate in the same pay-per-view buy level. Now with his pay structure on DAZN, I think it’s not as much of an incentive if you get paid the same to fight GGG as somebody else. Naturally, the tendency is going to be, let’s not fight GGG, let’s take the money and fight somebody else. So, if that fight happens again, I know the fans would like to see a trilogy.
They’d like to see a clear win by either guy. We saw, what was it, Pacquiao-Marquez four times before there was a real clear winner. And, I think that’s what the fans are looking for. It was clearly controversial both times under the decisions. And, if that fight comes up, GGG will be the first one to jump into the ring with Canelo. If it doesn’t come up, he’s not gonna lose sleep and he’s gonna continue to plow his Hall of Fame career forward. And there’s many other guys in his division or near his division that now seem to be willing to fight him. So, I think next year it’s going to be another big year for GGG, as you said, he just won a title again. He’s a two-time champion and I think this is now 10 years straight where he’s been a world champion. So, he’s had a tremendous run, probably the most dominant middleweight that we’ve seen in recent times. Especially when he went on that 23 knockout streak and 20 middleweight title defenses.
That hasn’t been accomplished in a long while. And Bernard Hopkins is the only other one to have 20 title defenses. So it shows you where he’s at in the sport of boxing.”
On the distinction between GGG Promotions and 360 Promotions and his star prospects Serhei Bohachuk and Brian Ceballo:
“Well, we’re really bullish on Serhei Bohachuk and just so you understand the difference between 360 Promotions and GGG Promotions. So GGG Promotions, they promote all of GGG’s fights and his events. And, as part of this deal with DAZN, GGG Promotions has some additional dates in addition to him fighting. Which is a great thing and it’s always the objective for any promotional company to get as many dates as possible. 360 Promotions really was when we were doing the Superfly shows on HBO and also we’re doing a local show in Hollywood, as you mentioned. I think this is the ninth edition of the Hollywood Fight Nights. It’s at a nightclub in Hollywood at the Avalon Hollywood, one of the most popular nightclubs in Hollywood.
And we actually turn the nightclub into a boxing venue where we put the ring right on the dance floor. We have the VIP section with the booths. There’s a balcony there, which is overlooking the ring. It really has a fun atmosphere. There’s celebrities that come out because it’s in the heart of Hollywood. We do a very high-quality stream on it. It’s shown internationally and Box Nation has picked it up in the UK. And, Brian Ceballo fought on a few of the Hollywood shows and that it’s really, I created that series to develop fighters to get to the next level then whether they want to sign with a GGG or you know, sign with a different, a TV network.
But that’s really the launching pad where Brian Ceballo started there in Hollywood. He fought two great fights at the Garden. He fought a guy, (Bakhtiyar) Eyubov who was with Salita Promotions. They were convinced that they would beat Brian Ceballo. He was undefeated, actually from Kazakhstan. And Ceballo looked tremendous in that fight. It was an eight-round, clear, unanimous decision against Eyubov, a big puncher. And, Brian’s one of those guys that really raises his level of performance when the bright lights are on, when he’s in the big arena, at Madison Square
Garden. Sometimes, fighters will freeze and they get nervous when they have a lot of fans with them. Brian sells a lot of tickets, so he really has the whole package, very smart and intuitive fighter.
He’s fluent in Spanish. His background is his parents are Dominican. He was born in Puerto Rico and then raised in Brooklyn, New York. So he really has the complete package. He’s very popular there in the New York area. Like I said, he sold a lot of tickets on both the GGG shows, and he would be somebody that would fit in perfectly with GGG Promotions for the future. But, he fought on the Hollywood shows to build up his experience in the professional ranks and his record to make that transition to those bigger shows.
And, the next Hollywood Fight Nights is October 27th. It’s coming up here two weeks away from this Sunday. Serhei Bohachuck is headlining. Serhei is 15-0 with 15 knockouts. He’s trained by Abel Sanchez who kind of instilled that Mexican-style into a GGG. Serhei’s up there in Big Bear with Abel. He trained alongside GGG so many years up there. So he sees the dedication and how hard GGG works. And there’s no coincidence as hard as a Gennadiy trains, there’s no coincidence why he’s been at the top of the sport for so long. And, I think Bohachuck is right there following in his footsteps with the big knockout power, a hundred percent knockout ratio. He’s fighting Tyrone Brunson, which is a very interesting fight. At one time Brunson held the record for the most first-round knockouts to start a career. I think he had 19 first-round knockouts in the start of his career.
So he’s a big puncher. I saw a stat, out of 43 wins between these guys, a Bohachuck and Brunson, 40 of them are by knockout. So I think the fans are going to see a lot of excitement coming into that, that show. That’s really for that level of a show, a very high-quality fight. It’ll be for the WBC Continental America’s title at 154 pounds. Brunson, I know, is going to come to win. And, he’s going to try to, not only win the fight, but, we’ll see how Bohachuck reacts against a big step up in level of competition. And this is right there. 15 fights, he’s really got to prove to the fans, to the media, everything that I’ve been saying about him, everything that Abel Sanchez had been saying about him, that he is going to be a future world champion.”
On his time in the sports memorabilia business with one of the giants of that industry Harlan Werner:
“Harlan was a wizard with sports memorabilia. He did a card shows back then. There were baseball card shows. He was doing the card shows. And then he decided instead of paying these big-name athletes like Sandy Koufax, like Jim Brown, like Joe Namath, who all became clients of his incentive, paying them to do appearance, these baseball card shows. He decided he would represent them when they made appearances and he would try to get more value for them for their career. Back then, the sports memorabilia really wasn’t a developed market. It was the baseball cards. Every kid kinda collected cards. But, they didn’t realize the value that these cards might one day have or the value that their idols in sports would have when they would make an appearance or the autograph market.
Harlan really developed also the autograph market for Muhammad (Ali). And, I forget the exact numbers, but I think he raised the value of his autograph 10-20 fold over the course of the time that he was working with him. And, it was very interesting working with these sports legends. That was kind of my exposure then really to the business of sports. It was retired athletes, but, the business of sports. I remember Joe Namath coming over to the house. I had bought a house with Harlan, at one point and, he was at the house and Harlan was giving him the balls to sign and then Joe would throw me the football and I would kinda stack them over so I can say, I caught a passes from the great Joe Namath.
You know, dealing with Sandy Koufax, meeting him. He was just a such an inspirational person, really kind of soft-spoken, but you know, what he accomplished on the baseball field, especially here with the Dodgers, the local baseball team. Every kid here in LA, grew up watching and being Dodger fans. Having a chance to meet Sandy or when Muhammad would come over and we had a speed bag in the garage and then he would, you know, he had the Parkinson’s but whenever he kind of got into his rhythm with the boxing and he’d start hitting the speed bag, you just saw a lot of the old movement come back. And it was just a really exciting time.
And, the first trip that I remember going on with Harlan was, he did a deal between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev. You know, that was the big Perestroika where Reagan gave that famous speech at the Berlin wall. Uh, you know, Mr. Gorbachev tear this wall down. And, so he did a deal for charity for both of their foundations, where they would sign baseballs or, you know, Time magazine covers. I remember we ordered hundreds of Time magazine covers and I was literally cutting off the covers so we could bring them to Moscow. First, Reagan would sign it. And then we flew. That was my first trip with Harlan and we flew to Moscow to meet Mikhail Gorbachev. And back then in the early 90s, when he still had that whole cold war, the memories of the U.S. and Russia and we were there and the hotels weren’t very developed and the restaurants were still, you know, it wasn’t like Moscow now, which is one of the most vibrant cities in the world.
Whenever I go there to visit Red Square and some of the restaurants that they have, there are just tremendous places to go to. But back then, it was really completely different. And so, I distinctly remember walking in and meeting and sitting down with Gorbachev probably we were there for about 45 minutes and he had his interpreter with them. And, it was just really kind of a surreal experience. You know, meeting a world leader, that really changed the course of history, back then. And, that kind of led to other, you know, just interacting with some of (Harlan’s) other clients.”
On whether Wladimir Klitschko is coming back:
“Well, I’ll say this, if anyone’s going to make that decision, it’ll be Wladimir. Regardless of what people say. Whether they think he should fight or not fight. But I’ll also say that he stays in tremendous shape, trains every day. You know, he was one of the best conditioned athletes that I’ve seen. If you look at a heavyweight, a prototypical heavyweight frame, Wladimir was so well-proportioned, with the big upper body, the proportioned legs. He was like 6’5”, tremendous jab, hand speed, good footwork, you know, the whole thing. He really had the whole physical package and if anyone could do it at his age. Look what, Andy Ruiz just did. I’m pretty sure Wladimir thinks that he would be able to beat Andy.
When he was the champion, Emanuel (Steward) always wanted to bring in the top guys. So, you had Deontay Wilder come in to train with Wladimir and spar with him. Anthony Joshua was there to spar with him and even Tyson Fury was in camp. But Tyson never sparred with Wladimir, but you know, Emanuel brought him in and tabbed Tyson as a future world champion. So credit to the top level of talent that Emanuel wanted to bring into camp. Even Joseph Parker had come in. I remember Dillian Whyte was in camp a number of times. Even Jarrell Miller was in camp. So it was kind of like a who’s who and Wladimir is very familiar with these guys. And, I know it’s a few years ago, but if I tell you Wladimir always wanted to prove that he was the champion in camp. He definitely proved that he was the champion in camp.
Vitali was a little bit of a different story. Vitali would work with Fritz Sdunek and kind of work on different things. If he had an off day, one day it just wasn’t a big deal for him. He was just working on a strategy as long as naturally, you look good in the fight. With Wladimir. If he had an off day, one day, he made sure the next day he came back and everyone knew that he was the champion. I remember we always would get 10, 11, 12 guys sparring partners for Wladimir just because he was so physical and dominant in sparring and heavyweight sparring takes a big toll on you.
So, you know, some of the guys got days off, where they wouldn’t be able to spar every day. It was definitely – people that were up there in the champ’s camp up there at the Stanglwirt in Austria and the Austrian Alps, they learned a lot from the Klitschko training camps. You know, both from Wladimir and Vitali, like how they trained up there, the discipline that both of them had, and the dedication to the sport. So that was great. That was a great thing to see.
Wladimir, I’ve heard, even spars with (Aleksandr) Usyk when they’re in Ukraine and tries to give Usyk some advice and give him some rounds with sparring.
As a fan, I would love to see him come back in the ring just because I know how great he is and can still be, but you know, I’m not the one in the ring taking punches. So if anyone makes that decision, it will be Wladimir. And, as of now, there hasn’t been any indication that he would come back. But, I can say that he stays in tremendous shape as always training and you know, we’ll see. We’ll see if he ever decides to change his mind on it.”