This is the making-the-sausage part of boxing -- that time during fight negotiations when things get a bit gross even though the fight is one that everyone knows is the right one at the right time in the right place, but the sides have to posture and battle for every dime before (probably) making a deal.
That's where we're at right now in the saga of the proposed fight between middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin and Curtis Stevens. Golovkin, in the real world, doesn't have many viable options. Stevens is the one logical, sensible, makeable, marketable one.
The Golovkin side wants to make the fight. Stevens himself has been calling out GGG since before his first-round demolition of Saul Roman on Aug. 3. The fight is also approved by HBO, which has made Golovkin a franchise fighter and has plans to air his next bout Nov. 2 from the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Stevens, a New Yorker who makes a lot of sense from a gate perspective, has been scoring some nice knockouts (albeit not against top opposition) and can sure talk up a fight. And it's not like there are 10 guys for Golovkin to pick from. As I said, in the real world -- not fantasy boxing, where people might say, 'Golovkin should fight Sergio Martinez' -- Stevens is obviously the guy who fits the bill best for November. And so the sides dance.
Neither side disputes that Golovkin's camp made an offer to Stevens' camp (in the neighborhood of about $300,000, from what I hear). As it should, Main Events, Stevens' promoter, turned down that initial offer. That's what you do when you negotiate. The first offer, especially in boxing, is not the real offer.
Main Events boss Kathy Duva explained her side to me Saturday: "In a nutshell, an offer was made and I asked for the weekend to consider it. I was told [Saturday] afternoon that the Golovkin fight has been offered to [former titlist Hassan] N'Dam for the same money that was offered for Curtis, and that N'Dam has graciously accepted. This turn of events leaves me even more convinced that my asking price for Stevens is correct.
"After all, in New York City, an articulate, American, one-punch KO artist from Brooklyn, who is exciting to watch, talks trash, has created tremendous buzz coming off a spectacular nationally televised KO win, has won three fights that were viewed by a cumulative audience of over 5 million people in the U.S. since January, and who has an actual chance to beat Golovkin, is objectively worth more than a non-English speaking Frenchman who was last seen in Brooklyn being knocked down seven times.
"It is called 'marketability.' Stevens has it. N'Dam does not. If HBO doesn't think Stevens is worth more than N'Dam, then so be it. Curtis can keep building his name and gaining experience on NBC for the time being. Of course Stevens is calling Golovkin out, and of course he would love to fight on Nov. 2. However, it is my job to build value and make Curtis into something more than an 'opponent.' If [Golovkin promoter] K2 and HBO want to make another appearance fight for Golovkin, that is their right. If that is the case, they should definitely go with N'Dam."
Actually, N'Dam, who hasn't yet been approved by HBO from what I understand, was dropped six times (but who's counting, right?) when he lost his belt by decision to "Kid Chocolate" Peter Quillin in October.
But as in any juicy negotiation, there seems to be misinformation being spread around -- well, depending on whom you believe.
"We are speaking with HBO and looking for the best available opponent that will get in the ring with GGG," said Tom Loeffler of K2 Promotions. "Stevens doesn't seem as excited to fight GGG as he was before his last fight, [but] we have not made an offer to N'Dam. I think he is a viable opponent, but have not made an offer to him yet."
"Yet," perhaps, being the operative word. Loeffler also said that he got an email from Sam Soliman's team saying they would be interested in taking a fight with Golovkin. That's not a fight HBO is likely to approve given Soliman's less-than-fan-friendly style, but the more names Loeffler dumps into the mix, the more he figures he can leverage Main Events to drop its price so that Stevens isn't aced out of the fight.
But Duva is a great poker player after thirty-something years in the boxing business.
"We have a plan for Curtis. We will deviate from that plan for a price. But we will not deviate from that plan for the same money that it takes to get N'Dam," said Duva, adding that she, K2 and HBO "are not miles apart" in their figures.
Duva said if the fight with Golovkin isn't made that Stevens will fight on NBC in November or December. My feeling is that, when the sausage ultimately gets made, we'll have a tasty GGG-Stevens fight Nov. 2.