-- LOS ANGELES -- K2 Promotions managing director Tom Loeffler was very relieved as he strode into a downtown hotel with Gennady Golovkin and trainer Abel Sanchez last Saturday. They had come to meet with a few media members for lunch shortly before the start of the Bernard Hopkins-Joe Smith Jr. card at The Forum.
Loeffler was thrilled that he had, at long last, finalized a deal for unified middleweight titleholder Golovkin to face secondary titleholder and mandatory challenger Daniel Jacobs on March 18 (HBO PPV) at Madison Square Garden in New York, an arena that Golovkin has sold out and one that is also in Jacobs' hometown.
Loeffler was also relieved because he could cancel his flight to Panama the following evening since the purse bid scheduled at the WBA headquarters there on Monday morning would be canceled.
But it was not easy making a deal. Loeffler had spent three months negotiating with Al Haymon, Jacobs' adviser. To their credit, Loeffler and Haymon hung in there and got it done, and now the two best middleweights in the world will fight.
Loeffler downplayed the eternity it took to make a fight that should not have been nearly as difficult to make.
"There was a lot of back and forth and working out the details, and then pay-per-view was discussed to reach the guarantees we were talking about for both sides," Loeffler said. "I'm happy we were able to announce a fight and work on a promotion rather than speculate what's going to happen with the purse bid.
"The fans and even the media have Triple G withdrawals. He just fought in September, and people make it sound like he's been out of the ring for like two years. They are so used to seeing him fight. But we're happy to be back in promoter mode where we can actually go on sale with tickets."
Loeffler termed the negotiations as "cordial" all the way through.
"I can always tell by the tone of negotiations if it looks like we're just negotiating to see who's going to get a better deal and if the fighters really want it, or if it's just we're going to show we want it, but the fighter doesn't really want it, like what happened with the [Billy Joe] Saunders fight," Loeffler said of his attempt to make a unification fight for Golovkin last year. "I could tell right away there wasn't a lot of interest when we were talking about that fight last year for the UK"
So how did he and Haymon get this one done?
"Just increased numbers and guarantees, and we were finally able to get it done," Loeffler said.
Although Golovkin hopes for the really big fight next September, a showdown with Canelo Alvarez, he is sky high that the fight with Jacobs was finalized.
"First of all, it's big news for me. It's very interesting," Golovkin said. "I'm very excited because I have a fight. I think it's a very good fight, I hope. I think it's a great fight for us. I think Daniel is the best challenger now. He's an amazing fighter."
Sanchez is also happy to have a date to get Golovkin (36-0, 33 KOs) ready for. And he is happy that Jacobs (32-1, 29 KOs) finally pressed for the fight.
"When Danny first became [secondary] champion [in 2014], he talked about how he wasn't ready for the elite," Sanchez said. "And for the last couple of years he really hasn't voiced wanting to fight Golovkin, because he understood that he needed some fights. The WBA ordered it, and then he started talking like a champion should talk, like he really wants to fight Gennady.
"I think -- I hope -- in the aftermath of the fight, the guys that are bad-mouthing Golovkin for not fighting nobody go back and read the articles [that will come out in] the next couple of months about what a tough opponent this is going to be for Gennady, how this guy has all the tools to beat Gennady, because after he beats him and beats him decisively and easily, I hope he gets the recognition he so richly deserves."
GGG, Loeffler and Sanchez -- and many fans and media -- believe Jacobs indeed represents Golovkin's toughest opponent to date.
"I think he's the most gifted, the best athlete, the best puncher, a sharp puncher, that can crack," Sanchez said. "He can box. He had a mishap with [Dmitry] Pirog but he is absolutely the best fighter, period, that we have fought."
In 2010, in a fight for a vacant title, Pirog knocked out Jacobs in the fifth round of a match Jacobs probably was not ready for at that stage of his career. Since then, Jacobs, who overcame cancer, has knocked out 12 consecutive opponents. Golovkin is riding a streak of 23 consecutive knockouts and has made 17 title defenses, as he closes in on Hopkins' division record of 20.
"Daniel is my biggest fight, 100 percent he is toughest opponent," Golovkin said. "Right now, I think he's No. 2 in middleweight division. He's an amazing fighter. It's very interesting for us. Right now, it's very serious, not to business -- but to boxing -- to sport."
Said Loeffler: "Gennady has clearly established himself as the top middleweight, and Danny, with his win over [Peter] Quillin and his dominant history in his recent fights, he is clearly the No. 2 middleweight."
It's a quality fight in a sport in dire need of bouts matching the best against the best. And don't expect a lot of trash talking between Golovkin and Jacobs, two guys who have always been respectful of their opponents and easy going outside of the ring.
They've met once before, last year at the WBA convention, and Golovkin said it was a pleasant experience. "Very friendly, he is smart guy," Golovkin said. "Good reaction. Big respect for him."
Said Loeffler: "I think both Danny and Gennady are great ambassadors for the sport. They're very respectful of each other. Danny recognizes that Gennady has multiple titles. Gennady recognizes that Danny is clearly a world class fighter, and you could see when they met each other there was mutual respect."
And now, after a difficult deal-making process, the fight, for which random drug testing will be handled by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association, is finally on. There are news conferences scheduled in New York on Jan. 10 and in Los Angeles on Jan. 11 to kick off the promotion.