South African promoter Rodney Berman has made bold inroads into Europe and will be promoting Gennady Golovkin against Martin Murray in a much-anticipated middleweight championship bout in Monte Carlo in February 2015. Here, the Golden Gloves CEO talks about the past, present and future.
Congratulations. Your recent tournament in Monte Carlo delivered high-quality match-ups. Presumably your partners in Monaco were very satisfied?
I would hope so. The objective is gaining publicity for the principality, encouraging tourism, that sort of thing. It was very well received internationally.
The reality is we have been moving towards Gennady Golovkin against Martin Murray, which will be a mega-event.
You are now promoting Martin Murray and have co-promoted a number of Gennady Golovkin’s fights in Monaco. How difficult was it to put together Murray versus Golovkin for next February?
It was relatively easy. It was a very unique situation: both Golovkin and Murray are thorough gentlemen and [K2 Promotions’] Tom Loeffler, on Golovkin’s side, is one of the most honourable guys I’ve had the pleasure of dealing with. Andrew Mikhail, Murray’s advisor, is of the same ilk. They understand the logistics. Outside of a Miguel Cotto or Canelo Alvarez fight, Murray against Golovkin was an obvious choice for international television and a great fans’ fight.
Are you torn? It is well-known that you have an excellent relationship with each.
Yes, it’s very difficult. Golovkin has done a helluva lot for Golden Gloves. It has been a privilege promoting him and it’s fair to say part of his stature has grown from his past fights in Monte Carlo.
And we promote Murray. As I said when it was announced, this is a very hard fight for me . . . both guys are very dear to me. As long as it’s a good, competitive fight, neither fighter truly “loses”. I can assure you Murray is not going to be another Marco Antonio Rubio.
What qualities do they each bring to the fight and what do you think will be critical in determining a winner?
The jury is still out to some extent on GGG’s super status. He hasn’t fought the superstars as yet. From what I’ve seen, all of his opponents, perhaps with the exception of Curtis Stevens, were defeated before they stepped foot in the ring.
Murray, though, comes from a tough background. I will venture to say that he will be the first challenger who won’t be overwhelmed. He has true boxing skills and will also be the biggest middleweight Golovkin will have fought.
Remember, Murray is probably a two-time uncrowned champion who gave a peak Sergio Martinez a very good fight.
One of the reasons I give Murray a chance is that Golden Gloves has been involved in some of the biggest upsets in recent years – Hasim Rahman beating Lennox Lewis, Corrie Sanders knocking out Wladimir Klitschko, Harry Simon beating Winky Wright and Vuyani Bungu handling Kennedy McKinney. The list is uncanny.
What has the appetite been from the international broadcast community for February’s big fight?
Outstanding. There has been much competition in various countries for the rights because it is seen as a proper fight. HBO in the US, Channel 5 in the UK, Chinese television and SuperSport across Africa will all be taking the fight, plus many more regions.
The venue in Monte Carlo is a small, intimate one. Given the scale of the fight, how do you plan on satisfying the fans, media, dignitaries and VIP’s?
It’s great because the demand will exceed the supply 100-fold. It’s virtually sold out already. The pressure for tickets doubles the value for television.
The truth is we can’t ensure everyone who wants a ticket will get one. We have to be very selective, it’s one of those things. When we ventured into Monte Carlo, this is what we knew.
Golden Gloves has been around a long time and promoted many big names, among them Shane Mosley, Lennox Lewis, Gennady Golovkin, Corrie Sanders and Brian Mitchell. You have made big headway in Europe and are planning to promote in the UK. Tell us more about your business model and ambitions.
I’m a front man. I have a lot of support from top drawer partners, from our driver to the matchmaker, who are all a part of Golden Gloves’ success.
The reason for our success is we run on corporate lines and don’t let emotions get in the way. We are fortunate that SuperSport Television in South Africa were very much part of our success, as was [hotel group] Sun International and more latterly Peermont.
We have also been blessed with very good fighters. We are probably getting stronger and stronger promotionally. We are getting requests from a lot of international boxers to join us. We will soon promote in England and have been approached by another country in Europe.
My one ambition, probably unattainable, is to promote a black world heavyweight champion born and bred in South Africa.
You have a tremendous little fighter in the shape of WBA and IBO minimumweight champion Hekkie Budler, fresh off a win against former WBC champion Xiong Zhao Zhong. What are your plans with him?
I’m hoping Hekkie won’t be deprived of his true greatness. Zhong refused to fight him when he was WBC champion, and Hekkie beat him convincingly last month.
[WBC champion] Oswaldo Novoa similarly rejected an offer to fight him in a unification. It’s extremely difficult to make those fights.
I’m almost certain that we will soon feature him on a K2 Promotions undercard in the United States where Hekkie can become just as marketable as guys like Chiquita Gonzalez and Michael Carbajal. That’s what we’re aiming for.
Unbeaten Tommy Oosthuizen also makes his return after a year’s layoff against Denis Grachev this weekend. He’s had a few issues with indiscipline in the past. What does the future hold for Tommy?
Tommy is the captain of his own soul. He has unlimited ability, but it’s up to him. There are opportunities if he satisfies us and knuckles down. Depending how he goes against Grachev, I will push for him at the WBC convention to get suitable recognition in the light-heavyweight division.
There was the recent death of a female boxer in a South African ring and there have been tremendous issues with Boxing South Africa. What is your view on the state of SA boxing?
I would rather not comment.