How the Gennady Golovkin fight fell apart for Gary 'Spike' O'Sullivan
"Tea or coffee?" Craig O'Brien, Gary 'Spike' O'Sullivan's main training partner asks me at the back of a Centra store in Corduff.
O'Brien and O'Sullivan have come to meet me below their Celtic Warrior Gym to discuss how a world title fight with middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin fell through for Spike when he was the favourite to fight the undefeated Kazakh after Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez withdrew from their highly anticipated rematch after testing positive for clenbuterol.
O'Sullivan had made his way to the Centra from breakfast, his coach Paschal Collins had made his way to the store from the K Club in Kildare while O'Brien took up a seat at the back to read All-American Murder: The Rise and Fall of Aaron Hernandez.
O'Brien talked to Collins about Hernandez and his tragic demise while Collins began chatting to him about Bennett Miller's Foxcatcher film but I was here to ask O'Sullivan the most basic of basic questions - 'How's things been?'
It's been a whirlwind month for O'Sullivan and Collins as they have been consistently linked with fighting Golovkin ever since Alvarez's withdrawal from their rematch earlier this month.
O'Sullivan was originally supposed to fight him in Las Vegas on May 5 on pay-per-view. Then there was another offer to fight in Vegas on regular HBO. Then the fight was moved to the StubHub Center in Los Angeles where it was taken off pay-per-view and put on regular HBO. There were constant changes to a fight that ultimately never materialised.
Money appeared to be a contributing factor with Spike telling US radio station SiriusXM that 'the fight was not worth the money that it should be'.
O'Sullivan and his camp maintain that the offer was not acceptable but that the plan is now for him to fight the winner of the Golovkin-Alvarez rematch if the two meet again in September.
Gary O'Sullivan: "The Golovkin fight was always the dream fight for me. I've always said that stylistically he'd suit me. I wanted to fight him but I suppose this all started with the Danny Jacobs fight.
"I wanted that fight and Golden Boy were very positive in looking after my best interests and they want to map out my career as best as possible. I'm co-promoted now by Murphy's Boxing and Golden Boy Promotions.
"I was offered a fight with Danny Jacobs by Eddie Hearn but Golden Boy said that they wanted to meet because they wanted to go bigger than that.
"The only two fights that would potentially be bigger than that is Canelo and Golovkin, who are both fighting each other.
"I was potentially going to fight Jacobs this month but Golden Boy said that they wanted to make bigger fights for me than Jacobs.
"I said to them that the only two bigger fights are Canelo and Golovkin and they're both fighting each other so how is that even possible?
"They came back and said what we'll do is make you main event on May 4th, the night before Canelo and Golovkin, and we'll give you Canelo after that.
"I said fine. There's substantially more money to fight Canelo than Danny Jacobs. I thought it was a bigger profile fight so I agreed to that and then you saw what happened with Canelo and Golovkin and all of that.
"I then received a verbal offer to fight Golovkin. I was sanctioned by all the governing bodies as well but Golden Boy said that they would give me the money but they wanted to promote it."
Paschal Collins: "Spike has been in the gym and I'm on the phone back and forth, back and forth, he's just ready to fight whoever.
"It wasn't even a case of let Golovkin have a knock, we were training to fight him but then everything started to change and they started to move the goalposts.
"The risk far outweighed the reward. The reward outweighed the risk initially but then the risk started to outweigh the reward.
"Golden Boy along with Ken Casey from Murphy's came along with a better offer. They said to Spike that he was marketable but that he could also beat Golovkin with the right camp.
"They said we're not going to prevent you from fighting him but here's what we can do for you. They came back with an offer within 30 minutes.... in writing [a three-fight deal].
"The first offer was will you fight Golovkin and it's the fight we've always wanted so we said yes. It was a great offer. HBO and pay-per-view. Then all of a sudden it was regular HBO in Vegas. The new offer had dropped substantially but it was still a good enough offer. A lot of cuts had been taken out but then it was moved to Los Angeles and there was another offer.
"By the way we only got a contract at the end and the contract at the end was different to what we discussed in a conversation only two days before.
"It was down to Spike and Jaime Munguia and Munguia was given the fight. We were still scheduled to fight on May 4 anyway, it was a little bit disappointing that he got the fight, but then all of a sudden Munguia was refused a license and then it was 'right Spike, you're in'.
"I saw your man's name was mentioned in an interview and I thought 'this fight is not going to f**king happen'.
"Golden Boy came back and said 'Spike this fight is not going to happen'. You're on for the fourth but you have to make a decision by today because ESPN want this confirmed. Otherwise they'll put someone else on this card.
"Then Golden Boy said here's what we're willing to do for you and they came with a three-fight deal. They made us an offer we couldn't refuse.
"We can still fight Canelo or Golovkin because the third fight is going to be to face the winner of that rematch.
"It'll probably be December if it's Golovkin or probably next April or May if it's Canelo."
O'Sullivan: "I remember when Pascal came and said to me look you can have this three-fight deal or fight Golovkin but ultimately I had to make the decision.
"It was a hard f**king choice. A very hard choice. It was my dream fight to fight Golovkin and I've dreamed of fighting for world titles ever since I was a young kid.
"I've got young kids now myself and I know for their future that this is the better option for me."
Collins: "We know what deal we have, we can't disclose it right now, but it's a three-fight deal. Financially, he can earn more money than some world champions have earned in the last two years for his next three fights. That's how much they [Golden Boy] want to market him because it's not always about being a world champion.
"It's a bit of charisma. It's a bit of something different. It's a bit of....."
O'Sullivan: "Being gorgeous"
Collins: "The first Cork Mexican!"
Jack O'Toole: The Cork thing is a part of it though.
Collins: "He's not from Cork, he's from Dublin actually."
O'Sullivan: "Did you bring your gumshield today you bollocks?"
Collins: "We were fighting in Boston a few years ago and all his mates are out in Cork and the ring announcer comes over to me before the fight and asks where is Spike from?
"I said 'he's from Dublin. Dublin, Ireland'. Then in the ring you just hear 'FROM DUBLIN IRELAND....' and Spike is just like 'you f**ker'."
O'Toole: Brilliant. But even if the offer was right, would you have been happy taking the Golovkin fight on short notice?
Collins: "If the money had have been what it was in the beginning - yeah - because it was a no lose fight for Spike."
O'Toole: How so? If he loses he still stands to gain from being in a massive fight?
Collins: "We would not give our gameplan away here to fight Golovkin but realistically it would have been a win-win for Spike because people would have got the opportunity to see what what he can do on the biggest stage.
"If he didn't win, we could have said 'hang on a minute, we took this fight on short notice, let's do this again'. People want to see them fights."
O'Sullivan: "If you look at David Lemieux he lost to him but went on to win a bunch of fights after that but I'd fight him. I'd love to fight him."
O'Toole: Was it ultimately the finances then?
Collins: "It wasn't even the finances. Up until the third week they still hadn't confirmed the fight."
O'Toole: The fight was never confirmed?
Collins: "What the final nail in the coffin was when we got a call on the Tuesday saying 'here's where we're at right now - there's other names being mentioned - it's not confirmed - but ESPN are now going to place you on their card on May 4th."
O'Toole: Which is the day before the Golovkin fight?
Collins: "Which is the day before. A substantial amount of money by the way. Spike gets paid for fights now. We're saying if Golovkin doesn't fight you lose both fights so we have to make a decision today.
"Basically, Golden Boy tried to reach out to Tom Loeffler [Golovkin's promoter] and see what's happening but there was still nothing back. Then all of a sudden Dan Rafael [ESPN boxing journalist] is writing about how this is not going to happen, or this other guy is being mentioned, and then there's a video of Tom Loeffler mentioning some Japanese guy [Ryota Murata].
"Spike's name was mentioned to him and he just brushed over it - never even mentioned Spike's name - this was on the Monday night.
"Spike just wants to fight Golovkin. That's it. He's training to fight Golovkin so I said to Spike that they hadn't confirmed it. In three weeks time, the fight might not happen but here's what they've done.
"They've upped his money for the ESPN show and they've offered him a three-fight deal. Spike said right, I told Eric Gomez [Golden Boy Promotions President] to put it in writing and thirty minutes later and we had a deal."
O'Toole: Was this your first three-fight deal with Golden Boy?
Collins: "No they had offered us a three-fight deal before the Nick Quigley fight last year. I said to Spike it's not a good deal but it's you that has to make the final decision. You're the one that has to get in there. Spike said 'no, let's roll the dice'.
"After the Douglas fight we got a five-fight deal and then all of a sudden in that deal the money went up by ten times more for each fight because we rolled the dice on that one. I said 'right Spike, here's what we have now, it's your decision, you have to get in there and Spike said 'do you know what, let's push for more'.
"With this latest deal it's shown that they want him badly. They want to market him. They want to make him a superstar."
O'Toole: So they have a longer view of making this Golovkin fight happen down the line when they can give him a proper training camp and give the fight more promotion?
Collins: "They hadn't confirmed the fight, it was getting too close and it was basically we had to decide to take the fight that we don't know about or we stick with the fight we're taking.
"We had to because there's the old saying 'a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush'.
"He's got a family to feed and kids to look after but they confirmed that we will fight the winner of Golovkin and Canelo.
"The fight is still there for him for four world titles. It's going to be Golovkin or Canelo and it's going to be for four belts. Presumably, probably better to fight Canelo because you get three times the money."
O'Toole: If the Golovkin fight had went ahead, it would have been the biggest fight of both of your careers, how were you approaching it?
O'Sullivan: "Personally, I believe that Billy Joe Saunders is worse to fight stylistically than Golovkin. I'd fancy my chances against Golovkin far more than I would against Billy Joe Saunders."
O'Toole: Would you try and trade with him?
O'Sullivan: "I'd trade with him. He's never been knocked down or knocked out, neither have I, but I have got the power to knock anyone out. I think a lot of people fear him. They beat themselves before they even get in the ring; the Mike Tyson factor.
"I'd be excited at the opportunity to fight him. I'd relish the occasion."
Collins: "Spike said in a tweet once that it would be a gun fight. A gun fight."
O'Toole: Do you believe that as well? Is there anything that you can pick from his style?
Collins: "I know what Spike can do. We're training for that fight now and we're working on certain things that Spike does really well but I think we could stop him. Absolutely. We wouldn't be training for it if we didn't.
"I think with Spike it's only clicking now. He's at his best. He's had his ups and downs, his doubts, but I think in the last 12 months he's really coming into his own and Spike is on his way up.
"But I think Golovkin is coming to a stage where he's stale now. I really believe he's stale. Even trying to force this fight [with Vanes Martirosyan], this fight has been forced. If I was Golovkin's manager I would have pulled him out of this fight when it was all starting to fall apart."
O'Toole: When did you think he started to become stale? From that first Canelo fight?
Collins: "I didn't think he was great in that Canelo fight. Even the Jacobs fight.."
O'Toole: Jacobs really pushed him in that fight.
Collins: "I thought Canelo was very cautious and nervous of him in the fight."
O'Toole: Did you think he gave him too much respect?
Collins: Yeah. I think this time around that Canelo can beat him.
O'Toole: Do you think so?
O'Sullivan: Yeah I think so too. I think Canelo was too respectful of him.
Collins: Fearful of him. Like you said with the Mike Tyson factor.
O'Toole: So do you have to get in there and close the distance with him and let him know that he's in a fight from the very first round?
Collins: He knocks you out or you knock him out. That's it. There's no style to fight Golovkin. You've got to knock him out.
O'Sullivan: "If you look at Buster Douglas-Mike Tyson, Buster Douglas was the first guy to show that Tyson was a human being like everybody else. Anyone can be knocked out. We're all made of flesh and bone. Golovkin doesn't have a steel neck."
O'Toole: He puts on his socks one foot at a time like everyone else?
O'Sullivan: "Absolutely. I don't believe him when he's said that he's never got hurt when Kell Brook hurt him. If Kell Brook can hurt him, I can certainly hurt him."
O'Toole: Both of you have the confidence from the Douglas fight. You've had five wins in a row since the Chris Eubank Jr. defeat.
Collins: "One of those fights was against a former youth world champion [Jaime Barboza]. People brush over that because it wasn't televised but he fought in New Hampshire and it was a cracking fight. He hit this guy and I don't know how the hell he stayed on his feet."
O'Toole: Hit him with everything?
Collins: "Hit him with everything and he kept coming back. Other referees probably would have stopped it but he was a former youth world champion.
"There's good things coming on the way. They're exciting times and the next fight will be announced very soon. This fight is tough as well, they're all tough fights at this level, but he's ready."
Ready. Ready and waiting for May 4th, planning for December and hoping for April. The seasons change but boxing stays the same.
O'Sullivan was speaking as an ambassador for sponsors Conal's Tree Services, McCormack Construction, The Mardyke Arena and The Gym Triton.