As July began, two major fights were well on their way to being finalized to take place this fall in England, a welterweight title unification bout between Kell Brook and Jessie Vargas and unified middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin squaring off with contender Chris Eubank Jr.
Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn, who promotes Brook and Eubank, had worked out deals with Vargas promoter Top Rank and Golovkin promoter Tom Loeffler of K2 Promotions.
Both matches seemed like fan-friendly bouts that the public could get behind. But then, suddenly, neither was finalized, leading to a perfect storm that resulted in both A-sides, Golovkin and Brook, winding up paired with each other for a fight even bigger than the other two on the table.
So as Golovkin (35-0, 32 KOs) gets set to make his 17th title defense against Brook (36-0, 25 KOs) on Saturday (HBO, 5:30 p.m. ET/PT with a replay at 10 p.m. ET/PT) at the sold-out O2 Arena in London just how did we go from nearly seeing Golovkin-Eubank and Brook-Vargas to getting the fight ultimately signed?
Hearn said he was working on both fights simultaneously and thought he had both done. He had made a deal with Top Rank for Vargas and Top Rank in turn cut a deal with Vargas under which he was to receive $1.7 million of the $2.2 million Hearn would pay Top Rank.
It was not easy to get done as Vargas sought extra perks in addition to repeatedly upping his asking price until agreeing to $1.7 million and signing a contract to fight Brook.
"I really wanted to make Brook-Vargas," Hearn said. "Vargas wanted so much money, and rightfully so, so we agreed to pay Top Rank the $2.2 million, plus 50 percent of the U.S. TV rights [for a fight HBO planned to televise]. When we looked at the financials of the show we probably needed to do 350,000 pay-per-view buys [on Sky Box Office in the U.K.] for Brook to make the right money, similar to what Vargas was getting. I don't believe it would have done that because nobody [had] heard of Vargas in the U.K."
Then Brexit happened, as the United Kingdom voted in June to exit the European Union, a move that sent financial markets haywire and crushed the value of the British currency.
"I negotiated with Chris Eubank Sr. for three weeks and it felt like three years." Eddie Hearn
Hearn estimated that the impact of Brexit would probably cost him about $300,000 on the Brook-Vargas deal, so he went back to Top Rank chairman Bob Arum, explained the situation and said he needed to reduce the money.
"Now we had a little less than $2 million and asked Jessie to take 10 percent less," Arum said. "He was considering it and then Eddie never got back to us."
There was a reason. Besides the issues being caused by the Brexit monkey wrench, Hearn was also having problems closing the Golovkin-Eubank deal he had been working on for weeks.
"On July 5, at this point I've been negotiating Golovkin-Eubank for three weeks and we got to a position where everyone was satisfied with the GGG package," Hearn said. "When you become a pay-per-view fighter with me, I give you financial ownership of the show. You get the profits and I take my 20 percent commission. It's the most transparent method. If you're a big draw and do big numbers you get huge money. So that model was offered to Eubank, the same model Anthony Joshua is on, the same model that Carl Froch was on and Brook accepted."
"Instantly, I said yes to this fight because I want to be in exciting fights and this is so exciting. It's the biggest fight in world boxing and I want to give back to the fans and push myself to achieve the most that I can." Kell Brook
Eubank, or more specifically, his father, former two-division world titleholder Chris Eubank Sr., did not -- even though Eubank Jr. had been calling Golovkin out on social media while claiming how badly he wanted the fight.
"I negotiated with Chris Eubank Sr. for three weeks and it felt like three years. Mr. Eubank wanted operational control of the show," Hearn said. "He wanted to select the ticket prices and when I saw the suggestion it blew my mind. It was untenable. I'm not going to let a fighter and his father tell me what ticket prices should be and piss off my customers.
"He wanted to select the undercard fighters, their purses, everything. Everything we've developed a reputation for doing well. It would have spelled huge disaster and I didn't want to be associated with it. He wanted to be involved in selecting who would be commentating. I don't need the aggravation. The son's OK but he probably had no idea what was happening. It cost him millions."
Hearn said he finally gave Chris Eubank Sr., who could not be reached for comment, and his attorney 24 hours to accept the deal. They did not respond and on July 6 Hearn called Brook.
Eubank Sr. had this to say on Twitter in late August:
The people saying I'm difficult are other promoters. My job is to get the best deal for Jr and we are all good �� https://t.co/tmnnxDkoCV
- Christopher Eubank (@ChrisEubank) August 24, 2016
"I spoke to Kell that night and said, 'Would you be interested in Golovkin?' And he was like, 'I'll fight Golovkin!' I said, 'You serious?' Kell said, 'Yes, get me the contract.' I've promoted Kell for five years. I was happy to give him the title shot and the money and no hassle."
Hearn said that he feels sorry for Chris Eubank Jr., who had said on Twitter he had never seen a contract for the fight, even though Hearn said it had been with the father.
"If I had [Chris Eubank Jr.] in a room for 15 minutes talking to him and spelling everything out, it would have gotten signed immediately, but you have a guy advising his son who was an outstanding fighter but who is not qualified from a business angle to guide his son's career," Hearn said. "It was very frustrating."
"I thought we had a fight with Eubank Jr., now it's with Kell Brook, which is very good for me. I promise a 'Big Drama Show' for the U.K. fight fans." Gennady Golovkin
After Brook's gleeful acceptance of the bout, Hearn called Loeffler and proposed they make the fight at a catch weight of 158 pounds given that Brook would be moving up two weight classes, although he is enormous for a welterweight.
Loeffler told him Golovkin would not fight at a catch weight. If Brook wanted to challenge for Golovkin's middleweight belts the fight would have to be contracted at the division limit of 160 pounds.
"So I told Kell, and he accepted 160," Hearn said. "How he made welterweight in the first place I will never know."
Said Golovkin trainer Abel Sanchez, perhaps taking a swipe at Eubank and all the others who have blatantly avoided Golovkin (Canelo Alvarez and titleholder Billy Joe Saunders among them): "Kell Brook stepped up instead of talking about it."
But remember, the Brook-Vargas deal was still hanging out there. Hearn said he sent Top Rank executives an email prior to the announcement of Golovkin-Brook to inform them of the turn of events.
"It all happened so quickly," Hearn said. "I felt if this [Golovkin-Brook fight] doesn't happen, Vargas is still the fight we want," Hearn said. "I emailed Bob and [Top Rank vice president] Carl Moretti and told them, 'Look, I'm sorry, I really wanted to make the fight. But this opportunity came around and it's too big to turn down.' Carl was great. He said they understand."
Arum, who often would hold a grudge on such an issue, has a longstanding friendship with Barry Hearn, Eddie's father, who used to run the day-to-day operations of the promotional company. Arum took it in stride and said there were no hard feelings.
"Eddie couldn't sign Eubank to fight Golovkin so he gave the fight to Kell and offered him the same deal he was offering Eubank," Arum said. "And then we got an email that morning [of the announcement] from Eddie saying he's sorry we can't make it as Brook decided to fight GGG. We didn't even know that was on the table or being considered. But we did everything we could to make Vargas-Brook."
Moretti said once the money was cut because of Brexit he did not think they would have been able to finalize Brook-Vargas.
"The new offer was enough less money to not accept the deal," Moretti said. "Hey, it happened. Brook was going to get beat up by Vargas and now he's really going to get beat up by Golovkin."
Brook, of course, does not see it that way. He is ecstatic to face Golovkin in a fight much bigger than the Vargas fight would have been.
"I think it was written in the stars the way it happened," Brook said. "With Vargas, it was back and forth and it got a bit a too messy. It would have been nice to have a unification fight in my home city of Sheffield [where it was supposed to take place], but when this fight with GGG came my way, it was serious. Instantly, I said yes to this fight because I want to be in exciting fights and this is so exciting. It's the biggest fight in world boxing and I want to give back to the fans and push myself to achieve the most that I can."
Golovkin was matter of fact about how the deal for his fight was made.
"I thought we had a fight with Eubank Jr., now it's with Kell Brook, which is very good for me," he said. "I promise a 'Big Drama Show' for the U.K. fight fans."
Hearn said he was pleased with the way things worked out.
"I'm happy because I got the opportunity to bring, in my opinion, the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter [Golovkin] to the U.K., which is amazing for the U.K. fight fans and I got the opportunity for my fighter, Kell Brook, to be in one of the biggest fights in world boxing. We are not stupid, we know exactly what we are up against. But the interest is huge. The tickets sold out in 10 minutes. We're expecting huge pay-per-view numbers."
Everything seems to have worked out for the fighters as well, except for Eubank.
Brook, unable to make a fight with any of the top welterweights, got the big fight he has craved. Golovkin also got a bigger fight than had he faced Eubank.
As for Vargas, don't cry for him. He may not have gotten Brook, but he got something even bigger and more lucrative -- the opportunity to fight in a pay-per-view main event in his hometown of Las Vegas and defend his title against the legendary Manny Pacquiao on Nov. 5.
And Eubank? Well, he's another story.
Instead of a major world title fight worth millions, he will defend his British middleweight title against mandatory challenger Tommy Langford on Oct. 22 in Cardiff, Wales, for a fraction of the money, and the reason has nothing to do with Brexit.