The great old man of boxing in Italy
Boxing according to Salvatore Cherchi, from Sardinia to Don King
He has managed thirteen world champions, organized dozens of world titles, often sitting inches from Don King’s absurdly electric hair. He has been on the federal council of Italian boxing for a few weeks. Salvatore Cherchi, born in 1952, is the great old man of national boxing. Gavetta with “the cardinal” Umberto Branchini, the first modern Italian manager, in 1982 Cherchi opened Opi with Giovanni Branchini (the son), still today one of the most important companies in the managerial-organizational sector.
Boxing entered Salvatore’s life in Sardinia, where he was born. The father is a sports fan, his brother Pino practices boxing. Together they see Burruni, Scano, Manca fight. Then the family moved to Milan and in 1965 he became a novice boxer, in the meantime it was the youngest of the Cherchi who became good. Salvatore teaches the young Franco the first rudiments of the noble art using socks instead of gloves. When Franco enters the gym for the first time, Maestro Curti asks him how many matches he had behind him. Zero, but he has a teacher in the house like Salvatore. Franco will become European champion.
Salvatore is second among amateurs and professionals, but above all he works alongside Branchini. “He sent me around Europe with his boxers to carry the bucket – he tells the Sportsheet – I never spoke but listened to everything. This is how I learned, Umberto was my idol. In 1982 I went on my own ”. Thus began the adventure as a protagonist, first with Giovanni, then in solitude when the partner concentrated on football, also taking care of the interests of Ronaldo the Phenomenon.
Over the years, Cherchi has organized many world championships, of all three are those who have remained most in his heart. On February 22, 1984 Loris Stecca won the WBA superugal world weight title in Milan by beating the Dominican Leonardo Cruz. “It was the first world championship that I organized completely by myself, the setting up of the hall, the pay to the boxers, everything. Branchini was in the United States for the title between Luigi Minchillo and Thomas Hearns a few days earlier. I was in love with Loris, a gorgeous boxer who could have done so much more. Later I would have liked to fight with Juan Meza instead he wanted to have the revenge with Victor Callejas, it went badly because the Puerto Rican was a great hitter. Usually the boxer is a proud man and Stecca wanted to avenge the defeat he suffered at home in Italy. In practice, his career ended here. A few weeks ago we spoke on the phone, and he admitted he should have listened to me. My boxers have always tried to make them think, that time with Loris I didn’t succeed ”.
In 1989, Opi organized the heavyweight title between Francesco Damiani and Johnny Du Plooy. “Francesco was a great boxer. Up until that moment, Branchini and I had been criticized because we hadn’t made him fight with rivals at the height and he always seemed to win too easily. Damiani’s was a good victory. The heavyweight title is… the best ”.
The third world championship to remember is that of Giovanni Parisi who in 1996 regained the WBO crown by beating Sammy Fuentes in Milan. “In my opinion Giovanni was one of the best Italian boxers of all time”.
Cherchi has worked with colleagues such as Don King. Together they did Parisi-Chavez and a couple of meetings of Michele Piccirillo in the States. “You argue with Don, but we’re friends. He is a great brain. Clever, he has fur on his stomach. No, I don’t have it: my professional luck has always been supported by an immense passion for this sport, which has given me the respect of boxers and professionals. I have always treated everyone on an equal footing, but in the United States there is much more money than we do ”.
Are there so many intrigues in boxing? “I have never sat on ringside already knowing that a match was falsified from the start. But it happens that during the match it is understood that a referee son of a whore sided with one rather than the other. When fighting overseas I always tell my boxers to start thinking I’m three shots down. It works like this in Italy too, over time I have come across verdicts in favor of which I was ashamed. In that case, I’ll tell my boyfriend right away in the locker room. When it happens to you, you feel terrible. Today with my experience it is more difficult to fool me ”. On February 27, with the elections that saw Flavio D’Ambrosi become president, Cherchi joined the federal council. It will take care of professional athletes. The field in which it has been operating for decades, knowledge of the sector is certainly not lacking. However, there could be a conflict of interest given that Opi is the most important company in Italy at an organizational and managerial level. “Opi is now managed by my sons Alessandro and Christian, who at most ask me for an opinion. The club is so well established that it does not need any favoritism from the Federation and in any case I would not allow it. I’m not that kind of person, I’ve always been naive in these things. I’m sure there won’t be any problems ”. Even if some controversy, within a movement that is no longer the golden one of previous decades, will perhaps be inevitable.
Meanwhile, today, Friday 16 April, Opi Since 82 and the English Matchroom return to the Allianz Cloud in Milan for a night of boxing titled with the challenges between Fabio Turchi and Dylan Bregeon, between Francesco Patera and Vladislav Melnyk and between Ivan Zucco and Luca Capuano live on Dazn.
“If I had to name a young man on whom to bet in Italy – continues Cherchi – I would say Mirko Natalizi. He has the knockout blow with which he can overturn any match. It is a feature that is hard to find around. He is a boy convinced of his means, a true boxer who is not afraid of anyone. He can make it to a world title, but in boxing you also need luck on your side. I also had boxers who, after an incredible match, a title won, seemed to have given everything and got stuck both physically and mentally ”. Today the best pound for pound boxer is Mexican Canelo Alvarez. “I had the option of taking him when he was 17. But he lived in Guadalajara, I in Milan. It would have been a huge economic effort. I don’t know if today I would still be managing it, because there are companies abroad that economically destroy you. But I know I was wrong. I was also very close to another great one like Chocolatito, but the investment in that case too was too high. I went to him in Nicaragua. But a mini fly needs opponents who can’t be found here. To build his career I would have had to have always different boxers from Mexico and Latin countries and it would have been unsustainable ”.