'A fantastic milestone for Italian boxing': Christian Cherchi interview
Following the official announcement last month, Boxing Monthly caught up with manager and matchmaker, Christian Cherchi, to talk about OPI SINCE 82’s joint venture with Matchroom Boxing Italy, the involvement of DAZN, Friday fight nights and an exciting first show in Florence next week…
BM: Is this the relaunch of big time boxing in Italy?
CC: Absolutely. It’s a fantastic milestone for Italian boxing. The partnership with Matchroom and DAZN is certainly the most important since the last 15 to 20 years. You have to go back to the heyday of the 80s, when my father Salvatore [Cherchi] was promoting world championship fights, which were then broadcast live on national TV channels, Italia 1 and Canale 5.
BM: How did the deal come about?
CC: I first mentioned it to Eddie Hearn in July, the day before the Takam vs Chisora fight [28 July at the O2]. Eddie probably already had thought about coming to Italy with DAZN. By the start of October, we had finalised everything and the announcement was made in early November.
BM: Can you go into more detail?
CC: The deal will allow us to put on exciting shows with regular frequency, something that was lacking in Italy before. There will be eight shows per year, a total of 16 over the next two years. The first is in Florence on 30 November and there are dates planned for February, March, May and June 2019. We should know shortly who’ll be headlining our first show of 2019, which will be in Milan.
BM: The DAZN platform will help enormously…
CC: DAZN have invested heavily in boxing – just look at their investment in the US, the billion-dollar deal with Matchroom and their ambitious plans for the future. They launched here in Italy in 2018 and have exclusive rights to three Serie A games per week. The matches are on a Saturday, so we don’t want to clash with football! That’s why all our shows will be on Fridays.
BM: Talk to us about your relationship with Matchroom…
CC: We’ve been working with Matchroom since 2002 and with Eddie Hearn, Frank Smith and all the team as of 2013. They’re one of the world leaders in boxing promotion, so it’s been a great learning curve for us and it will add to our own capabilities – OPI has organised 90 per cent of all European title fights in Italy over the last 18 years. Boxing has now become one of the most important sports thanks to Matchroom. The facts speak for themselves. The Joshua vs Takam fight has obviously been the highlight so far. Carlos will be fighting on the Whyte vs Chisora II bill on 22 December at the O2.
BM: A local boy headlining the first show…
CC: The inaugural bill will be at the OBIHall in Florence on 30 November. Fabio Turchi [pictured left], who we manage and promote, is one of our best prospects at cruiserweight [unbeaten in 15] and has his biggest test so far against former Commonwealth champion, Tony Conquest [for the WBC international silver cruiserweight title]. It will be a special night for Fabio in front of his home fans, and the plan is for further shows in the Tuscan city. He’s only 25 and still learning the trade but we have high hopes for him.
BM: And a special Italy-England twist …
CC: Yes, apart from Turchi, Andrea Scarpa will be fighting former British champion Joe Hughes for the vacant European super lightweight title while Devis Boschiero takes on Martin J Ward [for the WBC international silver super featherweight title]. For Devis, it’s a non official semi-final if you will, so a win will catapult him into world title contention we hope [the veteran Boschiero had lost a tight split decision when challenging Takahiro Ao for the WBC world superfeather title in Japan back in 2011]. We’re also hoping for European title shots in the future for unbeaten featherweight Carmine Tommasone and light middleweight, Orlando Fiordigiglio. Both are on the Florence bill.
BM: Crucially, it’s about promoting Italy’s Next Gen …
CC: Absolutely, we want to have important title fights but we need to focus on our young up and coming prospects, developing the talent of the future. I’ve mentioned Fabio already, but we also have Mirko Natalizi who will be on the bill. Mirko has natural power and has a lot of promise. He has won both his fights by KO and has a 100% winning record in WSB. He’s got a ‘get out of jail card’. We also have a number of other talented prospects under 25, who we will be showcasing in future shows.
The Florence event will be broadcast live on DAZN Italy and Sky Sports in the UK.
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