Meet the Matchmaker & Manager: Christian Cherchi interview
Italian matchmaker and manager Christian Cherchi was kind enough to speak to Boxing Monthly recently as he waited for a flight back to Italy from the UK. The 38-year-old attended Matchroom Boxing’s NXTGEN show at the Victoria Warehouse in Manchester on 25 February and had earlier had a meeting with Matchroom's Eddie Hearn.
BM: Busy weekend for you. Tell us about the big show in Rome on Friday 23 February?
CC: It was fantastic with around 1,500 fans at the Palazetto Dello Sport in the capital. The event was also broadcast by Fox Sports, which provided great exposure as it’s part of the Sky Italia sports subscription packgage. We had mixed results, Alessandro Goddi unfortunately was caught cold and stopped for the European middleweight title by the Pole, Kamil Szeremeta. It was a shame as he had some good results and we didn’t expect it to end that way. On the plus side southpaw Emiliano Marsili, at 41 years of age, was sensational against tough Mexican Victor Betancourt, although the fight went to the scorecards after a clash of heads.
BM: You’ve also got Blandamura fighting for the world title soon...
CC: Blandamura will be challenging the WBA middleweight champion, Ryoto Murata [gold medallist at London 2012], at the Yokohama Arena on 15 April. British fans will remember Emanuele when he fought Billy Joe Saunders in Manchester back in 20014. In my eyes he put on a very good display. He was stopped just as he was enjoying his best spell in the fight. I went to the WBA convention in Colombia after the Joshua fight to meet with his representatives and we had sealed the deal by the end of December. The press conference was held in Tokyo in January. We know it’s going to be a tough match but Blandamura has the experience to make a good fist of it. And I know his trainer Eugenio Agnuzzi will have the right game plan.
BM: What’s the latest regarding Carlos Takam?
CC: Carlos has proved himself on the world stage. You all saw his quality against Parker and Joshua so there’s not a lot for me to add on that score. I’m in discussions with Eddie, as we speak, to see if we can get him a fight here in the UK, where he has lots of fans. It would be inappropriate for me to mention any names at this stage, but watch this space. A rematch with Anthony, of course, would be amazing and Carlos wants it but we realise that it’s not going to happen overnight. That’s why we’re in negotiations to get him a fight here. I think that Sky and the British fans appreciated his ‘come to fight’ mentality and that he was a big hit on Sky. It was my father Salvatore who spotted his potential actually.
BM: Talk to us about your stable of fighters. Who are your hottest prospects?
CC: We currently have a stable of around 20 professionals. Carlos is our marquee fighter. But we’ve also got Blandamura and Goddi as mentioned, Devis Boschiero, a former European super featherweight champion [who lost to Stephen Smith in 2015], the unbeaten heavyweight Matteo Modugno, who has sparred with Joshua, Carmine Tommasone [the first ever Italian professional to qualify for the Olympics, at Rio 2016], Andrea Scarpa [who in 2016 beat John Wayne Hibbert and then lost to Ohara Davies in his next fight], Luca Giacon, Orlando Fiordigiglio, Antonio Moscatiello, Catalin Paraschiveanu and Andrea Di Luisa. Michael Magnesi has sparred with Ryan Burnett through my association with Adam Booth. Adam and I are friends and we try to help each other out when we can. We’ve got Ivan Zucco, Nicholas Esposito and Sebastian Mendizabal. Then there are the Nmomah brothers from Nigeria, Samuel and Joshua, who are in the process of getting their Italian citizenship. So, lots of talent but the next few years will determine how far this new generation can go.
BM: Boxing is very much a family affair for you...
CC: Our organisation, OPI SINCE 82, has been going for many years. My family is steeped in boxing. My uncle Franco, who is currently one of our trainers, held the European flyweight title [Franco lost the European flyweight title to Charlie Magri in 1985] while my father, Salvatore, has been in the boxing business for nigh on 40 years and well known around the world. He promoted many world champions and world title contenders such as the Stecca brothers [Loris and Maurizio], Luigi Minchillo, Francesco Damiani, Giovanni Parisi, Stefano Zoff, Michele Piccirillo, Giacobbe Fragomeni, Cristian Sanavia and of course Silvio and Gianluca Branco. My brother Alessandro is President of Principe Boxing Events (PBE) and alongside my father looks after the promotional and administrative aspects.
BM: Talk to us about symbolic importance of the Teatro Principe...
CC: It was an historic venue in Milan. The great Nino Benvenuti fought there as an amateur. It was subsequently closed and turned into a nightclub. My brother took it over in December 2014 as we wanted to bring back boxing to its spiritual home. It can cater for around 500-600 fans and, much like the Royal Albert Hall in London, it’s a very intimate setting and ideal for the spectacle of boxing. We’ve had European title fights, and boxers such as Avni Yildirim , who lost to Eubank Jr. and Paulie Malignaggi  have fought there. It’s a point of reference for boxing in Milan. We recently signed a partnership with Playboy Italia, and the ‘Tomorrow’s Champions’ events are proving very popular. Similar to Eddie’s NXTGEN series. Our unbeaten welterweight from Ukraine Maxim Prodan, has had 13 of his 14 fights at the venue. He’s another good prospect by the way!
BM: How did you get into boxing? Was that always your career plan?
CC: Not really to be honest. After I finished school I started getting more involved in the business in 2001 and by 2006 I was immersed in the matchmaking and managerial side of things. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to the States and have seen the likes of Mayweather and De La Hoya live at historic venues in Las Vegas and New York.
BM: What do you think of boxing in the UK?
CC: There are big events in the States but in the UK there’s a real passion for the noble art and the fans are the most knowledgeable in the world. The best fights I’ve seen have been in the UK. The first time I saw a fight abroad was at the London Arena when Nigel Benn fought Vincenzo Nardiello. There were 15,000 spectators, all the global TV broadcasters were there and I remember the occasion made a big impression on me. At the end of the day I’m a fan who’s lucky to do a job that he likes and is able to get to see big fights. I should add that I’ve got a matchmaker’s licence with the British Boxing Board of Control as well as my Italian manager’s licence.
BM: Any final thoughts?
CC: I’m just honoured to be featured in such a prestigious publication such as Boxing Monthly.
(The interview was conducted in Italian and translated into English by Luca Rosi)