OPI/ Matchroom double header in store: Christian Cherchi interview
Following on from the latest date at the Tuscany Hall in Florence, the OPI/ Matchroom roadshow moves on to Milan (28 June) and Rome (11 July) for shows number four and five – all in the space of two weeks. Boxing Monthly caught up with OPI Since 82’s Christian Cherchi to bring you all the latest news about the two stacked cards at two of Italy’s most iconic sporting settings. And there’s plenty for British fans to get excited about!
BM: Can you give us a quick recap about the latest show in Florence (Tuscany Hall, 26 April)?
CC: All in all it was another successful show, a great turnout and lots of support as usual for hometown favourite, Fabio Turchi. We were a little disappointed with the fight [first round KO against Sami Enbom of Finland] but his original French opponent [Jean Jacques Olivier] pulled out late in the day, so we were up against it to find a replacement. As I had mentioned last time, Orlando Fiordigiglio was always going to be in a tough fight against Stephen Danyo and so it proved, but he got the nod [SD win for the vacant international IBF super welterweight title] and continues to move up the rankings [Fiordigiglio is now at 5 with the IBF]. He’s in a great position and the same goes for Mohammed Obbadi who had a first-round KO win [the Moroccan-based Italian is also ranked 5 with the IBF]. He has a bright future and will fight for a title in September/October time.
The next stop for show four is Milan and the Allianz Cloud (formerly the PalaLido], an historic venue of Italian boxing (where in more recent times the late, great Giovanni Parisi won WBO light welter title against Sammy Fuentes of Puerto Rico in 1996 and Giacobbe Fragomeni captured the world cruiserweight crown versus Rudolf Kraj of the Czech Republic in 2008).
BM: An overdue return to ‘The Temple’ of Italian boxing. What have you got in store?
CC: It’s great to be back at the old PalaLido [built in 1960, it had been shut down since 2010 for restructuing]. The reopening of this new all-purpose indoor sports stadium marks a seminal moment not just for us but Italian sport in general. We’re all super excited about it. Top of the bill is an Italian derby between Daniele Scardina and Alessandro Goddi, which has all the makings of an intriguing fight. The physical strength of local boy Scardina pitted against the experience of Goddi [the Sardinian is a 40-fight veteran and a two-time former European middleweight title challenger]. Francesco Patera is defending his European lightweight title for the second time against Northern Ireland’s Paul Hyland Jr, who has an excellent record, so again this should be a very even match-up. It’s a first for Patera [who is of Italian origin] here in Italy, and he’s really looking forward to it. Unbeaten welterweight Dario Morello was due to be fighting against Steve Jamoye but the Belgian has had to withdraw unfortunately due to a serious illness. It’s a big shame as that would have been a good test for our man. His opponent will now be Ahmed El Hamwi, a former Belgian super lightweight champion.
BM: Who are the other Next Gen fighters on the show?
CC: As you know it’s important for us to showcase our up and coming talent on our bills. Maxim Prodan is in a scheduled six rounder. He picked up a hand injury during his last fight [a win over Steve Jamoye in Milan back in March] so we’ll see how his hand holds up. He’ll be fighting for an international title in the autumn. Then we have unbeaten welterweight, Nicholas Esposito, who showed lots of potential in his last outing and Luca Capuano who is a young, unbeaten super middleweight. Ivan Zucco, another super middle, and one of our best prospects, will also be fighting. Middleweight Riccardo Merafina, who has a lot of fans here in Milan, is back after a lengthy, enforced layoff. And we’re delighted to have former bantamweight world champion Jamie McDonnell, here too in a six rounder.
And then came the announcement for a fifth show at the Stadio Nicola Pietrangeli in Rome on 11 July (where the Rome Masters tennis tournament is played). Just 13 days after Milan!
BM: That was a quick turnaround…tell us how it came about.
CC: It was a case of the venue being available on that date. The Foro Italico is a spectacular location so we couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to host a show there. It’s a first for OPI at this historic venue, so another special day for us. The fans should be in for a treat too, and there’s a real Italy-England flavour too, just like our inaugural Florence show. All the headline fights are evenly matched: we have former European champion and world title challenger, Emanuele Blandamura taking on Manchester’s Marcus Morrison for the WBC international silver middleweight title in front of his home fans; Fabio Turchi will have his stiffest test to date against Northern Ireland’s Tommy McCarthy in his first defence of the WBC international cruiserweight title and Serhiy Demchenko, a long time Rome-based Ukrainian, is up against France’s Hakim Zoulikha for the European light heavyweight title. We also have a number of local youngsters: unbeaten light middleweight Mirko Natalizi who’s been on all our shows to date, and making their first OPI/Matchroom appearances are light welter Sebastian Mendizabal, light middle Vincenzo Bevilacqua and cruiserweight Simone Federici. Rio 2016 Olympian light heavyweight, Valentino Manfredonia will be making his pro debut and for unbeaten lightweight Emiliano Marsili,the show just keeps rolling on at 42.
Both shows will be screened live on DAZN Italia and Sky Sports in the UK.