3:00 PM EDT, September 12, 2013
On the subject of super fights, who better to ask than the Boy Promoter, Don Chargin, who is 85?
Yes, they still call him that. And yes, he still promotes boxing matches. He lives in Cambria, puts on shows for local fighters in Central and Northern California and has, since the day he got his promoter's license at age 22, put on thousands of shows.
So, as we head toward Saturday night's highly hyped Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Canelo Alvarez matchup, Chargin's perspective is valuable.
Is Mayweather-Alvarez a great fight? If so, what makes it so? What are the ingredients that bring the highest accolades, best legacies?
In a lengthy interview, Chargin touched on many areas. A boxer's personality, his magnetism, can be a big deal, something Chargin calls the "it" factor.
"Oscar De La Hoya had the 'it,' " Chargin says. "Mayweather has some of the 'it', but needs help from his opponent to really have it."
Chargin cited, as others have, that Mayweather's career really took off after he beat De La Hoya in a 2007 match that sold a record 2.5 million pay-per-views.
You don't have to have a flashy smile, or even be warm and cuddly, to have "it" in boxing. Chargin cited Mike Tyson as an example.
He said the "it" is tough to define.
"We had a lightweight fighter named Mando Ramos, who would draw like crazy back at the old Olympic Auditorium," Chargin says. "He had the 'it.' He drew 8,000 one Thursday night, and it was just an ordinary fight."
A hot weight division can bring all the boxers therein to a level where all their fights get tagged "great."
"Remember the days of Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, Marvin Hagler and Robert Duran?" Chargin says. "Great fights, from all four."
Too bad that is no mas.
Many feel that boxing's popularity has faded in direct proportion to the fading popularity of the heavyweight division. The Klitschkos, Vitali and Wladimir, rule it now, but do most of their fighting in Europe, losing the popularity bump of a U.S. audience.
"So many great heavyweights," Chargin says, citing the Ali-Frazier-Foreman era as one hard to replace. The anticipation for the first Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier match of unbeatens in '71 made it a great one; same for Ali-George Foreman in Zaire in '74, Chargin says. Then there was Tyson, a 32-1 favorite, getting stunned by Buster Douglas in Japan in 1990 and Tyson biting off pieces of Evander Holyfield's ears in '97.
"Also, the Floyd Patterson-Ingemar Johansson fights [three of them] really grabbed the fans," Chargin says.
Culture is a factor. It is likely that most Mexicans will be rooting for Alvarez Saturday night, most African-Americans for Mayweather.
"I remember the days of Rocky Marciano," Chargin says. "He was an unbeaten Italian fighter and his popularity was huge, but especially in the Italian sections of San Francisco."
It also helped that he was a heavyweight.
Rivalries play a role. Superstar Manny Pacquiao recently fought Juan Manuel Marquez for a fourth time, with the previous three fights closely contested and controversial. For Pacquiao, it turned out to be one fight too many in the rivalry. Marquez knocked him out.
"Sugar Ray Robinson and Jake La Motta fought six times," Chargin says. "La Motta only won once, and when he did, they fought again three weeks later."
Attendance was a big issue. In the days of no TV and radio only, major fights drew crowds of 75,000 in Yankee Stadium. Now, the real measure of a fight's popularity has become pay-per-view buys.
Still, fannies in seats matter.
"A real turning point for Canelo," Chargin says, "was when, in his last fight, he drew 40,000 people in San Antonio's Alamodome. That probably got him this main bout with Mayweather."
In the end, it probably boils down to the same thing everything does in sports. Money. The more at stake, the more the buzz.
Ali-Frazier No. 1 in '71 created a huge buzz because each fighter got an unheard-of $2.5 million. Three years later, Ali and George Foreman each got $5 million. Boxing inflation was on a roll.
"Gene Tunney was the first to earn a $1 million purse by beating Jack Dempsey in 1927," Chargin says. "Those were the days. After taxes, Tunney kept $991,000."
Mayweather's nickname is "Money." It wasn't given to him. No sportswriter came up with it as a clever creation. He just took it. He will make about $40 million in the Alvarez fight.
Great? Super? Well, $40 million is a nice start.
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