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Don Chargin on Matchmaking for “Canelo” and More

(Photo © Don Chargin Promotions)
(Photo © Don Chargin Promotions)

Not many people last long in the business that is boxing but Don Chargin has been doing it for almost 60 years. 
Long after his last “War-a-Week” at the old Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles, the Hall of Fame promoter continues to do shows deep into his 80s because it’s in his blood.
As his contemporaries Bob Arum and Don King will join him in the octogenarian club by the end of the year, Chargin has demonstrated that age ain’t nothin’ but a number. Having co-promoted Floyd Mayweather-Oscar De La Hoya and taking on the current task of steering the career of one Saul “Canelo” Alvarez as a consultant for Golden Boy, he hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down.
I recently spoke with Don as he addressed his role on the 20-year-old WBC light middleweight’s team, Mercito Gesta’s move to Top Rank and the road ahead.

Ryan Maquiñana: Tell me about your duties in terms of Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and his still-developing career.
DC: I assist Eric Gomez in the matchmaking. Oscar [De La Hoya] meant to have me come to a press conference and announced that he wanted me to sign off on every opponent but me and Eric get along really good.
RM: He’s not even 21 yet and he’s already one of Golden Boy’s most important assets at the box office. What do you like about his fighting style?
DC: There’s no telling how big he can be. He gets mobbed everywhere, even in Los Angeles. That style is a pleasing style the way he puts that left hook to the body. He’s really picking up on his combinations. I think he’s doing really well for a 20-year-old kid.
RM: He dominated Ryan Rhodes before stopping him in his last fight. Did you expect it to be that easy?
DC: It was a mandatory and when Eric Gomez discussed Rhodes with me, I called people I worked with for years and got three different opinions. Then I watched film on Rhodes and I thought he’d be a good opponent. People thought “Canelo” was going to have trouble with him because he was a southpaw but he never stayed southpaw too long because he’d keep getting hit with right hands. We had a very good line on him. We knew about things he did and he hadn’t been beaten in a long time.
RM: So are you saying you had a bead on his game plan?
DC: I’ve talked to people close to him. He was bringing in sparring partners to go all out the first couple of rounds because while he respected his ability, he didn’t know how good his chin was because he saw how [Jose] Cotto hurt him. Except in the first round, he got hit with a big punch and felt “Canelo’s” power and strength.  So he reverted to a game plan of trying to outbox him instead of jump on him, both of which he couldn’t do.
RM: So what’s next? Vanes Martirosyan is now the number one contender but I take it Alvarez has an optional defense now.
DC: Yes, it’s an optional defense. There are several names he’s considering and I can’t give them out yet. 
RM: As Alvarez’s popularity grows, so does the potential for some external force to derail his career.  What was your take about him going to Big Bear to train?
DC: He can’t even walk down the street or go to a restaurant. It reminded me of the time around when Oscar fought [Manny] Pacquiao. They asked Oscar to speak to the Mexican Chamber of Commerce Auxiliary in Texas. He didn’t realize it was all women. They had him trapped against the wall. That’s the way it is with this kid. There are distractions, so I hope every camp is at Big Bear.
RM: Obviously, everyone wants to compare him to Oscar as far as his crossover appeal but does Alvarez remind you of anyone else?
DC: I went through this before with Mando Ramos. Mando was a lightweight world champ at 20. He had Oscar’s looks and at 22, he was completely shot. It was women, alcohol, drugs; he couldn’t say no to anything. And what a career he had in such a short span.
I remember he had eight fights under his belt and he was set to fight a six-rounder at the Olympic but the main event fell out. I got a hold of his manager and said what about putting Mando in the main event with the same guy he was supposed to fight. He drew 8,000. He was drawing so well we couldn’t find a venue big enough. He was at the Coliseum!  
We tried to keep him on track. His manager loved it because he would stay at my house for three, four, five days before the fight because he loved my wife’s cooking. But I tell you, if they don’t want to behave, they won’t.
RM: How much of a mentor is Oscar to him? 
DC: Oscar’s had really good talks with him. He idolizes Oscar. If he can just keep his head on straight, imagine what he could do. Also, he doesn’t have to go after the toughest guys around or guys that don’t figure for him.
RM: Well, that’s the problem with sending a kid straight to a world title belt. At this level, he’s going to have to eventually fight someone with a serious chance to dethrone him. That is, unless you vacate the belt and start from square one again. Are you willing to put him in with Vanes right now?
DC: You just have to see what comes up. A lot of times, some people think that some fights are all that bad and a lot of times, the manager and his fighter will disagree. Not saying that Vanes isn’t tough; he’s a well-conditioned kid but we’ll take it fight by fight.
RM: In May, Mercito Gesta jumped over Top Rank. Mercito’s manager, Vince Parra, told me that he had tried to make a deal with Golden Boy first before deciding that Top Rank had the better offer. What’s your side?
(For reference, read my article on Gesta’s Top Rank debut:
DC: Mike Marley had been a friend for a long time and he showed up in San Francisco because he always liked Mercito. At that time, I was going to work a deal with Golden Boy where I would still retain half and approve all his matches. At the time, they were all for that and then Golden Boy’s attorney was drawing up the papers but he was taking too long when the contract ran out in April.
Two days after getting back from San Francisco, I get a call. All of a sudden, Parra is talking about his legal counsel, which was Mike Marley. This was the first I knew of it. This was none of his business. Now all of a sudden, Mercito is with Top Rank. What was this stuff where they had to meet first and sit down with Oscar [De La Hoya] or Richard [Schaefer]? That wasn’t necessary. Richard wasn’t even aware that he had to talk to him from what I know, that it was necessary. He meets with fighters all the time. Maybe I should’ve told him.
RM: They alluded to that. Richard Schaefer not talking to them was a big breaking point with Team Gesta, so why not?
DC: Richard never even knew what was going on. I was talking to Eric Gomez, who got Richard’s OK. That was Parra’s thing, where they had to meet and sit down with Oscar. I didn’t think that was necessary. I mean it sounds good now that he talked to Arum and Richard didn’t but Richard didn’t even know. The only thing he was aware about was that Eric Gomez told him we have a chance to get a good fighter and Richard gave the go-ahead but that’s about it.
RM: Moving on, you have a world titlist in your stable. WBA light heavyweight champ Beibut Shumenov defends his title against Danny Santiago in Las Vegas on July 29. How did he end up going from Goossen Tutor to signing with you?
DC: Me and my wife met him and his team at a promoters’ association meeting in New York a couple years ago. After she passed away, around that time, they were wondering if I would get involved with them but I just wasn’t up to it at the time. Then they were with Goossen for a fight or two but it didn’t work out. Now they’re in litigation or something. After that, they came out to my place here in Cambria. We had dinner and that was nice. We ended up going to Vegas and we made a deal.
RM: What are you long-term plans for him?
DC: I’m meeting with the ambassadors of Kazakhstan and the president’s son-in-law in Vegas for a major promotion in their country. They’re anxious for him to defend his title again. Look, he’s still a little green compared to those guys. He’s 27 years old; he’s a lawyer; he taught himself English by watching television and he really works at his boxing.
RM: Anything else on tap?
DC: My favorite place to put on fights is the Casino del Sol in Tuscon, Arizona and I’ll be doing a show on July 22.  I’m hoping to have another show in Fairfield, California, in August, and after that, the Labor Day show will be special.
September 2 is my 60th anniversary of my first promotion in 1951. It’ll be on Telefutura at an outdoor venue in Salinas featuring Eloy Perez.
RM: Perez was number one in the WBO rankings at junior lightweight not too long ago before mysteriously dropping a spot. Wasn’t he slated to fight Luis Cruz in a title eliminator?
DC: Yes, we offered Cruz before he signed with Top Rank and he rejected the deal because he didn’t want to fight Eloy for that amount of money. Eloy’s time will come eventually but that’s the nature of the sport. You always have to be ready.

Ryan is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. You can reach him at, Facebook at, or follow him on Twitter: @rmaq28.


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