By Bill Dwyre *
Don Chargin’s nickname is “War a Week,” a well-earned label from his heydays of matchmaking in Los Angeles at the Olympic Auditorium. That was bestowed upon him by no less than the last person to create any semblance of original radio sports programing, Jim Healy.
Chargin doesn’t put on a war a week anymore. Nowhere near that. Closer to 20 shows last year, most in Northern California.
But if you think he has slowed down, think again. He may be about to turn 88 in June, but he still knows the sport like few others and loves it when a good fight is on the horizon. Which is exactly what he calls the upcoming Manny Pacquiao -Tim Bradley battle, April 9, in Las Vegas.
To some, that might be a surprise.
In the minds and hearts of many, Chargin is one of the true learned men of the sport, a boxing Socrates. When he speaks his mind, he has given it much thought before opening his mouth. He speaks his mind. If he thinks a fight is a dog, he barks that without fear of reprisal. When you have been in the game since 1951, were inducted into boxing’s Hall of Fame 15 years ago, and have promoted close to 150 world title fights, the sport listens. As it should.
In this case, it listens, even though the initial overwhelming impression of the Pacquiao – Bradley matchup was lots of frowns and rolled eyes. They have fought twice before. Bradley won the first one in a controversial decision and Pacquiao the second in a dominating performance. That has been Bradley’s only loss.
“I was like a lot of people,” Chargin says. “At first, when I heard about it, I thought it would be just another fight. But the more I thought about it, the more I saw lots of storylines. And that’s what drives a promotion.”
Chargin said he can see that Pacquiao badly wants to be a Philippine senator or, even in the not-too-distant future, the country’s president. That means this fight doubles as a boxing match and unprecedented political exposure. Who will get bigger headlines in the month of April in the Philippines — any old Senate candidate or an international boxing star, about to fight again?
“He wants to go out on a high, to finish right,” Chargin said, knowing full well that that sort of high is not only worth the $20 million Pacquiao will be paid for the fight, but countless numbers of votes. Pacquiao has only until May 9 to do the usual political campaigning for his Philippine Senate seat. But whatever might be lost in the absence of on-site speech-making could be more than made up by spectacular left hooks and a real Philippine nationalistic show on April 9.
That doesn’t mean that Bradley will be a willing political pawn. Chargin sees reason for him, too, to be an inspired fighter on that Las Vegas Saturday night.
“Bradley is pumped,” Chargin said. “He’s been that way ever since he hired Teddy Atlas to train him for his last fight. He is a different fighter. He is buying into everything Teddy is telling him and he wants to please him.
“As a matter of fact, it seems like every fighter that Teddy has wants to please him. That’s a real skill.”
Chargin said that too much is at stake for this to be a slow-starting fight, the kind that can develop into a never-starting fight.
“There is too much at stake for both of them,” Chargin said. “Both guys will want to get off fast, and get out to a lead.”
During an interview, Chargin even upgraded his initial assessment of the fight from “good” to “terrific.”
“My first impression was that this was just a fight,” he said. “But I think Bob may have made himself quite a fight.”
Bob Arum is the chief executive of Top Rank, the promoter of the fight.
Chargin also saw Pacquiao-Bradley as an extension of the embarrassing Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight, which made a lot of money, but left a lot of boxing fans angry. Mayweather won that one in a solid decision and Pacquiao revealed afterward that he had reinjured his right shoulder in the fourth round, severely limiting his chances.
“That one was terrible,” Chargin said, “but I don’t see this one as another boring disaster.”
Chargin also said he thought it would be a mistake for Pacquiao, even with an impressive performance, to hang around and wait for a rematch with Mayweather.
“I think people will remember the first fight for a long time,” Chargin said, “and all this talk about it being another huge money maker won’t be the case.”
Chargin said he probably will attend the fight now, after initially thinking it wouldn’t be much to miss. He lives in the central California coast town of Cambria, swims every day, and has slowed down much less than others at his age in any comparable profession.
“I feel good,” he said, “but then, it’s good, at my age, just to be able to feel.”