Thursday, August 30, 2012

Smarter than Boxing's "Alphabet" Soup . . .


By Rick Farris

In 1976, Forum Boxing Promoter, Don Fraser, was riding high on a crest of success that began to take shape more than two decades earlier, at the legendary Hollywood Legion Stadium.  The man who brought the second Ali-Norton match to L.A.'s fabulous Forum in 1973, had the two hardest punching 118 pounders on earth, WBC World Bantamweight Champ Carlos Zarate, and WBA Champ Alfonso Zamora, signed to fight in a 15-round match to unify the two titles.

Both were unbeaten, both had unbelieveable KO records, and there was bad blood between the two.  Once stablemates under Cuyo Hernandez, Zamora broke off and was being guided by his father.  Being unbeaten world champs was important, but more important to both was not who was considered the best in the world, but who was the best in Mexico.  They both would carry heavy hands into the match, and few believed it would last ten rounds, let alone fifteen.

The WBC demanded a huge "sanctioning fee" to validate the title match.  Sanctioning fees are expensive for a boxing promoter, as this bill gets paid right up front.  In this case, the WBA was also involved as their title would also be at stake.  An equally outrageous sanctioning fee.  The "Alphabet Boys" knew this one was going to make major cash, a guaranteed sellout in a venue with a history of staging successful matches featuring the best from Mexico.

Fraser began running the numbers and wasn't happy.  For nearly ten years he'd been working with Jack Kent Cooke, responsible for building the Forum's boxing program, bringing in legendary promoter George Parnassus, then bringing in weekly televised boxing, promoting the Ali-Norton rematch.  Don knew the territory, had worked with the best from Mexico, and he understood the culture.  Don also understood the foundation of producing a successfull show.

One of the hottest matches of the era was Zarate-Zamora.  The title's held by both boxers were of little issue here.  This was personal, and everybody wanted to see the fight, and don Fraser did something you don't see modern day promoters or cable companies do, he told the WBC and the WBA that he had decided to make the match a 10-round non-title fight.  The Alphabet Mavens were speechless.

As expected, with no titles on the line, the fight was just as big and as great as it would have been had a belt been exchanged.  The world knew at the end of this one who the best man was in the ring that night, the best in Mexico, the best in the world.  And as Don Fraser knew from the beginning, this match didn't require a 15-round match.  Zarate proved himself the best, KOing Zamora in an exciting match that lasted less than half of the scheduled ten rounds.

The money that would have gone into the cash vaults of the WBA & WBC, went instead into the accounts of those who worked for it, including the boxers.  Best of all, the loser still had posession of his title, even if diluted by his loss.

At the time, a world title still meant something, however, the most important thing is the fight, not the title.
Now, who can tell me the name of every "world Champ" holding a title today?

Can you name a dozen, and also name the titles they hold?

A title means nothing, only the fight matters, and it takes a great promoter to make a great fight.


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