Milan is famous mainly as a shopping town. While it’s true that Milan offers some of the best shops in the world, it’s also true that you can find the same things in New York and Miami where they cost much less. Milan is also known for its historical sites, like the Duomo Cathedral and many other churches, the Brera Museum which has paintings of unparalleled beauty, the opera theater La Scala, the convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie where you can admire Leonardo Da Vinci’s masterpiece The Last Supper, the 600-years-old Sforzesco Castle, the ancient streets in the Navigli neighbourhood, and the world famous San Siro soccer stadium.
Not many people know that Milan is also the capitol of Italian boxing. The very first world championship held in Italy was organized in Milan on March 19, 1933. IBU bantamweight champion Panama Al Brown won on points against local favorite Domenico Bernasconi. In case you are wondering about the IBU, it was just one of many sanctioning bodies active in the 1930s. Too many times we’ve read that alphabet organizations are a problem of today’s boxing, but they always existed. On August 25, 1931 Panama Al Brown faced Pete Sanstol in Montreal for the NBA, NYSAC and CBF (Canadian Boxing Federation) world bantamweight titles. The IBU crown wasn’t on the line. Brown won by split decision in front of 12,300 fans.
When Brown came to Milan, he had a record of 105-12-10 while Domenico Bernasconi’s rèsumè stood at 39-15-5. Brown was more experienced and had faced a long list of quality opponents, but this made no difference to the fans who really believed that Bernasconi could score an upset. The atmosphere was so hot that 200 militia officers were stationed in front of the Palazzo dello Sport to prevent disorder among the crowd. That’s another thing that never changed. Milanese people are very quiet, seldom smile, spend most of their time working hard, but get wild when they attend a sports event. Throwing objects into the ring is a classic. Last July 27, somebody seated in the V.I.P. section launched a crash-helmet into the ring because he didn’t like the fight between Silvio Branco and Manny Siaca. This change of personality is also evident during soccer games. When police officers make arrests, they discover that the vandals are lawyers, doctors, brokers… with no criminal record. They all tell the same story: It’s the stadium which turns us into animals.
Going back to the point, Milan kept hosting world title fights and drawing record crowds. Duilio Loi, Nino Benvenuti and Sandro Mazzinghi were so big that their matches were held at San Siro soccer stadium. On September 1, 1960 over 61,900 people watched Duilio Loi defeat on points NBA light welterweight champion Carlos Ortiz.
Those huge numbers aren’t possible anymore for a couple of reasons. In 1960, the Italian athletes capable of winning the world title could be counted on one hand. The national soccer team, for instance, was far from being competitive. Besides, there was only state television and everybody watched it in bars (pay-per-view in sports bars is not a new concept either; in fact they say “more things change, more they stay the same”). A fighter who went on state television became a superstar. Today, with 100 channels available, a boxer can be a star only for the viewers of a particular network. RAI Sat and SportItalia, for example, can be seen only by the people who buy a decoder or a parabolic antenna; fighting 10 times on those networks doesn’t absolutely mean becoming famous.
Anyway, the big crowds were a regular of the golden era of Italian boxing (1930-1970). Starting 1971, with the downfall of Nino Benvenuti at the hands of Carlos Monzon, boxing became an indoor sport held in buildings with a capacity of 10,000 at best. The reason is that boxing needs a national superstar and Benvenuti was the last one.
The only boxer who could make the Italians dream, in recent years, was Giovanni Parisi. In Milan, he sold-out the Palalido (who had a capacity of 4,400) and brought 6,000 people at the Forum in 1996-97. It has to be noticed that Parisi wasn’t born in Milan, but in Vibo Valentia (Calabria). Milanese people always talk trash about Southerners, but they do respect the ones who can work well and Parisi always provided a great fight. Giovanni Parisi will be back in Milan next October 8, challenging European welterweight king Frederic Klose. The Euro belt is the only one that Parisi never won and he wants it badly. That guarantees another great night of boxing in Milan.
World Championship Fights organized in Milan:
Date – Location – Result
1) July 27, 2006 – Velodromo Vigorelli – Silvio Branco W12 Manny Siaca for the vacant WBA light heavyweight interim title.
2) June 17, 2005 – Palalido – Leavander Johnson TKO 7 Stefano Zoff for the vacant IBF lightweight title.
3) April 19, 1997 – Palalido – WBO light welterweight champion Giovanni Parisi TKO 8 Harold Miller.
4) October 12, 1996 – The Forum – WBO light welterweight champion Giovanni Parisi KO 4 Sergio Rey Revilla.
5) October 12, 1996 – The Forum – Robin Reid TKO 7 WBC super middleweight champion Vincenzo Nardiello.
6) June 20, 1996 – The Forum – WBO light welterweight champion Giovanni Parisi D12 with Carlos Gonzalez.
7) March 9, 1996 – Palalido – Giovanni Parisi TKO 8 WBO light welterweight champion Sammy Fuentes.
8) June 16, 1989 – WBO featherweight champion Maurizio Stecca TKO 9 Angel Levi Mayor.
9) January 28, 1989 – Maurizio Stecca TKO 6 Pedro Nolasco and becomes the first WBO featherweight champion.
10) December 1, 1984 – Palazzo dello Sport – WBA light middleweight champion Mike McCallum TKO 13 Luigi Minchillo.
11) February 22, 1984 – Loris Stecca TKO 12 WBA super bantamweight champion Leonardo Cruz.
12) January 7, 1978 – Palazzo dello Sport – Mate Parlov KO 9 WBC light heavyweight champion Miguel Angel Cuello.
13) April 4, 1975 – Franco Udella W DQ 12 Valentin Martinez and becomes the first WBC light flyweight champion.
14) May 26, 1968 – San Siro Stadium – Sandro Mazzinghi W 12 WBA/WBC light middleweight champion Ki Soo Kim.
15) June 18, 1965 – San Siro Stadium – Nino Benvenuti KO 6 WBA/WBC light middleweight champion Sandro Mazzinghi.
16) September 7, 1963 – Velodromo Vigorelli – Sandro Mazzinghi TKO 9 WBA/WBC light middleweight champion Ralph Dupas.
17) December 15, 1962 – Palazzo dello Sport – Duilio Loi W 15 WBA light welterweight champion Eddie Perkins.
18) September 14, 1962 – Eddie Perkins W 15 WBA light welterweight champion Duilio Loi.
19) October 21, 1961 – Palazzo dello Sport – NBA light welterweight champion Duilio Loi D 15 with Eddie Perkins.
20) May 10, 1961 – San Siro Stadium – NBA light welterweight champion Duilio Loi W 15 Carlos Ortiz.
21) September 1, 1960 – San Siro Stadium – Duilio Loi W 15 NBA light welterweight champion Carlos Ortiz.
22) March 19, 1933 – Palazzo dello Sport – IBU bantamweight champion Panama Al Brown W 15 Domenico Bernasconi.