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San Diego Sportscene / Dave Distel

Altinger Sticks His Chin Out Promoting Sport of Boxing

July 09, 1986|DAVE DISTEL

Picture Joan Kroc playing second base or Alex Spanos playing cornerback--or maybe Steven Spielberg as E.T.

These would be examples of background people, albeit influential background people, in the middle of the fray. Of course, these things do not really happen.

Or do they? Consider the case of one Mike Altinger.

Altinger is not exactly a household name. Most of his labors have been in obscurity, and may continue to be for a while longer. He is involved in what has not been a high-profile sport hereabouts.

Boxing.

It was Altinger's idea a few years ago that boxing might be nurtured back to a semblance of health in San Diego--and given a giant helping of respectability as well.

And so it was that Altinger literally and figuratively stuck his chin out on the evening of Dec. 2, 1982. That was when Golden Star Promotions promoted its first card at the Al Bahr Shrine.

Altinger, the president of Golden Star, was more than that on the first opening nights. The Prez wore many hats, and boxing gloves as well.

One of the fighters on that program was Mike Altinger, a 31-year-old who had fought a number of amateur bouts and thought he might be missing something if he did not give the professional ranks a try.

He made his debut as boxer and promoter simultaneously.

"It was a weird start," he said. "We had a crowd of about 500 that night and I sold 400 of those tickets to my friends. I made all the matches, set up 2,500 chairs, fought on the card and then paid the fighters."

He could have saved a little bit of the energy he expended on the chairs. It was kind of like that scene in "The Gold Rush" when Charlie Chaplin spent all day setting the table and ended up with a rather empty house.

However, all this was a new experience for Altinger, who had been a general contractor until interest rates and inflation dealt that career a knockout and caused him to turn to the ring.

He remembered sitting in the locker room that night, trying to sign tax forms with one hand while a glove was being laced to his other fist. At the same time, he was craning his neck toward the door wondering when the crowd might begin arriving.

A dual debut such as that was distracting.

"I got into the ring," he said, "and I was just lost. I didn't have any kind of a fight plan. I thought, 'Why am I here?' I knew I was in trouble."

Actually, according to his recollection, he did not do that badly in the fight itself, a scheduled four-rounder.

"I was doing great for the first three rounds," he said. "I got caught against the ropes in the fourth round and one knee went down. The referee stopped it. I was tired, but nothing was hurt but my pride."

Altinger decided he better concentrate on one career or another, either boxing or promoting boxing.

"I figured," he said, "that I would have a longer life as a promoter."

Not that it has been easy.

As Artie Dias, Golden Star's vice president, explained: "It seemed like we 'danced' in every roller rink in town for a while." There also was a stop in Santee, but a seriously injured fighter caused Santee to ban boxing.

Golden Star finally settled in the El Cortez Convention Center, where the office occupied maybe a third the space of a boxing ring. Altinger and Dias were almost elbow-to-elbow as they sat at their separate desks this week.

"One thing my bankers have always told me," Altinger said, "is to take it slow."

First of all, there had to be a change of image. The fact that the early programs jumped from roller rink to roller rink did not help establish stability, but the move to El Cortez did. Boxing had to be taken out of dingy quarters.

What's more, Altinger went after a corporate clientele. If it was good enough for the Olympics in Los Angeles, it was good enough for boxing in San Diego.

Altinger and Co. definitely will be out of dingy quarters on July 25, when Golden Star promotes an eight-fight card in the northeast corner of the parking lot at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium. This represents a rather literal and liberal breath of fresh air.

This will not be a Caesar's Palace caliber card, but more appropriately a reflection of what is happening to boxing hereabouts. Golden Star has ambitions, and so do bright young local prospects such as Sweet Irving Mitchell, Richard Aguirre, Rigo Lopez, David Gutierrez and Tony (Bazooka) Deluca. All will be part of The Punch-Out in the Parking Lot.

Altinger has put together corporate backing from an automobile dealer, a radio station and a beer distributor, and Golden Star already has sold out 24 ringside tables--most of those to businesses as well.

However, there is a bit more of a nut to crack here. The stadium facility will hold 6,000 fans, roughly four times as many as El Cortez.

"We felt it was time to go forward," Altinger said. "We think this will be a class affair."

Mike Altinger will enjoy this occasion in a tuxedo. His boxing trunks were retired Dec. 2, 1982.

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