George Parnassus was one of the top promoters in boxing history. He expanded the range of boxing venues and saw the value in promoting fighters in the smaller weight classes. Born in Methone, Greece in 1897, Parnassus followed his brother to the United States in 1916 and first found work as a waiter and dishwasher. Eventually, he and his brother saved enough money to purchase a restaurant in Phoenix, Arizona. The restaurant happened to be located across the street from a fight gym. Legend has it that the fighters began running up unpaid bills at the restaurant, and Parnassus began managing them to settle the debts.
As a manager, Parnassus had great success with Mexican boxers, such as lightweight champ Juan Zurita, Enrique Bolanos, bantamweight champ Raton Macias, and Jose Beccera. In the late 1950s, Parnassus moved from managing to matchmaking and promoting. In 1957 he became the matchmaker for the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles. Parnassus's shrewd matchmaking ability helped save the Olympic from financial ruin.
Parnassus believed that good boxing matches would draw fans and make money. Therefore, he excelled in matching fighters in smaller weight classes when his rivals were concentrating on the heavyweights. He promoted a bantamweight title bout between Jose Beccera and Alphonse Halimi and a junior welterweight championship match between Carlos Ortiz and Battling Torres on the same card at the massive Los Angeles Coliseum, which had not previously been used for boxing. The event was a huge success and gave Parnassus a well-deserved reputation as one of the greatest promoters in the world.
In the 1960s, Parnassus staged fights in such diverse locales as Wales, Mexico, Japan, Thailand, Argentina, Italy, and England. During this period, Parnassus helped establish and finance the World Boxing Council (WBC), which became a top international sanctioning body. Starting in 1966, Parnassus staged successful bouts in Jack Kent Cooke's new venue, The Fabulous Forum in Los Angeles. Ruben Olivares and Jose Napoles were his top draws during this period.
Throughout his career, Parnassus always aimed for top quality shows. He declared, "The thing is not to be the richest promoter in the world, but to be the best." His honesty and fairness were highly valued in professional boxing. Parnassus died of a heart attack in 1975.
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Excerpted with permission from 'The Boxing Register' by James B. Roberts and Alexander G. Skutt, copyright © 1999 by McBooks Press. All rights reserved.