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Peter Broudy Remembers… Don Chargin and The Olympic Auditorium

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Over the past fifteen years, TSS has had the good fortune of featuring the works of highly talented boxing authors and journalists. We have a loyal fan base and we also have a loyal following from within the industry itself.  We are going to be reaching out to those who answer the bell every day, those that add to the fabric of the sport, to pen something more personal and unique that may have escaped the eyes and ears of the boxing public. 

The first article up is a request made upon promoter Peter Broudy, regarding the recent passing of Don Chargin, a legendary boxing figure on the West Coast. Considering Chargin’s friendship and mentoring, Peter was the perfect guy for the task, not to mention their involvement with the historic Grand Olympic Auditorium, which is part of the sport’s rich history. What follows are some of Peter’s recollections of Don, the Olympic Auditorium, and a few other names you might recognize.

Peter Broudy Remembers… Don Chargin and The Olympic Auditorium

In the fifties and sixties, boxing was a prominent sport in the United States. I was a young boy and I could hardly wait for the weekly fights. That is when I first heard the name Chargin, as he was the promoter. The fights were held in the most famous boxing venue in the world, The Olympic Auditorium at 18th and Grand in Downtown Los Angeles. Built in 1924, The Olympic hosted the best fighters in the world from the 1920’s through the 1990’s.

The fights were broadcast on local TV, long before cable TV existed.  KTLA Channel 5 televised the weekly fights from the Olympic, with legendary TV and radio personality Jim Healy calling the action along with Dick Lane.  This is when I first became familiar with the phrase “War-a-Week” Chargin.

Don became known as “War-a-Week” Chargin because of his great matchmaking ability. He managed to put together competitive fights each and every week, and even with free local TV, the Olympic was busting at the seams to hold over 10,000 jammed-in fans, with standing room only. And there was a wide spectrum of fans in attendance… from the most glamorous Hollywood movie stars arriving in chauffeur driven limousines, to fieldworkers from Tijuana, and everybody in between.

The fights brought the best in professional sports entertainment to Los Angeles. At that time, professional sports were limited to the Los Angeles Rams that had recently moved to LA from Cleveland, and the Dodgers that had relocated from Brooklyn in 1958.  Unlike today, boxing was front-page news every week.

Besides the great wealth of world class professional fighters, Chargin also featured amateur fights before the weekly pro card began, and those fights were also televised.  Many of the amateurs went on to very successful pro careers and some became world champions.  Many became household names such as Mando Ramos, Frankie Crawford and Joey Orbillo. The fans loved these young stars of the future, almost as much as Los Angeles’ “Golden Boy” Art Aragon, the most popular fighter to this day in Los Angeles.

The name Don Chargin will forever be linked to the nearly 100-year-old Olympic Auditorium.  Chargin will be remembered along with the great personalities of the Olympic.  Aileen Eaton (the female promoter), Luis Magaña (the legendary publicist), the original ring announcer, Jimmy Lennon (father of Jimmy Lennon, Jr.) the great fight doctor, Dr. Bernard Schwartz (always wearing the white doctor smock), managers like Jackie McCoy, Benny Georgino, and never to be forgotten, “El Ruso Loco” “Da Beegman” Harry Kabakoff with those wild, crazy Hawaiian shirts.

Chargin was every bit as significant as any of the great names that fought at the Olympic Auditorium on a regular basis, such as Mando Ramos, Frankie Crawford, Joey Orbillo, Ray “Windmill” White, Big Ernie “Indian Red” Lopez, his younger brother and future world champion Danny “Little Red” Lopez, Hedgemon Lewis, Carlos Palomino, Jesus Pimentel, Ruben Navarro, and of course, the “Golden Boy” Art Aragon. All of these individuals became famous because of the platform to excel that was provided to them by “War-a-Week” Chargin.

Don’s name is synonymous with all things Olympic Auditorium, including 18th and Grand, Giant Felix Chevrolet on Figueroa, the beautiful marquis on the front of the Olympic, the “celebrity section”, the gamblers section, KTLA channel 5, Jim Healy & Dick Lane, the wannabes and the something specials, and who could forget the famous sign above the ring with the following: RI 9-5171 (The Olympic’s phone number RI-Richmond, long before area codes were used). This is the building that Don was influential in shaping and helped make boxing must see entertainment in Los Angeles.

Don Chargin was both my friend and mentor for well over 30 years. I love him like family. I first met him when I attended a California State Athletic Commission monthly meeting in the early 1980s in Palm Springs, California.  I was lucky enough to meet both Don and his lifetime partner and love of his life, Lorraine. At the commission meeting, Don kindly introduced me to Aileen Eaton, the legendary promoter at the Olympic Auditorium. Though she was wheelchair bound, she was, even at her advanced age, a remarkable woman. Aileen, Lorraine and Don were all involved with the Olympic, and “War-a-Week” Chargin is known for the memorable bouts featured there from 1965-1984.

Don was a licensed promoter for 69 years and became the most knowledgeable man in boxing. For over half a century, he taught many people about boxing and the art of promoting. From the day I first met him, he was always there for me to answer any questions I had. When I took over promotions at the Olympic Auditorium in the mid 1990’s, Don’s advice was invaluable.

The Needleman family were the owners of the Olympic Auditorium. While we were negotiating, I made a promise to them that I could fill the Olympic and bring it back as close as possible to the glory days of Eaton and the Chargins.  I reached out to Don and we discussed the formula required in order to bring instant success back to the grand old building that, since being renovated, had still not had much success in that first year under Bob Arum’s Top Rank. Chargin knew that I wanted to bring the spotlight back to the greatest venue in the world, rather than simply using the Olympic as a sound stage for ESPN shows.

At that time Don, along with Dan Duva, was managing the career of Ramon “Yory Boy” Campas. In a fight for the IBF welterweight title in September of 1994, Campas experienced his first loss to rising star, Puerto Rico’s Felix Trinidad. There were many fight fans who wrote “Yory Boy” off after the fourth round TKO, especially those from his home country of Mexico. We decided that Campas was the right guy for the Olympic.

The LA Times printed a story by Tim Kawakami on June 18th, 1995 entitled “From Glory Days to Yory Days. Campas has breathed new life into Grand Olympic Auditorium.” Chargin is quoted as saying, “I told Peter he’d be the guy to draw at the Olympic. Number 1, he’s a real Mexican. He’s from there. He’s had the majority of his fights in Mexico, he will take two punches to land one, and he’s a puncher, which they like.” The way the guy meets the people and shakes hands, he just typifies the fighter from below the border that they really like.  “I will admit they needed each other,” Chargin said of the fighter and the old building. “His career, after losing to Trinidad, needed a boost and the Olympic needed a boost.”

The rest is history, as “Yory Boy’” brought a huge turnout to the Olympic. And not just once, he came back a short time later and again delivered a full house and thrilling fight. The fans loved it. “Yory Boy” was back.  At the end of Tim’s article about “Yory Boy” and the venue, Chargin emphasized that the key was to do what the old Olympic did, keep finding young fighters who can draw the real fight crowd. “Peter’s not afraid to work, so he’s probably going to be successful,” stated Chargin. Which is something Top Rank, for all its power and name fighters, could not do.  Chargin also said,“I heard that Arum told (Top Rank Matchmaker) Bruce Trampler ‘Your friend Chargin gave the new promoter “Yory Boy”. Why didn’t he give him to us?’” “Thing was,” Chargin said, “they never asked.”

Don Chargin must be credited for The Olympic Auditorium taking off again in the 90s.

Don and I talked every day and each conversation always evolved into a discussion of what fighters to bring to the Olympic.  Once again, Don helped me out and was able to get Hector “Macho” Camacho, who was one of my most favorite fighters.  We both were very confident that Hector was the type of fighter that could fill the Olympic Auditorium. Even though Hector was not a Mexican National, we both felt that the type of fans at the Olympic appreciated Hector’s immense talent.  And because he fought in weight divisions that Mexican fans closely follow, they had seen him fight many times on TV.  It is important to note that in boxing, not only was Hector not a Mexican, he was also the natural enemy, a Puerto Rican.  Best of all, Hector had never fought in Southern California.  In fact, the only time Hector fought in California was many years before, when he fought for my man Don in Northern California. We both knew that the Los Angeles fans would appreciate being treated to this great showman.

The only thing was that I had some reservations in the back of my mind because of all the crazy stories that were out there about Hector.  Don assured me that I would love working with Hector, to forget all the craziness that people saw on TV. Don told me that Hector was a real gentleman, very business-like, and was a promoter’s best friend because no one could hype a fight the way Hector could. Hector understood that promoters and fighters needed to work together so that the show would be highly anticipated and a truly memorable night for the fans.  Everything Don told me about Hector was true, and the Olympic Auditorium was rockin’ the night Hector fought.

Don shared a funny story about Hector.  Years before, when Hector fought for Don, after the fight was over, Hector asked Don to please hold his money and later, he would let Don know where to send it.  I believe his purse was $80,000, so we are talking about a significant amount of money.  Don deposited Hector’s purse into a separate account.  Years went by, and Don told me Hector finally called him. To the best of my recollection, the conversation went almost exactly as follows: Hector introduced himself, “Mr. Chargin, this is Hector.”  After Don acknowledged him, Hector said, “Mr. Chargin, do you still have the $80,000?”  Don told me that although he had a big smile on his face, he said in a serious tone, “Hector, I don’t have the $80,000.” Don waited for Hector to say something, but there was just silence on the other end.  Don finally spoke up, saying “Hector, I don’t have the $80,000, but what I do have is your $80,000 plus whatever interest has accrued after all these years.”  Hector laughed and told Don how much he loved him and then gave him the address of where to send the money.

What’s ironic about this story is that after Hector fought for me at the Olympic, we had a similar situation.  After Hector’s fight, which the crowd loved, I went down to Hector’s dressing room.  I wanted to thank him for a great show and tell him what a pleasure it was working with him and his team.  Hector pulled me into an adjoining room, so that we were alone and could have a private conversation.  Things proceeded as follows: Hector said to me, “Peter, the whole experience of fighting at the Olympic was great. I enjoyed the public workouts every day at Brooklyn Gym and I was happy doing all the interviews.” (Hector went by limo every night to different radio and tv stations, hyping the fight.  He was even a guest on the Monday Night Football game telecast the week of the fight.  I never saw any fighter work that hard to help a promotion, he really understood the whole boxing business.) Hector continued the conversation and said, “Look Peter, I know you took a big risk putting me on a show with no television.  I know I am expensive, especially with all the plane flights I requested, and that you housed us in a beautiful hotel for almost two weeks.  Even though I know it was a great show and a big crowd, I know you couldn’t have made any money, and you may have even lost money.  I know what you’re doing with the Olympic and I feel honored to have fought in a building with such history.” (After the fight, I still owed Hector a balance of $25,000.)  Hector continued, “Why don’t you hold my $25,000 and in a month or so, you can start sending me $5000 a month until the entire purse is paid.”

That was the Hector Camacho I knew, not the Hector “Macho” Camacho the public saw on their TVs.  Once again, it all happened because of Don Chargin and Hector’s manager Mike Acri.  I could never thank Hector, Mike and especially Don enough.

I wanted to share another side of Don Chargin with you.  He was co-promoting a world championship fight with Don King. They were all busy during the week leading up to the fight. One day Don was in his hotel room with some people involved with the show.  There was a loud knock on the door and Don answered it.  One of the individuals involved with the promotion was there, out of breath, and excitedly telling Don that he had to get down to the lobby as fast as possible.  Don told the guy to calm down, catch his breath, and tell him what the problem was.  The guy told Don that his wife Lorraine was arguing jaw to jaw with Don King in the lobby and he needed to get down to the lobby asap to save Lorraine from King.  With a big smile on his face, Don told the guy that Lorraine wasn’t the one who needed saving, it was King! Lorraine was as tough as anyone in boxing and that is one of the reasons why Don and Lorraine Chargin made such a great match as partners in promoting and partners in life.

Don has had a huge impact both on my life and on the sport of boxing. He was not only instrumental, but also essential to the success of the Grand Olympic Auditorium. Chargin was a remarkable matchmaker and promoter. Personally, I consider him to be the Godfather of professional prizefighting. The boxing world has lost a legend in Don Chargin and he will be greatly missed.

By Peter Broudy

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Tyson Fury Roared and Deontay Wilder Remained Silent at their L.A. Presser

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TSS special correspondent LAUREN RODRIGUEZ was on the scene for the Top Rank Promotions press conference in downtown Los Angeles on June 15 at which the third meeting between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder was formally announced. Here is her report.

The third fight between Tyson “Gypsy King” Fury (30-1, 21 KOs.) and Deontay “The Bronze Bomber” Wilder (42-1-1, 41 KOs) will go down July 24th in Las Vegas at the T-Mobile Arena. This continued mash-up between the two comes 16 months since their last bout. The first fight, in December 2018, ended in a draw and their second in February 2020, ended in a victory for Fury in the 7th round.

Fury carried the press conference while Wilder remained largely muted.

The WBC champion Fury remains undefeated, a status he is adamant in maintaining. The heavyweight boasted a white suit patterned with images of himself in a crown and wearing the belt he won off Wilder.

“This is a reminder of what happened to him last time, this is a remembrance suit of Deontay Wilder’s ass-kicking.”

The “Gypsy King,” an entertainer, left little words unsaid as he berated his silent opponent.

“It shows how weak a mental person is, it shows the emotional effect the last fight had on his life… I was worried about him after the defeat I gave him,” said Fury.

An Alabama native, Wilder has a 93% knockout rate, the highest rate for any heavyweight.

Wilder wanted no part in other questions from Q/A moderator Christina Poncher, or the media, as he remained silent with headphones and sunglasses to shield him from questions.

Wilder’s trainer, longtime friend and former heavyweight contender Malik Scott answered very few questions for the fighter as tensions rose.

“He’s very stubborn, like most legends and gifted people they have their things with them. As long as he gives me what I want in the gym, I don’t care about the stubbornness cause we’re going to get this done,” said Scott.

If it’s one thing Fury and team all agree on, it’s that history will repeat itself in this third fight come July.

When it comes to what we can expect this time, Fury’s trainer SugarHill Steward stated, “All I have to say is, over time, he [Fury] now has power to knock a man out with one punch. His boxing IQ is one-punch knockout power.”

In Gypsy King fashion, we will have an entertaining show come next month. Fury intends on moving his weight all the way to 300, so he can give Wilder a bigger knockout in the ring and fans a bigger show.

“This time I’m hoping to take him out early, one, two, three rounds max.”

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Tokyo-Bound Aussie Heavyweight Justis Huni Stops Rugged Paul Gallen in the 10th

Arne K. Lang

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Had Justis Huni fought Paul Gallen two months ago, the match would have been trashed as little more than exhibition. During his record-tying 19 years in rugby, Gallen evolved into one of Australia’s most well-known sporting personalities. When Gallen took up boxing in 2014, it was thought that he did it as a lark; as a way of cashing in on his name recognition. And his first 11 opponents were a motley bunch of former rugby players, MMA fighters, 40-somethings, and boxing novices.

Then came the night of April 21, 2021. In a shocker, Gallen demolished former WBA heavyweight titlist Lucas “Big Daddy” Browne in less than two minutes. “Gallen transformed from a rugby league player to a bona fide prize fighter before our very eyes,” said prominent Australian sports journalist Andrew McMurtry.

That knocked Lucas Browne out of a lucrative match with Justis Huni and vaulted Paul Gallen, who turns 40 in August, to the head of the queue. They met Wednesday night (Australia time) at a convention center in Sydney and Huni, five-and-a-half inches taller, 15 pounds heavier, and the younger man by nearly 18 years, saddled Gallen (11-1-1) with his first defeat.

Heading into the fight, Gallen conceded that the heavily favored Huni was faster. However, he thought that he could wear the bigger man down. “If I get through those first four to five rounds, I’ll be in his face the whole time and I think I can knock him out late,” he said.

It proved to be the other way around. Huni dominated the fight and when he knocked Gallen down in the 10th with a big right hook, the referee stepped in and stopped it. But Gallen, who had a bum shoulder from his rugby days and thought that he fought most of the fight with a broken rib, showed tremendous heart.

It was the fifth professional fight for Huni (5-0, 4 KOs) who won the Australian heavyweight title in his pro debut. Of Dutch, Swedish, Samoan, and Tongan heritage, he quit school at age 15 to give boxing his full attention and will represent Australia in the Tokyo Olympics which start next month.

Brisbane-born Huni is already being talked-about as the best-ever Australian-born heavyweight. The rap against him is a lack of one-punch knockout power which won’t be a detriment in Tokyo.

In undercard bouts of note, Brisbane middleweight Isaac Hardman (11-0, 9 KOs) scored a 4th-round stoppage of Emmanuel Carlos (12-2) and middleweight Andrei Mikhailovich, a Russian residing in Auckland, New Zealand, advanced to 16-0 (9) with a second-round stoppage of previously undefeated Alex Hanan (13-1).

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Three Pros are Joining the U.S. Olympic Boxing Team, Ruffling Some Feathers

Arne K. Lang

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USA Boxing, the agency that controls amateur boxing in the United States, has a rule that prohibits professional boxers from competing in their tournaments. That rule remains in effect, but yet three pro boxers – middleweight Troy Isley, lightweight Keyshawn Davis, and featherweight Duke Ragan – will suit up for the United States in the forthcoming Tokyo Games. The announcement, which fell largely under the radar, came on June 7.

USA Boxing is subservient to AIBA, the sport’s international governing body, and to the International Olympic Committee. The Boxing Task Force of the IOC changed the rules to allow Isley, Davis and Ragan to compete and the honchos at USA Boxing are none too happy about it.

Blame the Covid-19 pandemic which forced the postponement and ultimately the cancellation of several qualifying tournaments including the “Americas” tournament in Buenos Aires at which boxers from 42 national federations – including the United States — would be competing for the Olympic slots allocated to this region. A total of 286 boxers from around the world will compete in Tokyo in the eight men’s and five women’s weight divisions with the coveted slots dispersed among four Continental Regional Divisions.

With no tournament, the Task Force redesigned the quota allocation process using world rankings to determine the national squads. The rankings were formulated using a point system from events held between January 2017 and October 2019.

The re-jiggering opened the door for Isley, Davis, and Ragan to rejoin the team. Isley and Davis had their first pro fight in February of this year. Ragan turned pro in August of 2020.

Team USA protested that the BTF allocation was unfair to the boxers that finished first in the final domestic qualifying tournament (December 2019 in Lake Charles, Louisiana), but their claim was denied. Isley and Ragan were knocked out of that tournament before reaching the finals; Davis finished first when his opponent in the finals took ill and had to pull out, but he was subsequently booted off the team, reputedly for missing too many practices which he attributed to a family health emergency. That unfrocking has been rescinded.

Before he left the team, Keyshawn Davis was considered the U.S. boxer with the best chance of winning a gold medal in Tokyo. A southpaw, he earned his spurs at the Alexandria Boxing Club in North Alexandria, Virginia, which was also the home gym of Troy Isley who lived right down the street.

The common thread between all three of the returnees is Kay Koroma who coached Davis and Isley at the Alexandria club where he was the top lieutenant to the club’s patriarch Dennis Porter and at the Olympic & Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs where he served as an assistant to Billy Walsh. Duke Ragan, who hails from Cincinnati, is Koroma’s nephew.

Koroma came to the fore in 2016 when he earned raves for his work with Olympians Claressa Shields. Shakur Stevenson, Charles Conwell and others. But Koroma, one of the hottest young trainers in the sport, won’t be available to work with the 2020/21 team before it heads off to Tokyo. “My plate is too full,” he told The Sweet Science.

Koroma, like many of his former pupils, turned pro himself. He continues to work with Shakur Stevenson, whom he has known since Shakur was 13 years old, he assists veteran coach Al Mitchell with Mikaela Mayer and he recently replaced Ronnie Shields as the head trainer of rising heavyweight contender Efe Ajagba.

Isley, Davis, and Ragan comprise three-fifths of the men’s Olympic team. Super heavyweight Richard Torrez Jr and welterweight Delante “Tiger” Johnson flesh out the quintet.

USA Boxing released a letter to its membership expressing frustration over the decision of the IOC Task Force which killed the dreams of seven boxers who hoped to snare an Olympic berth at the Buenos Aires tournament or, barring that, the Last Chance tournament in Paris which was also a casualty of the pandemic. The letter can be read at the USA Boxing web site.

The seven boxers who were fenced out are:

Darius Fulgham (heavyweight, Houston, TX)

Rahim Gonzalez (light heavyweight, Las Vegas, NV)

Joseph Hicks (middleweight, Lansing, MI)

Charlie Sheehy (lightweight, Brisbane, CA)

Bruce Carrington (featherweight, Brooklyn, NY)

Anthony Herrera (flyweight, East Los Angeles, CA)

and

women’s flyweight Andrea Medina (San Diego, CA).

USA Boxing insists there are no plans to allow professionals to compete for the United States in the 2024 Olympiad and beyond. This is a one-shot exception forced by a unique circumstance. But, needless to say, when it comes to amateur boxing, nothing is etched in stone.

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