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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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Anderson Cruises by Vapid Merhy and Ajagba edges Vianello in Texas

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Jared Anderson returned to the ring tonight on a Top Rank card in Corpus Christi, Texas. Touted as the next big thing in the heavyweight division, Anderson (17-0, 15 KOs) hardly broke a sweat while cruising past Ryad Merhy in a bout with very little action, much to the disgruntlement of the crowd which started booing as early as the second round. The fault was all Merhy as he was reluctant to let his hands go. Somehow, he won a round on the scorecard of judge David Sutherland who likely fell asleep for a round for which he could be forgiven.

Merhy, born in the Ivory Coast but a resident of Brussels, Belgium, was 32-2 (26 KOs) heading in after fighting most of his career as a cruiserweight. He gave up six inches in height to Anderson who was content to peck away when it became obvious to him that little would be coming back his way.

Anderson may face a more daunting adversary on Monday when he has a court date in Romulus, Michigan, to answer charges related to an incident in February where he drove his Dodge Challenger at a high rate speed, baiting the police into a merry chase. (Weirdly, Anderson entered the ring tonight wearing the sort of helmet that one associates with a race car driver.)

Co-Feature

In the co-feature, a battle between six-foot-six former Olympians, Italy’s Guido Vianello started and finished strong, but Efe Ajagba had the best of it in the middle rounds and prevailed on a split decision. Two of the judges favored Ajagba by 96-94 scores with the dissenter favoring the Italian from Rome by the same margin.

Vianello had the best round of the fight. He staggered Ajagba with a combination in round two. At the end of the round, a befuddled Ajagba returned to the wrong corner and it appeared that an upset was brewing. But the Nigerian, who trains in Las Vegas under Kay Koroma, got back into the fight with a more varied offensive attack and better head movement. In winning, he improved his ledger to 20-1 (14). Vianello, who sparred extensively with Daniel Dubois in London in preparation for this fight, declined to 12-2-1 in what was likely his final outing under the Top Rank banner.

Other Bouts of Note

In the opening bout on the main ESPN platform, 35-year-old super featherweight Robson Conceicao, a gold medalist for Brazil in the 2016 Rio Olympics, stepped down in class after fighting Emanuel Navarrete tooth-and-nail to a draw in his previous bout and scored a seventh-round stoppage of Jose Ivan Guardado who was a cooked goose after slumping to the canvas after taking a wicked shot to the liver. Guardado made it to his feet, but the end was imminent and the referee waived it off at the 2:27 mark.

Conceicao improved to 18-1 (9 KOs). It was the U.S. debut for Guardado (15-2-1), a boxer from Ensenada, Mexico who had done most of his fighting up the road in Tijuana.

Ruben Villa, the pride of Salinas, California, improved to 22-1 (7) and moved one step closer to a match with WBC featherweight champion Rey Vargas with a unanimous 10-round decision over Tijuana’s Cristian Cruz (22-7-1). The judges had it 97-93 and 98-92 twice.

Cruz, the son of former IBF world featherweight title-holder Cristobal Cruz, was better than his record. He entered the bout on a 21-1-1 run after losing five of his first seven pro fights.

Cleveland southpaw Abdullah Mason, who turned 20 earlier this month, continued his fast ascent up the lightweight ladder with a fourth-round stoppage of Ronal Ron.

Mason (13-0, 11 KOs) put Ron on the canvas in the opening round with a short left hook. He scored a second knockdown with a shot to the liver. A flurry of punches, a diverse array, forced the stoppage at the 1:02 mark of round four. A 25-year-old SoCal-based Venezuelan, the spunky but out-gunned Ron declined to 14-6.

Charly Suarez, a 35-year-old former Olympian from the Philippines, ranked #5 at junior lightweight by the IBF, advanced to 17-0 (9) with a unanimous 8-round decision over SoCal’s Louie Coria (5-7).

This was a tactical fight. In the final round, Coria, subbing for 19-0 Henry Lebron, caught the Filipino off-balance and knocked him into the ropes which held him up. It was scored a knockdown, but came too little, too late for Coria who lost by scores of 76-75 and 77-74 twice.

Suarez, whose signature win was a 12th-round stoppage of the previously undefeated Aussie Paul Fleming in Sydney, may be headed to a rematch with Robson Conceicao. They fought as amateurs in 2016 in Kazakhstan and Suarez lost a narrow 6-round decision.

Photo credit: Mikey Willams / Top Rank via Getty Images

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Ellie Scotney and Rhiannon Dixon Win World Title Fights in Manchester

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England’s Ellie Scotney started slowly against the long reach of France’s Segolene Lefebvre but used rough tactics and a full-steam ahead approach to unify the super bantamweight division by unanimous decision on Saturday.

“There’s a lot more I didn’t show,” said an excited Scotney (pictured on the left).

IBF titlist Scotney (9-0) added the WBO title by nullifying Lefebvre’s (18-1) reach and dominating the inside with a two-fisted attack in front of an excited crowd in Manchester, England.

For the first two rounds Lefebvre used her long reach and smooth fluid attack to keep Scotney at the end of her punches. Then the fight turned when the British fighter bulled her way inside with body shots and forced the French fighter into the ropes.

Aggressiveness by Scotney turned the fight in her favor. But Lefebvre remained active and countered with overhand rights throughout the match.

Body shots by Scotney continued to pummel the French champion’s abdomen but she remained steadfast in her counter-attacks. Combinations landed for Lefebvre and a counter overhand right scored to keep her in the contest in the fifth round.

Scotney increased the intensity of her attack in the sixth and seventh rounds. In perhaps her best round Scotney was almost perfect in scoring while not getting hit with anything from the French fighter.

Maybe the success of the previous round caused Scotney to pause. It allowed Lefebvre to rally behind some solid shots in a slow round and gave the French fighter an opening. Maybe.

The British fighter opened up more savagely after taking two Lefevbre rights to open the ninth. Scotney attacked with bruising more emphatic blows despite getting hit. Though both fired blows Scotney’s were more powerful.

Both champions opened-up the 10th and final round with punches flying. Once again Scotney’s blows had more power behind them though the French fighter scored too, and though her face looked less bruised than Scotney’s the pure force of Scotney’s attacks was more impressive.

All three judges saw Scotney the winner 97-93, 96-94 and a ridiculous 99-91. The London-based fighter now has the IBF and WBO super bantamweight titles.

Promoter Eddie Hearn said a possible showdown with WBC titlist Erika Cruz looms large possibly in the summer.

“Great performance. Great punch output,” said Hearn of Scotney’s performance.

Dixon Wins WBO Title

British southpaw Rhiannon Dixon (10-0) out-fought Argentina’s Karen Carabajal (22-2) over 10 rounds and won a very competitive unanimous decision to win the vacant WBO lightweight title. It was one of the titles vacated by Katie Taylor who is now the undisputed super lightweight world champion.

An aggressive Dixon dominated the first three rounds including a knockdown in the third round with a perfect left-hand counter that dropped Carabajal. The Argentine got up and rallied in the round.

Carabajal, whose only loss was against Katie Taylor, slowly began figuring out Dixon’s attacks and each round got more competitive. The Argentine fighter used counter rights to find a hole in Dixon’s defense to probably win the round in the sixth.

The final three rounds saw both fighters engage evenly with Carabajal scoring on counters and Dixon attacking the body successfully.

After 10 rounds all three judges saw it in Dixon’s favor 98-91, 97-92, 96-93 who now wields the WBO lightweight world title.

“It’s difficult to find words,” said Dixon after winning the title.

Hometown Fighter Wins

Manchester’s Zelfa Barrett (31-2, 17 KOs) battled back and forth with Jordan Gill (28-3-1, 9 KO-s) and finally ended the super featherweight fight with two knockdowns via lefts to the body in the 10th round of a scheduled 12-round match for a regional title.

The smooth moving Barrett found the busier Gill more complex than expected and for the first nine rounds was fighting a 50/50 fight against the fellow British fighter from the small town of Chatteris north of London.

In the 10th round after multiple shots on the body of Gill, a left hook to the ribs collapsed the Chatteris fighter to the floor. He willed himself up and soon after was floored again but this time by a left to the solar plexus. Again he continued but was belted around until the referee stopped the onslaught by Barrett at 2:44 of the 10th.

“A tough, tough fighter,” said Barrett about Gill. “I had to work hard.”

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O.J. Simpson the Boxer: A Heartwarming Tale for the Whole Family

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O.J. Simpson passed away on Wednesday, April 10, at age 76 in Las Vegas where he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. For millions of Americans, news of his passing unloosed a flood of memories.

The O.J. Simpson double murder trial lasted 37 weeks. CNN and two other fledgling cable networks provided gavel-to-gavel coverage. On Oct. 3, 1995, the day that the jury rendered its verdict, CBS, NBC, ABC, and ESPN suspended regular programming to cover the trial. Worldwide, more than 100 million people were reportedly glued to their TV or radio.

O.J.’s life can be neatly compartmentalized into two halves. The dividing line is June 12, 1994. On that date, Simpson’s estranged wife, the former Nicole Brown, and her friend Ronald Goldman were found stabbed to death in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Brentwood at the home that Nicole shared with their two children.

Before then, O.J. was famous. After then, he was infamous.

Simpson first came to the fore on the gridiron. In 1968, his final season at the University of Southern California, he was so dynamic that he won the Heisman Trophy in a landslide, out-distancing Purdue’s Leroy Keyes by 1,750 votes. This was the widest margin to that point between a Heisman winner and runner-up and a milestone that stood for 51 years until surpassed by LSU quarterback Joe Burrows in 2019.

In the NFL, among his many achievements, he became the first and only NFL running back to eclipse 2,000 rushing yards in a 14-game season, a record that will never be broken.

But one can’t appreciate the depth of O.J.s celebrityhood by citing statistics. He transcended his sport like few athletes before or since. Owing in large part to his commercials for the Hertz rental car chain, he became one of America’s most recognizable people.

O.J. Simpson was raised by a single mother in a government housing project in the gritty Potrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco. Unlike many of his boyhood peers, he was never quick to raise his fists. Weirdly, he once said that running away from fights proved useful to him when he took up football. It helped his stamina.

Although he never boxed in real life, O.J. portrayed a boxer in a made-for-TV movie. Titled “Goldie and the Boxer,” it aired on NBC on Sunday, Dec. 29, 1979, two weeks after O.J. played in his last NFL game. Co-produced by Simpson’s own production company, it starred O.J. opposite precocious Melissa Michaelson who played the 10-year-old Goldie.

In promos, the movie was tagged as a heartwarming tale for kids and their parents. Associated Press writer John Egan described it as “a cross between the Shirley Temple classic ‘Little Miss Marker’ and a low-budget ‘Rocky.’”

Here’s a synopsis, compliments of New York Times TV critic John J. O’Connor:

“The year is 1946, and Joe Gallagher is returning to Louisiana as an army veteran. He is quickly ripped off by a succession of thugs and finds himself broke and battered in Pennsylvania where he is befriended by a young Goldie. Her father is a boxer and Joe joins the training camp as a sparring partner. When the father dies, Joe takes his place on the fight circuit and Goldie becomes his manager…”

The consensus of the pundits was that O.J. the actor was very much a work in progress, but that he had great potential. And the movie, despite its hokey plot, attracted so many viewers that NBC wanted to turn it into a series.

O.J. had too much on his plate to commit to doing a regular series. Among other things, he had signed on to become part of NBC’s main stable of reporters at the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, a gig that evaporated when the U.S. under President Jimmy Carter joined 64 other nations in boycotting the Games as a protest against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. However, the movie did spawn a sequel, “Goldie and the Boxer Go To Hollywood,” with Simpson and Michaelson reprising their roles.

I never met O.J. Simpson, but have a vivid memory of finding myself walking behind him into the outdoor boxing arena at Caesars Palace. If memory serves, this was the Hagler-Hearns fight of 1985, in which case the lady on his arm would have been Nicole as they were married earlier that year. She was quite a dish in that tight-fitting pantsuit and I remember thinking to myself, “of all the trophies this dude has won, here is the best trophy of them all.” (Forgive me.)

Simpson had cameo roles in several movies before leaving USC. When he finally turned his back on football, the world was his oyster. O.J., wrote Barry Lorge in the Washington Post, was “bright, affable, charming, articulate and credible, a public relation man’s dream-come true.”

No one would have foreseen the swerve his life would take.

When the jury, after only four hours of deliberation, returned a verdict of “not guilty,” there was cheering in some corners of America. The overwhelming consensus of the white population, however, was that the verdict was an abomination, a gross miscarriage of justice.

We’ll leave it at that.

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