Charley Goldman ‘Israel’: A Biography

Charley Goldman

DOB: December 21, 1888, Warsaw, Poland.
RIP: November 11, 1968.
Gym: Stillman’s Gym & CYO Gym.
Location: New York
Boxing Background: Amateur Boxer and Boxing Trainer.
Notable Fighters: Lou Ambers, Marty Servo, Joey Archibald, and Rocky Marciano!

Charley Goldman: Early Years

Though Charley Goldman was born ‘Israel Goldman’ in Poland 1888, he grew up as ‘Charley’ in the tough Red Hook area of Brooklyn, New York and learned to fight on the streets. Initially, it was said Charley did this to protect his older brother Sam. Whatever the reason, it was a tough upbringing that saw Goldman leave school by fourth grade and begin like so many aspiring boxers of the early years, fighting in the back of bars just to earn some spending money.

Charley Goldman: Boxing Career

Charley, the Professional

In 1904 at the age of 16, Charley Goldman turned professional and claimed to have engaged in over 400 fights. The fact that boxing was only ‘quasi legal’ at the time and in its infancy, meant records were not properly kept. So Charley is actually only officially attributed as having engaged in 137 recorded fights, of which he won 36 (20 by KO) lost 6 with the other 95 either declared a draw or non-decision bouts. The discrepancy between Goldman’s claimed number of fights and actual recorded fights not seen as detrimental to him in any way for it was just how things were back then. 

Indeed, Charley fought many respected fighters including Benny Kaufman, Joe Wagner, George Kitson, Paddy Callahan, Phil Mcgovern, Young Britt, Knockout Brown, Young Ziringer, Frankie Burns, Patsy Brannigan, Charlie Harvey, Tommy Houck, George ‘KO’ Chaney, Kid Williams, Jonny Solzberg, Johnny Coulson and Abe Friedman. So his credibility was never doubted and it is widely acknowledged that he did in fact fight many more times than his record states.

Charley, unbelievable fights as a fighter!

A protégé of his idol Bantamweight champion Terry McGovern, Goldman began his professional career in a rather unique way. His first bout as a professional was held in a Brooklyn saloon and would incredibly be declared a draw when police saw fit to stop the bout after 42 rounds!

In some other equally remarkable memories of Charley’s time in the ring as a professional, Charley would fight his rival Whitey Kitson 60 times! Indeed they would once fight each other twice on the same day! Whilst another time, they fought each other in 12 bouts in 12 consecutive days!

Goldman would fight most of his professional career at Bantamweight. Even fighting then champion, Johnny Coulon in a no decision bout. Nevertheless, despite a very colourful period as a professional which lasted from 1904-1914, Charley would not become a world champion. A reason often cited is that although Goldman was considered a top notch fighter, he had brittle hands which affected his ability as a puncher. Charley broke his hands countless times during his career, so much so that he was left with deformed knuckles and fingers as a result. 

Charley Goldman: The Trainer

After retiring in 1914, Charley quickly found success as a trainer. He trained Al McCoy to the Boxing World Middleweight Championship from 1914-1917. McCoy fought in a total of 157 bouts with 44 Wins (27 KO’s), 6 losses and 6 draws. Similarly to Charley, McCoy saw many of his fights -107 declared no decision fights. The reason for which was: Referees and judges during this era could not register a decision for fights in New York (and most other states) except in the case of a disqualification or knockout. Though remarkably ‘newspapers’ could actually declare a bout a draw! The Walker Law which legalised boxing in 1920 helped put a stop to this as the sport became regulated and more professional.

Goldman briefly would team up with manager Al Weill for 5 years after the Walker Law took effect before largely taking leave of the sport until mid-1930. Whereby, he returned to work with Lightweight champion Lou Ambers, Welterweight champion Marty Servo and Featherweight champion Joey Archibald. All of whom were great fighters in their own right. It was not until the late 1940’s and early ‘50s however that Charley Goldman would achieve enduring fame for training probably the most famous boxer of all time: Rocky Marciano.

Goldman’s Golden Guy – Rocky Marciano!

When Charley Goldman first saw Rocky Marciano, he saw a fighter with a great punch but a very crude style. This was almost tailor made for Charley’s basic boxing philosophy: Improve fighters but do not change the fighter’s basic fighting style. Charley thereby sought to strengthen Marciano’s left jab, left hook and his defence. A dedicated fighter from the get go ‘Rocky’ would work tirelessly to implement Charley’s instructions and tactics and would go on to become the Heavyweight Champion of the World. Indeed, he would be the inspiration for many bar debates (and a few fights!) concerning whether he or Muhammad Ali were actually the greatest of all time or GOAT. Under ‘Charley’, ‘Rocky would amass a perfect record of 49 wins in 49 professional bouts with 43 knockouts! I guess 6 people could count themselves lucky!

Marciano would retire from boxing on April 27, 1956 at the age of 31, stating he wanted to spend more time with his family. Marciano would end his career as the only Heavyweight champion ever to remain undefeated. A record that holds to this day. An undisputedly talented fighter, who possessed all the assets that were needed to become World champion, Marciano nevertheless was a ‘diamond in the rough’. Goldman is universally considered as the mastermind who honed those talents to Marciano’s greatest advantage and made that diamond shine!

Charley would continue to train boxers and whilst he briefly worked with Argentinian Oscar Bonavena, he would never again train a world championship contender. 

Charlie Style!

One of the principal boxing teachers of the 20th century, Charley was also one of its most colourful. With his signature black derby hat, horn-rimmed glasses, and large cigar, the tough-faced, diminutive 5 foot 1 inch Goldman was a perfect foil for the New York boxing scene. A trainer who took great pleasure in his work, Israel ‘Charley’ Goldman quite simply is (like his greatest and most famous fighter) a legend of the boxing world.

Goldman’s ethos regarding boxing was summed up by himself with a quote in the New York Times: “Training a promising kid is like putting a quarter in one pocket and taking a dollar out of the other.”

Israel ‘Charley’ Goldman: Legacy

Charley Goldman died of a heart attack in 1968. The trainer of 5 world champions, Charley was liked and respected by boxers, trainers and sports writers alike as well as by many others who frequented the famed Stillman’s Gym.

Accolades

  • In 1992, Israel ‘Charley’ Goldman was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame
  • In 1999, Israel ‘Charley’ Goldman was inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame