by Wilson Pitts
“Protect Your Honor At All Times”
Charles Goldman grew up fighting in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn, New York. His official career was from 1904-1918. Goldman actually started fighting behind a bar for 25 cents per round when he was NINE years old! He stopped going to school and turned pro! Goldman estimated he had over 450 fights, according to the 1965 Ring Record Book, his record was 137 total bouts of record. Boxrec.com puts the total at 117 and says research continues as many of Goldmans’ fights went unrecorded.
Goldman was a real New York character from the old school. He was barely five feet tall, parted his hair down the middle and wore a bowler hat, a la the real Plug Uglies street gang, and carried a hip flask whose contents he would never reveal. [If you watch the TV version of Marciano’s September 23, 1952 title fight against Jersey Joe Walcott you can see Goldman mount the ring steps and press the flask to The Rock’s lips when Rocky is in distress after getting a caustic agent in his eyes.] He had a thousand one liners cultivated from 40 years of fight camps. My favorite is his response to being asked if he gave rub downs.
“I don’t do that,” he said “a good fighter don’t need one and a bad fighter don’t deserve one.”
On June 6, 1904, when he was 16 years old Goldman had his first professional fight of record. The Police Gazette wrote that "after 42 rounds of the fiercest kind of fighting ...the bout was declared a draw." The fight lasted close to three hours. The police raided the fight club and the promoter ran off with the proceeds so neither fighter got paid. This marked the official beginning of one of the most incredible careers of any student and teacher of “The Sweet Science.” Later known as “Doctor Goldman” he made a complete study of everything related to training fighters including medicine, physiology, and boxing styles. He could stop cuts better than a doctor. Goldman considered himself a self defense teacher and he was teaching these men to defend themselves in the roughest of situations, the professional prize ring.
On November 20, 1912 Goldman, weighing 113 1/2 went ten rounds with former world paperweight and bantamweight champ Johnny Coulon. In those days of no decisions the weight limits were different than they are today. Goldman is listed as a bantamweight but he scaled off under 115 [flyweight] throughout most of his career.
“I stayed the ten rounds with Johnny, but I was in a trance. Any time a fighter meets his first champion it’s bound to have an effect on him.” Corner Men by Ron Fried
Goldman continued to fight for another six years, his last fight was in April of1918 against Bobby Waugh 44-10-10 in Fort Worth, Texas. The by then 30 year old Goldman was DQ'd in the 8th round for a low blow.
After this Charley Goldman started working as a trainer, the role in boxing that he became most famous for. Goldman schooled many fighters who went on to be World Champions. He trained Al McCoy in the 20’s and then got out of boxing for a while. During the Depression he came back to boxing and partnered with Ray Arcel and trained several of Joe Louis' opponents in the 30's and 40's men like Johnny Risko and Arturo Godoy. From 1930-34 Charley trained Arnold Cream. Cream went on to fame as Jersey Joe Walcott. Goldman was a great teacher who let fighters develop their own style, he tried to help them understand fine points like adjusting the range, making opponents miss and then let each fighter find their own way to execute. You can really see this with Walcott who was trained and taught by two of the best, Goldman and Jack Blackburn who, incidentally, had a mutual respect for each other’s work.
Charley Goldman was famous for being Rocky Marciano's trainer but he trained many other fighters out of Stillman's Gym while handling fighters for manager Al Weill. “The Rock“ was his last World Champion and he had to take the title from Jersey Joe. Goldman also trained greats like Fritzie Zivic, Marty Servo, Kid Gavilan, Lou Ambers, and Joey Archibald to titles.
During the 40’s and into the 50’s Charley Goldman lived with his young charges at Ma Brown’s boarding house on West 91st Street. One of my boxing mentors Carl “Piggy” Hutchins stayed there briefly when he was under contract to Chris Dundee in the late forties. He told stories about “Doctor Goldman” and his manager/ trainer Jack Dougherty. This rooming house specialized in taking care of fighters, especially ones from out of town.
Charley Goldman was ten years older than Ray Arcel and those other trainers who became famous at Stillman’s and he taught them as well. In 1948 Angelo Dundee started following Charley around the gym, carrying the water bucket at fights, and learned his trade craft this way. Goldman’s information and methods were still being used well after he passed away in 1968 at 80 years old.
“In exercising the muscles, this very important fact should be kept in mind: The external muscles must not be built up at the expense of the internal ones. To try to do so may produce very dangerous conditions.”Charley Goldman
More than just training World Champs Goldman taught amateurs and made tremendous contributions to the sport. He went to the fights and worked corners seven nights a week, after working in Stillman's all day. The St. Nick’s Arena on West 66th on Monday night, Jamaica Arena on Tuesday night, the Broadway Arena in Brooklyn on Wednesday, the Ridgeway Grove on Thursday and Madison Square Garden on Friday. He went out of town with main event fighters on some Saturdays if they weren’t fighting at The Garden, and worked with “the juveniles” at the CYO on 17th St. on Sundays. This went on for 40 years, his combined experience in handling fighters and working corners, much less all of the fights he watched, is unsurpassed by anyone active today. He lived boxing, two days after Marciano won the title in September 1952 a reporter found him back at the CYO working with amateurs.
As a young man Charley had idolized "Terrible" Terry McGovern, a bantamweight champ who had a meteoric career. Charley wore a black bowler hat to commemorate McGovern, but he used him as a cautionary tale, never wanted his fighters to be like him. In 1899 McGovern KO'd 13 opponents in a row and laid claim to the bantam title. The next year he met Pedlar Palmer, the English champ, and KO'd him. With no more money fights at bantam McGovern challenged featherweight champ George Dixon, stopping him in NYC in Jan 1900. In July of that year he beat Frank Erne, the lightweight champ, in a non-title fight. In the space of ten months McGovern had KO'd three World's Champions in three weight divisions, which was unheard of at the time.
In Hartford Conn Nov 28, 1901 McGovern met his match in the form of a featherweight called Young Corbett II. Born William Rothwell, Corbett II was from California. He managed to get under McGovern's skin before the fight and anger the Irishman, McGovern was screaming for them to ring the bell to start the first round. Corbett then KO'd him in two rounds of a wild slugfest. This fight was fought at a catch weight of 127, the old featherweight limit had been 118 and McGovern had started fighting at below 116. McGovern had walked over men at 116, but at ten pounds heavier he needed to box. Sadly all he knew was how to charge forward swinging. He was KO’d by a short left hook countering one of his wide right swings. McGovern fought Young Corbett II again in San Francisco in 1903 where he was KO'd again. After that he only KO'd one more opponent before retiring in 1908, burned out at age 28 with a record of 60-5-4.
McGovern was a "tiger" in the ring. He always advanced aggressively and went for the early KO with little thought for defense. Goldman, along with the other trainers at Stillman's developed the concept of the "defensive fighter." Goldman always wore that “iron hat” derby and used the story of Terrible Terry as a negative example, he did not want his fighters to be an “offense only” tiger.
Goldman taught them to counter the left hook with the right hand and foot movement [stepping over to the right]. He taught them to use positioning, of hands, head and feet, and to block vision in the opponent’s left eye with the jab before letting the right hand go. Defensively he taught fighters how to adjust the gap by inches, how to ride back with a jab so it didn’t land, how to roll with a punch so it didn’t land with any power and then you were still in range for the counter. These are almost lost arts now.
"Too many of the offensive boxers you see today are green, untried youngsters who do little more than throw a barrage of reckless punches. The skilled, careful boy knows that slipping punches is also part of the skill of self-defense.” From Rocky Marcianos Boys Book of Boxing and Body Building written by Rocky and Charley Goldman.