An apology to the niece folks at the Cyberboxingzone, who've been busy; Charley Burley

                              WE ASKED FOR YOUR HELP -- AND GOT IT!!!

By J Michael Kenyon

First of all, an apology. It occurs that I may have been representing myself
as some sort of boxing history expert, what with the recent publication of
The BAWLI Papers. While it may be true, as Yogi Bear used to say, that I
know more than the average bear about the 20th century history of pugilism,
I bow to some others out there who've been working in the field a lot longer
and a lot more industriously than I. Some of you may be aware that my "true"
expertise, if there is any such thing, lies in the related square circle of
the professional wrestling ring. Before anyone begins to giggle, allow me to
point out that what served as professional boxing 120 years ago would
probably bear a strong relationship to segments of Extreme Championship
Wrestling today. (Come to think of it, the first round of Tyson-Botha looked
a little like ECW, too.) The bottom line, anyhow, is twofold -- the two
"disciplines" are cousins, in that they take place in a similar setting, and
in the larger realm that they are both intended for entertainment purposes.
And, as anyone who knows who has trod the path of history (largely, through
the inspection of old, microfilmed newspapers), boxing and wrestling
histories are told side-by-side. Whilst there may not be quite as much
hippodrome involved on the boxing side, there have been plenty of times when
the two blurred. And both histories always have been rich resources for the
study of extraordinary athletes, promoters and colorful characters-at-large.
The legendary wrestling promoter, Jack Curley, may be first found in the
pages of sports history, circa 1900, taking on all comers in Cascade
mountain-range railroad camps in the state of Washington -- as a heavyweight
boxer. One would have to convert a tall stand of timber into paper in order
to detail the promotional careers of people who have made a living,
throughout this century, promoting BOTH boxing and wrestling on a regular
basis. And, as I've often noted, there is scarcely a heavyweight champion of
the world who did not, at one time or another, earn a paycheck in the
wrestling ring, either as a referee or as a performer -- or both.

That comparison aside, and back to my originally stated deficiencies as a
boxing historian, I must admit that Mike DeLisa, founder and publisher of
the Cyber Boxing Zone ( and a BAWLI Paper
subscriber, has managed to increase the voltage in my personal lightbulb
with the following note:

Subj: Re: The BAWLI Papers No. 34
Date: 1/17/99 11:52:59 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: DeLisa1066
To: Oldfallguy

Hi -- Great stuff with BAWLI as usual.  I do want to point out that the
record you used for Burley repeats several errors that have been in the
record books for years -- i.e.,  Burley LOST to Charley "Doc" Williams.

The Cyber Boxing Zone has an on-line emclclopedia that includes a Black
Dynamite section -- Burley is one of the guys we profile there.

Ciao, Mike

The Cyber Boxing Zone
Now, it develops I'm such a lousy boxing historian that I'm not even keeping
up with developments on the CBZ. I've been aware of it, and its antecedents
in the AOL Boxing Newsletter, for nearly five years, but somehow or other I
hadn't bothered to plumb very deeply into the site of late. Imagine my
delight to find, with DeLisa's prodding, the "Black Dynamite" section:

"The following group of men have several things in common -- they were
outstanding fighters and they deserve to be remembered by fans of the sport.
If you would like to see a particular fighter profiled, please let us know

In addition to Burley, the list comprises the following names, many of whom
are granted biography space in the CBZ: Jack Chase, Frank Childs, Neil
Clisby, Frank Craig, Bobby Dobbs, Panama Joe Gans, Seal Harris, Peter
Jackson, Joe Jennette (ED. NOTE -- I've always spelled it "Jeannette" but
I'm afraid to contradict these guys anymore), Jack Johnson, Leo Johnson, Sam
Langford, Bert Lytell, Denver Ed Martin, Tom Molineaux, Sam McVea, Jack
McVey, Kid Norfolk, Bill Richmond, Harry Smith, Young Jack Thompson, Jack
Walker aka Leone Jacovacci, Harry Wills, Ed Unknown Winston and an "Early
Black Dynamite" section that leads you to a brief clip from The Times of
London, dated April 27, 1786, which illustrates boldly the depths from which
black athletes have had to come. To wit --

"Yesterday afternoon a most desperate battle was fought in the Ring, in Hyde
Park, between a butcher's apprentice of St. James Market, and a black
stripling, who was lately a servant to the celebrated Mr. Katterselto, which
lasted upwards of three quarters of an hour, during which time the successes
of the combatants was as dubious as it was obstinate. The Honorable Mr.
Booth by happening to pass at the time, the crowd took his attention time
enough to see a sufficiency of the conflict, to prove to him, that the
parties were obstinately bent on each side not to yield. Struck with the
ferocious obstinacy, he stepped into the ring, parted the lads, and gave
them a guinea each to make up the quarrel. The Black, though he bears the
character of meekness and sobriety, has been unfortunate enough to have been
obliged to fight no less than five scuffling battles within this week, all
with young men of superior strength and proven victorious."

Elsewhere in the CBZ Encylopedia are sections devoted to: English and
American bareknuckle champs, Queensberry champions, Oldtimers, White Hopes,
Cornermen-Referees-&-Goodfellas, Laws-Rules-&-Regulations, title claimants,
and current lineal champions.

For example, the cornermen, referees and "goodfellas" section extends to
listings of guys like Ray Arcel, Bob Arum, Whitey Bimstein, Jack Blackburn,
Chuck Bodak, William Brady, Teddy Brenner, Freddie Brown, Michael Buffer,
Frankie Carbo, Ralph Citro, Cus D'Amato, Lou DiBella, Gil Clancy, One-Eyed
Connoly (sp?), Art Donovan, Don Dunphy, Angelo Dundee, Lou Duva, Wyatt Earp,
Pierce Egan, Eddie Futch, Nat Fleischer, Charlie Goldman, Ruby Goldstein,
Mitch Halpern, Pete Hamill, Ernest Hemingway, Hank Kaplan, Jack Kearns, Mike
Jacobs, Don King, Mills Lane, A.J. Leibling, Jack London, Lord Lonsdale,
Norman Mailer, Marquis of Queensberry, Bat Masterson, Harry Markson, Arthur
Mercante, Clem McCarthy, Jim Norris, George Parnassus, Davey Pearl, George
Plimpton, Tex Rickard, Damon Runyon, Budd Schulberg and Ed Sullivan (what!?!
Michael Buffer, but not Joe Humphries, Johnny Addie or Jimmy Lennon!?! . 

Upcoming fights, current champions, CBZ Boxing Journal, current news,
special reports from boxing experts, tapes for sale, links to other good
boxing sites on the Web, reviews of books, movies, computer games, comics,
etc., sound clips -- the list goes on and on. All at the Cyber Boxing Zone
site. Get thee there, immediately, if you, like me, are not keeping up with
the fine work of this gaggle of fine boxing writers and historians!

Out of curiousity, I flipped to the "title claimant" section in the
Encyclopedia section and found the name of Dominick McCaffrey. The name is
familiar to me in that one of my "hobbies" (in a life teeming with
"hobbies") is attempting to compile a complete record of every boxing and
wrestling program presented in ALL the Madison Square Gardens (four or five
buildings, depending upon how you treat Barnum's original Hippodrome
building of the 1870s). The other day, I was poking around in the accounts
of John L. Sullivan's November, 1884, appearances in the MSG of that day,
namely, brief encounters with John Laflin and Alf Greenfield (the latter
bout interrupted by the police). About the same time, McCaffrey, fighting
out of Philadelphia at that juncture, was angling for a shot at the world's
first superstar which, indeed, Sullivan was.

The two had sparred, briefly, the previous August in Boston. McCaffrey would
almost get Sullivan into a ring the following April, in Philadelphia, but
the blue-nosed police again interfered. Finally, they met in Cincinnati,
with the title at stake, and Sullivan came around with a decision win on
August 29 -- a decision that was not rendered, by the referee Billy Tate,
until two days later.

Sullivan's record, for the most part, has long been available in the old
Ring Record books, begun by the pathfinding historian Fleischer of Ring
Magazine. But here, in the Cyber Boxing Zone, is a remarkably detailed
record of McCaffrey, who also fought such ring luminaries as Charlie
Mitchell, Jim Corbett and Peter Maher -- and was making ring appearances as
late as 1903, at age 39. Not a particularly big fellow, around
five-foot-nine and 165 pounds, he -- in the fashion of the times -- often
took on larger fellows. The CBZ account describes him as "a popular and
sociable man; he was a first-class boxer who moved quickly and boxed well."
His managers are listed, along with his birth (September 24, 1863,
Pittsburgh) and death (December 30, 1926, Pittsburgh) dates. All good stuff,
and repeated, over and over, with other ring warriors who would otherwise be
lost amid the sands of time were there not some truly serious boxing
historians at work on this planet.

Someday, I would like to take a deserved place among them, but for the
meantime, as I continue my researches here and there across North America
and, occasionally, in the cradle of all sport, the British Isles, I will be
content to pass along various accounts of interest from the past and present
in the form of The BAWLI (Boxing As We Liked It) Papers.

And, I daresay, I hope there'll be more notes and letters of elucidation,
such as arrived from Mr. DeLisa.

(ED. NOTE -- Here's the Cyber Boxing Zone bio of Charley Burley. It's lovely
stuff, just like the reams and reams of other materials available at this
wonderful Web site.)

                                   CHARLEY BURLEY by Harry Otty

The mention of the name Charley Burley will, more often than not, draw a
blank expression from the faces of many so-called boxing buffs. While not
totally unknown, Burley has not received the recognition he deserves. While
fans of the sport extol the virtues of such fighters as Armstrong, Zale,
Graziano, LaMotta Conn, and 'Sugar' Ray Robinson, all of who were his
contemparies, [and all of whom avoided him like the plague], Charley Burley
is largely ignored and forgotten.

This Pittsburgher has the distinction of being one of the finest fighters
in the history of the game. But, like so many other talented black fighters,
he will never be remembered as readily as many of boxing's world champions,
simply because he himself was not a champion.

Often called the greatest fighter ever by such authorities as Eddie Futch,
Archie Moore and his trainer Hiawatha Grey, (who went back to the days of
Johnson and Ketchel), Burley fought some of the best fighters around,
beating most of them. Even though he was consistently rated in the top ten
for over a decade in the welterweight and middleweight divisions he never
received a shot at any title. In a career lasting from 1936 to 1950 he
compiled a record of 84-11-2 with 1 no contest and 50 knockouts.
Charles Duane Burley was born in Bessemer, Pa., on September 6th 1917. His
father was a black coal miner from Virginia, his mother a feisty white Irish
woman from County Cork. Together, the Burleys had seven children, six girls
and one boy; Charles junior was the second youngest and a real handful for
his parents and his sisters. When the mines claimed his father in 1925
Charley and his family moved to Pittsburgh.

At age 12, Charley joined the Kays Boys Club where he took up boxing under
the watchful eye of local trainers Leonard Payne and Howard Turner. Charley
enjoyed the boxing as much as he enjoyed baseball, another sport at which he
excelled, (he once received an offer to play for the Homestead Grays), and
when he wasn't playing ball or plucking chickens for pennies, (a skill he
learned in Bessemer), he could be found at the gym. City, State, and
National Junior titles were won with comparative ease, in fact the only
blemish on his amateur record came in the National Senior Championship
finals in Cleveland when he lost to Leo Sweeney at welterweight. In later
years, Sweeney, also from Pittsburgh, became a well-respected cop in the

In 1936, Charley was selected to represent his country at the 'World Games'
which were being held in Spain. These games were offered as an alternative
to the IXth Olympiad, which were being held at the same time in Berlin.
Unfortunately politics also became involved with these games as General
Franco staged some fighting of his own and started the Spanish Civil War.
The games were cancelled the day before they were due to commence. Charley
returned home, having never had the chance to lace on a glove for his
country, and turned to the professional ranks.

From September 1936 to September 1937 Charley was fed the usual diet of
local 'talent' by his manager Phil Goldstein. Matched against boxers,
punchers, tough nuts and glass jaws, he compiled a record of 12 wins with 8
kayos before losing to his 13th opponent, Eddie Dolan. Most of these fights
took place under the auspices of the 'Pittsburgh Fight Club' of which
Charley was one of the most talented members. 1938 saw Charley improve his
win tally to 16, with 10 kayos, before he lost on points to local boy
Fritzie Zivic, a veteran of over 70 fights. A rematch just over two months
later saw Charley reverse the decision with a clear points win.

In August 1938, saw Charley win the 'Colored' Welterweight Championship from
the experienced and talented Louis 'Cocoa' Kid over 15 rounds in a thriller
at Hickey Park. The 'Kid' was dropped in the second for a nine count and was
in trouble again in the 15th and final round, but managed to hang on for the
bell. A championship belt, promised by Ring Magazine's Nat Fleischer, failed
to materialize, forcing two local business men to have one made up for the
new champion. SInce Henry Armstrong had won the 'real' welterweight
championship in May 1938, Burley's "title" was redundant and was never
contested again. To close out the year Charley added yet another future
world champion to his list of victims when he beat middleweight Billy Soose
over 10 rounds. With these wins, Burley opened 1939 as the 4th-ranked
challenger for Armstrong's title.

The plague of all big punches, hand trouble, came to visit Charley during,
and after, his January 1939 fight with Sonny Jones. After stopping the
Canadian in the seventh round, Charley was forced to rest for five months
after undergoing bone graft surgery. On his return to the ring he lost over
10 uneventful rounds to Jimmy Leto at the Millvale arena (a loss he later
avenged).  But the following month he was back in action for a third and
final meeting with Fritzie Zivic, (July 17, 1939). This fight would see
Charley winning by the proverbial mile, prompting Zivic and his manager Luke
Carney to buy out Burley's contract from 'Chappie' Goldstien so as to
prevent the two meeting again in the ring. This move effectively froze
Charley out of the world picture while Zivic fought Armstrong, winning the
welterweight championship, even though he was rated behind Burley.

After 1940, a year when he would lose only once in nine outings, to Jimmy
Bivins on points, Charley was beginning to outgrow Pittsburgh and the
confines of his contract with Zivic and his manager. After going 8-0 with 6
kayos in 1941, he moved with his wife and daughter to Minnesota. It was here
that his new manager, Bobby Eton, and promoter Tommy O'Loughlin would
attempt to gain Charley universal recognition as a legitimate title
challenger (with a little help from the State Boxing Commission, who gave
Charley special dispensation to compete in any weight division above his

While Charley beat everyone that was put in front of him, fighters that
included the Hogue brothers 'Shorty' and 'Big Boy', the great Holman
Williams and the heavyweight J.D. Turner, his promoter sent legitimate
offers to the current champions. Title challenges to Freddie 'Red' Cochrane
at welterweight, Tony Zale at middleweight all proved fruitless, since those
titles were frozen for the duration of WW II. The offer to Cochrane was that
Charley would fight for free, with his percentage going to the war fund,
still no deal. Johnny Ray was offered $10,000 plus a percentage of the gate
for Billy Conn, again no deal. Zale's management had other plans for their
man, so again, no deal.  During 1942, Charley (while weighing no more than
150 lbs.) was forced to battle the likes of Ezzard Charles, Lloyd Marshall,
(L10), the Hogue brothers, (KO 10 and KO 6), Joe Sutka, (KO 4), Phil
McQuillan, (KO1), and the aforementioned Jay Turner. All genuine
middleweights, light-heavyweights and heavyweights. The giant Texan had a
few months previous been the full 10 rounds with Billy Conn. However, on
this occasion a weight advantage of a staggering 70 lbs. could not prevent
him from being busted up and stopped cold by Burley inside of 6 rounds.

The Ezzard Charles fights were held twice in a five-week period with a
points win over Holman Williams six days before the second fight!  A chance
meeting with Ray Robinson in the lobby of a hotel in New York, when Charley
was in town to fight Phil McQuillan (April 20, 1942) led to the two meeting
on the same bill at the Minneapolis Armory. Charley kayoed Sammy Wilson of
Detroit in two rounds (referred to a 'Sonny' Wilson on Charley's record),
while Ray beat Dick Banner in the same number of rounds (April 30th 1942).
Watching from ringside the 'Sugar Man' told his manager, "I'm too pretty to
fight Charley Burley". Despite great efforts to make the match the two would
never meet in the ring, although it nearly happened twice and dates were

Following the points defeat by Lloyd Marshall in Los Angeles (December
1942), Charley decided to stay in California with his family. After
defeating the likes of Harvey Massey, 'Tiger' Wade and Bobby Birch, Charley
received a chance to fight for the California State Middleweight title which
was held by Jack Chase, whom Charley had previously beaten over 10 rounds
(February 1943). Chase, who had never been stopped in 55 bouts, was kayoed
in the 9th (April 3rd 1944). Charley repeated this feat five months later,
this time putting Chase away in the 12th. In between he won four other
fights, three of which came via the short route. The man who stayed the
distance in a losing effort was Archie Moore.

Charley took the Moore fight on very short notice. On the day of the fight
he was at work in an aircraft factory in his (then) hometown of San Diego
(Charley had a burst eardrum and was considered unfit for the military). He
received news of the opportunity, finished his shift, got on a bus to
Hollywood and bounced Archie off the canvas three times on the way to an
emphatic points victory. The 'Old Mongoose' often cites Charley as the
greatest fighter he ever fought, calling Burley "as hard as lard and as
slick as grease." Very impressive when you consider the names on Moore's
record.  Charley campaigned through 1943, 44, 45, and 46 with only one loss,
over 12 rounds to Holman Williams. That meeting between the two (July 11,
1945) would be the last of seven meetings, with the final tally being three
wins each with one no contest. Charley scored the only kayo of the series,
winning in the 9th round in 1942. Other victims during this 26-fight period
included, Joe Carter, (W10), Aaron 'Tiger' Wade, (W10), Charley Banks,
(W10), Dave Clark, (KO1), the often-avoided Bert Lytel, (W10), and 'Oakland'
Billy Smith, (W10, W10).

Speaking of Smith, the only, near complete, film of a Charley Burley fight
that exists is his second meeting with the light-heavyweight contender
(April 24th 1946).  From January 1940 up to August 1946 Charley Burley
fought 60 times. He scored 31 stoppages, won 20 times over the distance, had
2 draws and 1 no-contest. The only fighter close to his own weight to beat
him during this period was Holman Williams, (L15 L12). His other losses were
to Charles, (twice), Jimmy Bivins, and Lloyd Marshall, and we all know how
good they were, even without weight advantages of ten pounds and over!
Despite such good form, the big money and high profile fights against many
of the top rated white fighters of the day still eluded Charley. Many years
later Charley, who read the bible everyday, was quoted as saying, "I used to
get down on my knees and pray for a title fight". Sadly, it was not to be,
and while the so-called world champions played their games and did their
deals and plenty of lesser fighters got their shot, Charley Burley went to
work for the City of Pittsburgh as a garbage collector.

Eight fights in four years just weren't enough and the garbage truck
eventually became his new career. After beating Pilar Bastidas in Peru in
1950 Charley travelled to Europe for a series of bouts that failed to
materialize. On his return home, his old promoter from Minnesota, Tommy
O'Loughlin, took him on the road to earn some extra cash. A tour of midwest
tank towns appearing as 'the masked marvel' almost led to him being lynched
on one occasion.  By now Charley had had enough and concentrated on honest
work to keep regular money coming in. He forgot about boxing and, for many
years, boxing forgot about him. Only now, nearly 50 years after his
retirement, has Charley started to receive recogniton. In 1983, he was
elected to the Ring Hall of Fame. He was, at long last, remembered and
honored by his peers and by the boxing public. Accolades that were,
unfortunately, a little late. Burley died in 1992, the year of his induction
into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

The mystery that is Charley Burley's fighting career has often been
explained away as 'not flashy or entertaining enough', 'too many changes in
management' (Charley had at least five), or 'too good for his own good'. One
could argue that there is definitely a ring of truth to that last statement,
Charley had beaten some of the best around and feared no man. A good measure
of his gameness and ability is the fact that he was a regular sparing
partner of the Pittsburgh heavyweight Harry Bobo, a contender for Joe Louis'
title. Many people in Pittsburgh felt that Bobo could give Joe Louis a good
fight yet didn't think he could beat Burley in the ring. He had kayoed Elmer
'Violent' Ray and 'Jersey' Joe Walcott in sparring sessions and forced
middleweight champion Marcel Cerdan out of the gym (Charley was supposed to
be Cerdan's first opponent in America!).

 The real reason why Charley never became champion of the world may be
simply that he was an honest man and an honest prizefighter. Many fighters
with no flash or substance have fought for many titles over the years. Inept
or unconnected management never stopped these guys. As with everything else
it boils down to 'what is your price'. The truth is, these guys couldn't
afford a class act like Charley Burley.