The man who shaped Rocky Marciano into a champion, Charley Goldman also trained four other world champions and, in his younger days, had a successful career as a fighter himself. Born Israel Goldman in Warsaw, Poland in 1888, Goldman grew up in the tough Red Hook section of Brooklyn and learned to fight in the streets. He left school in the fourth grade and began fighting in the back of bars to earn spending money. He turned professional at the age of fifteen.
Goldman fought mostly as a bantamweight. He idolized Terry McGovern and started wearing his trademark derby hat in imitation of McGovern. He fought bantamweight champion Johnny Coulon in a no-decision bout in 1912. Goldman retired in 1914 with a recorded tally of 36-6-11 and 84 no-decision bouts. Goldman claimed that he actually fought about 400 times.
Goldman quickly found success as a trainer. In 1914, he trained Al McCoy, who won the middleweight title. With the passage of the Walker Law legalizing boxing in 1920, Goldman teamed with manager Al Weill. After five years, Goldman left boxing and moved to Newburgh, New York to open a roadhouse, although Weill still occasionally sent him fighters to train.
In the mid-1930s, Goldman returned to New York and training full-time. Although he often worked with Weill's boxers, he also handled other fighters. He worked with such champions as lightweight Lou Ambers, welterweight Marty Servo, and featherweight Joey Archibald. But in the late 1940s and '50s, Goldman gained his greatest fame training Rocky Marciano. When Goldman first saw him, Marciano had a strong punch but a crude style. Employing his philosophy of improving upon but not changing a fighter's basic style, Goldman strengthened Marciano's defense, left jab, and left hook. Marciano worked tirelessly to implement Goldman's instructions, and, of course, won the world championship.
Goldman was well liked and respected by the trainers, sports writers, and others who frequented Stillman's Gym. For many years, he spent about six hours a day at Stillman's and then went to a C.Y.O. gym to work with very young fighters. He died of a heart attack in 1968.
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Excerpted with permission from 'The Boxing Register' by James B. Roberts and Alexander G. Skutt, copyright © 1999 by McBooks Press. All rights reserved.