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Charley Goldman (December 22, 1887, in Warsaw, Poland – November 11, 1968) was a famed boxing trainer who trained five world champions. Goldman's most famous pupil was the undefeated heavyweight champion of the world, Rocky Marciano.
Goldman, who was Jewish, grew up in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn. The area was then known as a tough neighborhood, and Goldman learned how to use his fists at an early age to protect his older brother Sam. It is therefore not surprising that Goldman became a professional boxer, as a bantamweight. He was a protégé of world champion "Terrible" Terry McGovern, and claimed to have adopted the habit of wearing a derby hat from McGovern. He fought his first professional fight, at the age of 16, in a Brooklyn, New York saloon.
Goldman claimed to have engaged in over 400 bouts, but most were unrecorded. Given the quasi-legal status of the sport in New York at the time, it was not unusual that no record was kept of any particular encounter. He is attributed with having engaged in 137 recorded fights, of which he won 36 (20 by KO) and losing 6. The other fights were ruled either a No Decision or draw. Included in his No Decision fights was a ten round attempt to wrest the bantamweight crown from champion Johnny Coulon in November 1912.
Unlike today, ring rivals fought each other repeatedly and often. For example, Goldman had a rivalry with Whitey Kitson. The two were reputed to have fought each other 60 times. Goldman claimed to have fought Whitey twice on the same day, and 12 times in 12 days.
Although, Goldman was considered a top notch fighter he was afflicted with brittle hands, which affected his ability as a puncher. During his career he broke his hands countless times, and was left with deformed, gnarled knuckles and fingers.
After his career as a boxer ended, Goldman began training boxers. His first champion was a middleweight Al McCoy. Eventually, Goldman teamed with boxing manager Al Weill, and trained his fighters including world lightweight champion Lou Ambers and featherweight champion Joey Archibald.
It was his work with Marciano, however, that Goldman is most famous for. When Goldman first met Marciano, the fighter was an inexperienced, short (approx. 5'11), stoop shouldered, balding, clumsy heavyweight, with inordinately short arms (Marciano's reach was the shortest of any heavyweight champion at 69 inches). In addition, Marciano was starting late in the professional ranks, and was light for a heavyweight.
Nevertheless, Goldman began to work with Marciano. Goldman believed that a trainer should not interfere with a fighter's natural style, but rather refine and improve it. Accordingly, he did not try to turn him into a slick jabbing boxer. He also sought to turn Marciano's shortcomings into advantages. His adage was: "If you got a tall fighter, make him taller. If you got a short fighter make him shorter." With Marciano, Goldman made him shorter by teaching him to fight out of crouch. By having him stoop low Goldman made the already low target offered by Marciano that much harder to hit.
He also worked with Marciano on shortening his punches and his too wide stance. Goldman tied Marciano's ankles together with a string to teach him to spread his feet at the appropriate width. He taught him to throw combinations, rather than one big bomb at a time. Although the finished product was still crude and clumsy, Marciano was a formidable offensive and defensive fighter. But, as Goldman pointed out: "A lot of people say Rocky don't look too good in there, but the guy on the ground don't look too good either."
Marciano's defense was particularly deceiving. For example, boxing master, Archie Moore noted that, before he fought Marciano, his study of Marciano on film led him to believe that he could easily hit him with a left hook. When the fight began, Archie learned that, due to the angle of Marciano's crouch, he could hit Marciano with a hook only if he placed himself in position to be hit by Marciano.
Undisputedly, Marciano possessed assets that enabled him to become champion. But it is universally acknowledged that Goldman did a masterful job in bringing out these assets to Marciano's greatest advantage, and refining his style to make the fighter the best he could be. After Marciano retired, Goldman continued to train fighters. Although he worked with Oscar Bonavena shortly, at the beginning of the Argentinian's career, he never again trained a world championship contender.
Goldman was very popular with the sportswriters of his day. He was always good for a quote, and continued to sport his derby hat long past the era when they were customarily worn. The derby, along with his diminutive size (5'1" tall), ever present cigar, pleasant disposition, and horn rimmed glasses, presented a colorful image that endeared him to the boxing public of his day.