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 Burley's 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 hard, physical labour of the mines claimed his father in 1925 Charley and his family moved to Pittsburgh.

At age 12, Charley joined the Kay 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, (it has been said that 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 as he won a Golden Gloves Junior title at lightweight and a Golden Gloves Senior title at welterweight. He also contested the 1936 National Senior Championship finals in Cleveland when he lost to Leo Sweeney at welterweight.

In 1936, Charley was invited to Chicago to attend the box-offs for the 1936 Berlin Olympics, but declined as he objected to the racial and religious persecution taking place in Germany. Instead he received an invitation to represent his country at the 'Workers Games' which were being held in Spain. These games were offered as an alternative to the XIth Olympiad, which were being held at the same time.

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.

Former bantamweight boxer Phil ‘Chappie’ Goldstein was Charley’s first professional manager. Goldstein (born in New York in 1912), had a respectable career as a fighter; most notably as an amateur when he defeated Tony Canzoneri on a number of occasions.

By 1936 Goldstein was a budding politician and was constable of the 3rd Ward in Pittsburgh – which just happened to be the Hill District where young Charley Burley lived. Goldstein was connected to Charley during his later amateur career and, as manager of several other fighters from the city (Al Quail amongst them), was in the ideal position to launch the young hopeful’s career in the punch-for-pay ranks.


  Phil 'Chappie' Goldstein