In his first twelve months as a professional fighter, 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.

Many 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. 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. The championship belt was commissioned by New Orleans promoter and former fighter Martin Burke and his partner Lew Raymond and had initially been contested by Cocoa Kid and the great Holman Williams.

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 un-eventful rounds to grizzled veteran Jimmy Leto at the Millvale arena, (a loss he later avenged).

By the following month Burley was back in action for a third and final meeting with Fritzie Zivic, (July 17th 1939). This fight would see Charley winning by the proverbial mile, prompting one newspaper reporter to state that 'Zivic was so far behind a telescope would be needed to see him.' It was Zivic however that went on to contest and win the welterweight title from Henry Armstrong even though he was ranked behind Charley in the ratings. In what can only be considered a smart business move Zivic and his manager Luke Carney took advantage of Burley and Goldsteins strained relationship and bought out Burley's contract. This not only prevented the two from meeting again in the ring it effectively froze Charley out of the world picture.

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.