Don Chargin, the beloved promoter, matchmaker and International Boxing Hall of Famer, died Friday at Sierra Vista Hospital in San Luis Obispo, California, after a brief battle with lung and brain cancer. He was 90.
Until just a few months ago, Chargin was a fixture at ringside for Golden Boy Promotions events because besides running his own promotional company, Don Chargin Productions, he served as a senior adviser to Oscar De La Hoya and his staff for most of the past 16 years.
Just hours after Chargin's death, one of his fighters, junior bantamweight Alejandro Santiago, put on a spirited effort Chargin would have been proud of as he slugged his way to a split draw challenging world titleholder Jerwin Ancajas for his belt in Oakland, California.
It was the kind of crowd-pleasing fight Chargin had a towering reputation for putting on throughout his long career. He was a licensed promoter in California for an astonishing 69 years -- a record -- and earned his nickname of "War a Week" because of the regular exciting scraps he put together during his 20-year run -- 1964 to 1984 -- as the matchmaker at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles, where he worked with fellow Hall of Famer Aileen Eaton.
Born on June 5, 1928, in San Jose, California, Chargin began boxing in high school, but an arm injury ended his fighting days. But he had the boxing bug. He began working as a coach and eventually moved into matchmaking and promoting in his early 20s.
He promoted his first event at age 23 -- Eddie Chavez versus Manuel Ortiz in 1951, in San Jose -- and went on to promote more than 3,000 fights, including Carl "Bobo" Olson-Paddy Young, Jerry Quarry-Jimmy Ellis and Sugar Ramos-Mando Ramos. He was also a co-promoter for the Floyd Mayweather-De La Hoya blockbuster in 2007.
Chargin also promoted fights involving boxers such as Muhammad Ali, Julio Cesar Chavez Sr., Jose "Pipino" Cuevas, Lupe Pintor, Roberto Duran, Bobby Chacon, Danny "Little Red" Lopez, Pete Ranzany, Carlos Palomino, Tony Lopez, Loreto Garza, Willie Jorin and Oscar Larios.
While Chargin handled the promotional and matchmaking end of the business, his late wife, Lorraine, who was always by his side, took care of much of the business side of things, unusual for a woman in those days in a sport dominated by men.
Besides promoting in Southern California, the Chargins also were largely responsible for a boxing boom in the Sacramento area in the 1970s and 1980s.
Chargin, of Cambria, California, was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York, in 2001, while Lorraine, who died at age 79, in 2010, was inducted posthumously this past June, becoming just the second woman to achieve the honor. Don Chargin, who missed her deeply, made the trip to Canastota for her induction, which was the last time he saw so many of the friends he had throughout the sport.
"For decades, 'War a Week' Don Chargin was universally known as a titan of promoting and matchmaking," Golden Boy Promotions said in a statement. "His events at the Olympic Auditorium were not to be missed, and along with his wife, Lorraine, he was the linchpin of boxing in California and beyond. But to those of us at Golden Boy Promotions, he was so much more. He was a partner. He was a mentor. And he was a friend. To say Don will be missed doesn't come close to explaining the sadness we all feel today."
The International Boxing Hall of Fame announced on Saturday that it would fly its flags at half-staff in Chargin's honor.
"Don Chargin dedicated his life to boxing and was highly respected for his tremendous matchmaking and promoting abilities. He made a lasting impact on the sport on the West Coast and beyond," Hall of Fame executive director Edward Brophy said. "Everyone at the Hall of Fame joins the boxing community in mourning his passing and remembering his lifelong contributions to the sport of boxing."
When Chargin went to work for the newly founded Golden Boy Promotions as an adviser in the early 2000s, he took Eric Gomez, now the company president, under his wing and helped Gomez become a top matchmaker in his own right.
"I came into boxing because of Oscar, but Chargin taught me everything," Gomez said. "He was my mentor and my teacher and my friend. He was almost like a second father to me. I'm glad he is not in pain anymore. He was sick, but I was fortunate to spend some time with him [earlier this month]. I spent the whole day with him. Me and [current Golden Boy matchmaker] Robert Diaz went up to visit him in Cambria, and we were very happy we were able to spend that time with him.
"There must have been something he liked about me. I got along great with him and Lorraine. We spent a lot of time together. Daily phone calls, advice at every level. He knew everybody in the business. He kept me out of trouble. He taught me everything about the business. He was such a highly regarded person who everybody in this business respected. He was a very nice man, but he also carried a big stick, and when he had to make a fight happen or he had to make a deal happen, he made it happen."
Gomez credited Chargin with being responsible for Golden Boy being able to sign its biggest star: unified middleweight world champion Canelo Alvarez.
"When he started with us, he brokered the deal to get us Oscar Larios and Javier Jauregui, who became world champions. That paved the way for our relationship with [Alvarez manager and trainer] Chepo and Eddy Reynoso, and we were eventually able to sign Canelo," Gomez said.
Bruce Trampler, the longtime head matchmaker for Top Rank, was one of many with a deep respect for Chargin, whom he first met as a young matchmaker in 1973. Trampler, along with Top Rank matchmaker Brad "Abdul" Goodman and veteran trainer and cutman Miguel Diaz, also went to visit the ailing Chargin about two weeks ago.
"To me, he was the West Coast Teddy Brenner, the best of the best," Trampler said, comparing him to the late longtime matchmaker for Madison Square Garden and later Top Rank, where he was one of Trampler's mentors. "[Chargin would tell] wonderful stories of Hollywood in [the] '50s and '60s, movie stars and gangsters. He was great at building talent and developing stars in front of demanding audiences and knowledgeable fight fans week after week. Wonderful person, and Lorraine, of course, was the real boss. Reunited now."
Chargin is survived by his son, Don Jr., daughters Jill and Debbie, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Plans for a memorial service are pending.