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Don Chargin, Hall of Fame boxing matchmaker and promoter, has died at 90

Don Chargin, Hall of Fame boxing matchmaker and promoter, has died at 90
Don Chargin, a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame and legendary boxing matchmaker for the Olympic Auditorium, is shown at his Cambia home on July 22, 2010. (Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times)

Hall of Fame boxing promoter and matchmaker Don Chargin died Friday at a San Luis Obispo hospital after a battle with lung and brain cancer, his son, Don Jr., said.

The elder Chargin, 90, was licensed as a promoter in California for a record 69 years, staging his first card near San Jose, where he was born and raised.

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Along with Aileen Eaton and his wife, Lorraine, Chargin proceeded to make a slew of memorable bouts from 1964-1984 at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles while offering bigger cards at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, Memorial Coliseum and the only boxing match held at Dodger Stadium.

Nicknamed by late Los Angeles sports radio personality Jim Healy as “War a Week” because of the fervent bouts on Channel 5, Chargin later became a consultant to Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions and was a co-promoter on the 2007 De La Hoya-Floyd Mayweather Jr. bout in Las Vegas that shattered live-gate and pay-per-view records.

“Oscar is the one who brought me into this business, but Chargin made me,” Golden Boy president Eric Gomez told the Los Angeles Times on Friday before learning of Chargin’s death. “He molded me, taught me how to negotiate, how to handle personalities, how to deal with the networks.

“He was so special to me. He opened up the treasure box into boxing and allowed me to understand everything.”

Golden Boy Productions released the following statement:

“Today, the sport of boxing lost a legend. For decades, "War a Week" Don Chargin was universally known as a titan of promoting and matchmaking. 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.”

Chargin was crushed by the death of Lorraine, who passed from cancer in 2010. Their Cambria home is adorned with paintings and photos of her, and he heartbreakingly told The Times earlier this year about the loneliness he felt in the afternoons. That’s when the couple would routinely retreat away from the telephone to engage in one-on-one conversation.

“He wanted to go before her,” Don Chargin Jr. said. “But he had good quality of life in the time she was gone … he came to my daughter’s wedding in May … made some good milestones. I’m glad he’s not suffering anymore.”

The most memorable event was the posthumous induction of Lorraine Chargin to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in June. Chargin had been inducted in 2001

Bill Caplan, veteran boxing publicist and Chargin’s longtime friend, said Chargin was “overjoyed” at the occasion, believing his wife should have been inducted alongside him in the first place.

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“He grieved for her every day,” Caplan said. “He missed her so much.”

Chargin rose to become the dean of boxing promoters after first staging a bout in Santa Clara 67 years ago between a local, Eddie Chavez, and former bantamweight world champion Manuel Ortiz.

He made matches for promoter Jimmy Dundee at the Oakland Auditorium in the late 1950s through the early ’60s, as well as in Sacramento.

Eaton recognized his talent and made an offer to come to the Olympic Auditorium, which was routinely packed with classic bouts while Chargin, bent on competitive action, served as arbiter to a long line of managers pitching their fighters for bouts.

Among the thousands of fights Chargin staged, he considered the Sugar Ramos-Mando Ramos featherweight bout at the Olympic in 1970 as the greatest on a night when 14,000 packed into the 10,400-seat venue. He also staged Bobby Chacon fights against Danny "Little Red" Lopez and Tony Lopez.

Veteran fight promoter Bob Arum said Chargin was generous in sharing industry secrets.

"A terrific boxing man, a tremendous matchmaker and knowledgeable regarding what would sell to the public," Arum said Friday at Oracle Arena. "He was a very valuable resource to me about what areas to place certain fights."

Having observed Chargin's success at the Olympic, Arum added, "If you didn't want to fight your ass off, he wasn't interested.”

During the Olympic's heyday, celebrities such as Jack Lemmon, Lucille Ball and Clint Eastwood made appearances, with broadcasting legends Dick Enberg, Keith Jackson, Healy, Tom Kelly and Jerry Coleman calling the action.

Chargin is survived by Don Chargin Jr. and his son’s wife, Judy; daughters Jill and Debbie, and Debbie’s husband, Mark; five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

He wished to be cremated and his ashes spread near Lorraine’s, Don Jr. said, adding a public memorial service is pending.

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