Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Charley Riley, Top Boxer, Dies at 72

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Charley Riley, Top Boxer, Dies at 72

Article excerpt

Chillin' Charley Riley, a boxer born a generation too soon, died Sunday (May 22, 1994) after a heart attack at his St. Louis home.

Mr. Riley, 72, was a 126-pound contender in the 1940s and early 1950s.

In a featherweight title shot here in 1950, he was knocked out in the fifth round by the great Willie Pep.

Later that year, in a non-title fight, he lost a 10-round decision here to Sandy Saddler, who had deposed Pep.

Mr. Riley never won a world championship, but he ruled the sports world in his hometown.

"Charlie was the equal to Stan Musial as a St. Louis celebrity in his heyday," said Gene Liss of Limelight magazine, an ex-fighter and life-long friend of Mr. Riley. "He was the most exciting fighter who ever stayed in St. Louis. Henry Armstrong left, and so did Archie Moore and the Spinks brothers."

Mr. Riley was celebrated as much for his flair out of the ring as for his ferocity in it.

"He could hit," said ex-welterweight champ Virgil Akins of St. Louis, a frequent sparring partner. "He could knock the daylights out of light.

"And he loved to party. They called him the Finney Fashion Street Playboy. He'd be sharp.

"When he went somewhere, he had a retinue. He made an entrance. He drove a light green Buick convertible, and there'd be people sitting up on the back with the top down, like a parade."

Neal Russo, retired Post-Dispatch boxing writer who covered the Pep fight, said: "Charley was one of the classiest fighters who ever lived. He threw with both hands. He would have made millions on television."

Late in his career, he did appear on the earliest fights televised from St. Louis. In his last TV extravaganza, he lost a split decision to Teddy "Red Top" Davis in 1953.

Mr. Riley was forced to retire the next year after boxing officials discovered he was blind in his left eye.

He later revealed that the eye had been dark for the final five years of his career.

Mr. Riley also was known for winning two of his three classic brawls with former champ Phil Terranova. …

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