Born: August 20, 1924
Died: November 1, 1985
Calogero Fusari was born August 20, 1924 in Alcamo on the island of Sicily. He grew up in Irvington and Newark after his family emigrated to America in 1930, and was rechristened Charlie. Strong, quick and tough, Charlie was drawn to boxing after watching his older brother Tommy make a name for himself in the ring. He won the New Jersey Golden Gloves as a lightweight in 1944.
During Charlie’s amateur career he sometimes fought twice in the same night. On one occasion, he entered the ring for his second bout forgetting that he had slipped out of his trunks and cup to take a nap after the first fight. When he peeled off his robe he had nothing on underneath.
Despite suffering from impaired hearing, Charlie enjoyed enough success as an amateur to turn professional at the age of 19. His first fight was a victory over Jimmy Mills in Newark. Tommy Fusari fought on the same card, also winning his bout. Charlie mowed down opponent after opponent in the welterweight ranks. He won his first 45 fights, including victories over Tommy Mills, Pat Scanlon, Pat Demers, Maxie Berger and Tippy Larkin along the way. His victory over Freddie Archer was for many years considered the greatest fight in Newark history. Charlie’s first loss came at the hands of Tony Pellone. He avenged that defeat against Pellone three years later.
With his ring earnings, Charlie bought a milk delivery business for his family and was known thereafter as “The Irvington Milkman.” He also organized dozens of boys clubs in New Jersey to keep teens off the streets and out of trouble. His good-guy image was helpful considering that his backers included some of Newark’s shadier boxing characters.
Charlie became a contender for the welterweight title in the late 1940s, when he was New Jersey state champ three years running. He got a shot at the world title in 1950 but lost a decision to Sugar Ray Robinson. Rumors has it that Robinson was ordered to carry his overmatched opponent—as long as he didn’t try anything stupid. For that reason, Robinson sometimes joked that this was his toughest fight. In 1951, after Sugar Ray vacated the title, Charlie got another shot, this time losing a split decision to Johnny Bratton. Charlie hung up the gloves in 1952 with a 65–12–1 record, including 38 knockouts.
Charlie opened a bar across from City Hall in Newark after his fighting days. In the 1970s, he co-owned the Ocean 4 Restaurant and Cocktail Lounge in Asbury Park. Charlie passed away at the age of 61 in 1985.