Nick Charles, in his office, from a photo taken in April, 2010 for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Cancer will soon claim Nick Charles. He knows he will die sooner rather than later. So does most everyone else who has been in contact with him lately.
In a small way to honor his contributions to the boxing world, HBO has granted the 64-year-old Charles a final wish – he’ll fly out from his Santa Fe, New Mexico home to Atlantic City, N.J., to be part of the network’s next “Boxing After Dark” telecast, calling the opening 12-round bout between up-and-coming featherweights Mickey Garcia of Oxnard and Matt Remillard of Hartford, Conn., on Saturday night (delayed at 9:45 p.m.).
Bob Papa, who would have called that Garcia-Remillard bout, as well as the nightcap between undefeated title-holder Yurirkis Gamboa and Jorge Solis, has graciously agreed to step aside and let Charles do the first fight, with analyst Max Kellerman and Roy Jones.
“It’s just a great thing for him, and for boxing fans, to hear him call a bout,” Papa said Thursday. “I’m just honored to be part of it. He’s been such a classy and dignified, polite person in our business. Such a gentleman. This will be really neat.”
Charles, who introduced himself to the sports TV world in 1980 as the first sports anchor at CNN and then did many years with co-anchor Fred Hickman, has been battling bladder cancer that spread to his lungs since 2009.
Charles left CNN in 2001 to host Showtime’s “ShoBox: The New Generation” series, but had to take time off for chemotherapy. He was thought to be in remission in early 2010 but the cancer returned, aggressively, and Charles decided not to be numbed by the treatments and let the inoperable disease take its course.
HBO Sports executive producer Rick Bernstein decided to check in on Charles, who did some reporting for HBO pay-per-view boxing telecasts during the 1990s, after a reading a piece on him last month by Sports Illustrated’s Joe Posnanski entitled “Lessons of the Fight Game.” (linked here).
Bernstein asked Charles if he’d like to call the opening bout for Saturday’s fight card. Charles accepted.
Married to CNN International producer Cory Charles, Nick has two children from a previous marriage (ages 39 and 36), an adopted child (24) attending Kennesaw State University and a 5-year-old daughter.
In 2008, Charles was given the Sam Taub Award for excellence in broadcast journalism at the annual Boxing Writers Association of America Awards dinner in L.A. His career has always been involved in boxing coverage in some way or another.
“They had me camp out in Miami after Roberto Duran’s ‘No Mas’ fight until I got an interview,” Charles told saddoboxing.com at the time about his days at CNN. “Theysent me to Japan to see Buster Douglas knock (Mike) Tyson on his butt. I was in camp with (Thomas) Hearns in Detroit and at home with (Marvin) Hagler. Though the years, I witnessed boxing history.”
Charles added that working on the ShoBox series, which featured matchups against many young fighters, taught him something.
“We usually have these young undefeated fighters who have never lost, and other times these guys who cannot afford to lose again,” said Charles. “It is all about acclaim and redemption, risk and reward. Ultimately in this series, people’s careers have either taken off or have ended.”
When Posnanski asks Charles in the SI story if he’d like to cover one more fight for television, Charles “smiles and admits it probably won’t happen. ‘It’s OK,’ he says. ‘I’ve covered a lot of fights.'”
Now, there’s one more.