Charley MacDonald

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From left: Gene Doyle, Hugh Nichols & Charley MacDonald

Best-known for his highly successful stint as the matchmaker of the Hollywood Legion Stadium for sixteen years starting in late 1931, Charley MacDonald (McDonald) had also been a manager of a number of California boxers during the 1920s, including Dick Hoppe and Eddie Diggins.

As a young athlete living in San Francisco, MacDonald had played on an Olympic Club basketball. When he became a manager of boxers, a number of his charges, including Hoppe and Diggins, had their respective starts in San Francisco Bay Area rings during California's Four-Round Era.

By the middle 1920s, both Diggins and Hoppe had some bouts in the Los Angeles area. In addition to boxing in Los Angeles rings, Diggins would act in at least two films before being murdered in 1927. During the middle and late 1920s, Hoppe was a very active fighter in the Los Angeles area while residing in nearby city of Glendale.

In late 1931, Tom Gallery, the manager/matchmaker of the Hollywood Legion Stadium, resigned after the club was hit hard by the Great Depression. Gene Doyle became the manager while MacDonald took over the matchmaking post. Doyle would hold down his post for only about a year-and-a-half. In addition to continuing as the matchmaker at the Legion Stadium until 1948, McDonald also would handle the duties as manager after Doyle left.

Despite a tough period during the early 1930s, the Hollywood Legion Stadium proved to be a remarkably successful boxing club until the late 1940s. Unlike every other boxing club in California, the Hollywood Legion Stadium seemed have a boxing card with a large crowd in attendance every week like clockwork. As a result, there would be a tidy profit from the boxing shows at the Hollywood Legion Stadium just about every year.

Another apparent key to the Hollywood Legion Stadium's success was stability at the key positon of matchmaker. At other boxing clubs in California, there was a tremendous turnover in the key postions of promoter and matchmaker for a decade-and-a-half after the advent of the Great Depression.

Besides the Hollywood Legion Stadium, the Los Angeles area had only one other major boxing venue, the famed Olympic Auditorium. With a capacity of 10,400, the Olympic Auditorium was a fine boxing arena, more than twice as big as the first version of the Hollywood Legion Stadium. Starting with its construction and opening in 1925, the Olympic would have unstable times. Despite the fact that some boxing men like Joe Levy, Jack Doyle (along with his matchmaker, Wad Wadhams), and Joe Waterman had some successes at the Olympic, things would be somewhat unstable at the venue until the middle of World War II.

Because the Hollywood Legion boxing cards had been so successful for many years, there were plans to build a new arena with a capacity of 6,300 to replace the old one with a capacity of 4,500 in 1938. The cost of the new arena was a reported $250,000. Due to the fact that the new arena was to be built on the same site where the old arena was located, a number of Hollywood Legion cards would be staged at Gilmore Stadium for several months with a great deal of success in 1938. An open-air facility, Gilmore Stadium was also used for midget auto racing, football games, and even baseball exhibitions (Gilmore Field, a baseball park for the Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League, was built later. It would be located near Gilmore Stadium.). It should be pointed out that a number of black boxers fought on Hollywood Legion cards at Gilmore Stadium in 1938. This was ironic because black boxers weren't allowed to box at the Hollywood Legion Stadium at the time.

In September 1938, the first card was staged at the new Hollywood Legion Stadium. Besides being bigger, the newer arena was a much nicer facility than the "barn-like" older version. Since the new arena was built specifically for boxing and kept clean, older boxing fans remember what a great place it was to see boxing cards.

MacDonald and the Hollywood Legion Stadium would have another memorable year in 1940. It started when a World Middleweight Championship bout between Ceferino Garcia, the titleholder, and Henry Armstrong, the challenger, was scheduled to be staged at Gilmore Stadium under the auspices of the Hollywood American Legion. Since Armstrong, a black boxer from Los Angeles, and Garcia, a Filipino boxer, fought for much of their respective careers in California, such a bout would appear to be an ideal one to be staged in the Los Angeles area.

The crowd for the Garcia-Armstrong bout was estimated to be 20,000, far below expections. Moreover, Referee George Blake rendered the very controversial draw decision. As a result, Armstrong failed to win a fourth World Title in his great career.

Since the Hollywood American Legion was staging the Garcia-Armstrong bout and one of the principals was black, a controversy was ignited because of the ban on black boxers at the Hollywood Legion Stadium. Due to the controversy, the Hollywood American Legion agreed to allow black boxers to fight at the famed venue. After the ban was lifted, a large number of black boxers fought at the Hollywood Legion Stadium in succeeding years, including Henry Armstrong for the first time.

According to a news item in the August 12, 1980 online edition of the Historical Los Angeles Times, Charley MacDonald died on Saturday (August 9,1980) at the age of 86 in Tacoma, Washington.


On the Social Security Death Records database on the genealogical website, RootsWeb, there is a Charles MacDonald who was born on April 12, 1896 and died in August 1980. His Social Security number was 551-05-1453 and his card was issued in California. Finally, his last residence was in Tacoma, Pierce County, Washington.

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