When our Charlie was on top of the boxing world

PUBLISHED: 15:00 29 August 2013

PA Archive/Press Association Images

Charlie Magri was the toast of east London

It was 30 years ago this summer when little Charlie Magri was the pride of east London and just about the biggest name on the boxing scene, as he ruled as WBC world flyweight champion, writes Len Whaley.

Magri had taken the title in March 1983 when halting Eleoncio Mercedes of the Domnican Republic in seven rounds at Wembley and admitted: “I was on cloud nine. I was walking around in the dream.”

Magri stopped the traffic along the Bethnal Green Road when he paraded with his world championship belt and he was the subject of the famous ‘This is Your Life’ BBC TV programme when Eamonn Andrews suprised him as as he made a personal appearance in the York Hall ring.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling being world champion, because as a fighter it’s one thing you dream about your whole career – and suddenly you’ve done it,” said Magri.

“Everyone wants to talk to you and shake your hand, suddenly everyone knows your name.”

Magri was a product of the Arbour Youth Boxing Club in Stepney and based at the Royal Oak Gym in Canning Town where manager Terry Lawless developed Britain’s most successful boxing stable.

“I could have handled that feeling of being world champion forever,” added Magri, but his reign lasted six short months when he was beaten in six rounds by Frank Cedeno of the Philippines in the same Wembley ring.

He always claimed that an ear infection affected his training and seriously weakened him for that first defence and that he would have won if he had been at his best.

Magri went on to win a European title and lose in a later challenge against Sot Chitalada for the WBC crown at Alexandra Palace, but his world title title triumph was his last victory in a British ring.

On reflection, he had waited too long for his big chance. Magri won the British title just six weeks after his first pro fight, but it was another six years before he made his world bid.

“Losing my title was like losing my life really,” said Magri, who moved on to become a boxing manager and run a pub, featuring special boxing nights, but will always remember the sweet taste of success in that summer of ’83.

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