Former CNN sports anchor and veteran boxing broadcaster Nick Charles passed away this morning after a two-year battle with bladder cancer. He was 64 years old.
Charles was part of the popular and highly-regarded CNN Sports Night with Fred Hickman, which was at one time the main competitor for ESPN's SportsCenter. Chris Berman of ESPN had kind words for his former "rival" on SportsCenter's report this morning:
Jim Walton, the President of CNN Worldwide, released this statement:
"As a journalist and sports personality, Nick Charles helped put CNN on the map in its early days. He brought intelligence, style and heart to his work--qualities that translated to our company and inspired those of us who were fortunate to work alongside him. His passing is a loss to CNN, to the sports world and to the fans and friends everywhere who were with him to the end of his extraordinary life. Like them, our thoughts today are of Nick and with his family."
Charles specialized in boxing, and worked with Showtime and Versus as a boxing broadcaster in recent years. He was such a respected broadcaster and person that earlier this year, HBO provided him an opportunity to call one last fight, as Charles sat in as the play-by-play man for the Mikey Garcia vs Matt Remillard fight on March 26. Here's what I said that night:
Tonight HBO Sports gave Nick Charles, the veteran sportscaster and one of the notable voices in boxing for the last couple of decades, the chance to return to the airwaves and call the Garcia-Remillard fight. Charles has been battling bladder cancer since 2009, and while obviously you can tell looking at him that he's not physically the same anymore, he did a genuinely terrific job calling the action tonight. He was prepared, had clearly studied the fighters and done his homework, sounded thrilled to be there, and just did a tremendous job. HBO Sports made a high-class move with this decision, and they gave a high-class human being an opportunity he richly deserved. Great job tonight, Nick. It was good to hear you again.
I meant it then and mean it now: I didn't expect him to still be as good as he was. He got the call and prepared himself, and did a fine job with what turned out to be his final assignment.
Charles was also recently featured on CNN in a feature where longtime friend Mike Tyson visited him at home in Arizona. It was a rough watch -- their genuine love for one another was obvious. Also recently, CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta visited Charles at home and wrote a piece called "The Friend I Can't Fix," which you can read here:
We talked about things Nick enjoyed, mainly sports. Nick was the original sports anchor at CNN, and could teach you about any sport, but especially boxing. We talked about the various fights he had covered, including the one he announced for HBO this year. At one point he paused, and told me he was in a fight himself. He was fighting like hell for his life, and it didn’t look like he was going to win. It was jarring to hear. "So, what are you going to do about it?" I asked him with a smile. He laughed out loud.
"Short term goals," he told me. We all probably spend too much time focusing on the long-term that we forget what is right in front of us. Unfortunately, it sometimes takes being smacked in the face with your own mortality to realize it. Another thing Nick does regularly is to keep a journal. He may write a note to a family member or just write down thoughts from the day. Helps focus the mind and prioritize your life, he said.
Nick also taught me that dying forced him to live in the present in a way he hadn’t done before. But, that didn’t mean he couldn’t dream and still imagine his future. Even though he was told he had less than 2 years to live, he and his wife decided to build their dream house and Nick picked out colors, designed the rooms and purchased a piano for the family room, even though he is unlikely to spend much time there.
Charles was born in Chicago to a Sicilian mother and a Greek father, and graduated from Columbia College Chicago. He leaves behind his wife Cory, four children and three grandchildren. Bad Left Hook sends our sincerest condolences to the family and loved ones of Mr. Nick Charles.