Through Hard Work and Motivation, Charles Singleton becomes a Champion

By Wendy Pollitzer

Featured in The Island News

March 17, 2011

Charles Singleton

Charles Singleton was born and raised in Beaufort, SC. Still a prominent member of the community, Singleton is also a well-known celebrity in the wide world of Sports.

Speaking at the Order of the Palmetto Ceremony honoring Joe Frazier

Singleton was a professional boxer for eleven years. I met him last summer at the Order of the Palmetto Ceremony at Waterfront Park, when Governor Mark Sanford presented Smokin’ Joe Frazier with the prestigious South Carolina Award. Frazier, another local legend, trained Singleton at his gym in Philadelphia.

Charles Singleton and Evander Holyfield

Singleton also trained another household boxing name, Evander Holyfield. And because of Holyfield’s gratitude, Singleton was gifted Holyfield’s Three-Time Championship Ring as well as his 1997 Heavyweight Championship Ring, sized exclusively for Singleton.

Singleton made a name for himself long before he met Evander Holyfield. Singleton received his greatest title in 1978. He was the National Golden Gloves winner and member of an elite group on the All American Boxing Team, hand-picked by the Amateur Athletic Union.  And his list of championships is long.

One of five children, Singleton was the second-oldest child of Julius and Inez Singleton, a painter and schoolteacher in Beaufort. In the summer before 12th Grade at Beaufort High School, Singleton looked at his mom and said, “Mama, when I finish High School, I want to be a boxer.” She looked at Charlie and said he could do anything he wanted to.

So he took that advice and did just that, but not before four major life occurrences that got him interested in the Sport in the first place.

Charlie Singleton as a young man in Seabrook

Singleton’s father had three children prior to marrying Inez. Their names were Lyn (Lynard), Beverly and Myra. Singleton didn’t meet the girls until he was an adult; but he knew Lyn well.  On occasional weekends, Singleton and his brother would visit Lyn in Seabrook, who was raised by Singleton’s Uncle Jack and Aunt Mary.

One weekend, on a visit, he watched his cousin, Mary Alice screaming at a magazine. She was admiring a boxer named Cassius Clay, later to be known as Muhammad Ali.  Singleton remembers thinking, “I want to have whatever that person in that magazine has.” Singleton was only in the first or second grade; but, at that point, he developed an interest in boxing.

He told his dad when he got home, like he did his mother several years later. They both had the same reaction.  He said, “Son, you can be anything you want to be.” Singleton says, “My father and mother always had a way of making us feel special, and I always knew I was lucky to have them as parents.”

The second time Singleton became curious about the Sport was in the summer before 4th Grade at Robert Smalls Elementary. The following school year was the first that Beaufort County children would be integrated.  Singleton attended a summer program that helped students transition. He sat next to Joe Frazier, nephew of the famous boxer. At that point, Smokin’ Joe was an Olympics hero.

Singleton had always equated the Olympics with running, not the sport of boxing.  When he made that association, Singleton became intrigued with the spectator sport even more.

Another encounter that intensified Singleton’s dream to box came at Beaufort Junior High. Coach Jimmy Thompson put two pairs of boxing gloves in the middle of a mat during gym class and said, “I want two guys to get in the middle right now… no ropes, just the mat, and show me what you got.”

Berle Sumter from St. Helena picked up the first pair and said, “Look coach, no one wants to box me.” But Singleton, always sticking up for the weak and standing up to bullies, said, “I’ll box you Berle.”

Singleton moved around, stuck Sumter with a couple jabs and connected with a right cross and a left hook, moves he’d seen from Joe Frazier and Cassius Clay.

Coach Thompson said, “Son, who taught you how to box?” Well, Singleton had never had a single lesson. He only learned from what he’d seen on television. It was at that moment, when he heard affirmation from a teacher, that he truly considered boxing as a career.

The fourth and final experience came when Singleton was in the 11th Grade. His father had a friend he knew from Tuskegee Institute, Mr. Ferguson from Lafeyette, Indiana. He came to visit and developed enough of a relationship with young Charlie Singleton that he invited him to Lafeyette to work for the summer.

He worked for Ferguson’s construction company and developed a friendship with a co-worker and basketball player on the Purdue team. On weekdays, they hauled lumber from site to site. On weekends, they went to parties.

One night, at a party, a guy walked in with a t-shirt that said, “CCC Boxing Team.” Singleton explained to the kid that he’d always wanted to be a boxer. So the next day, the kid picked him up and took him to a gym in a basement.

A guy that lived upstairs saw Singleton box, and like Coach Thompson, said “Who taught you how to box? You could be on the Olympic team!”

At that moment, Singleton’s head blew up. When he came home from Lafeyette, he told his mom about his dream.

With her and his father’s encouragement, Singleton figured out a way to train. He took an old heavy bag that Beaufort High was throwing out, tied it to a tree and hit it for months with a pair of gloves he bought while working as a school bus driver. Friends on the football team were sparring partners.

Charles Singleton was extremely motivated.  While a senior at Beaufort High School, an announcement was made to students announcing an assembly for those interested in DeVry Technical School in Atlanta, GA.

Singleton remembered the big city of Atlanta while driving home from Lafeyette and said to himself, “If I can get to Atlanta, I can find a gym and start training.”

Charles Singleton in action

That’s what he did. Carter Morgan trained him at the Boys Club in Atlanta. That’s when he met young Evander Holyfield. Singleton went on to win a number of championships before moving to Philadelphia, where he trained with George Benton at Smokin’ Joe Frazier’s gym.

In addition to Carter Morgan and George Benton, and a number of mentors along the way, Singleton said he is also thankful for one Coach at Beaufort High School, Mr. Arnold Mitchell.

Singleton wanted to quit the basketball team. Coach Mitchell’s words of encouragement to stay on the team empowered Singleton for a lifetime.

“I will always remember his words.”

Coaches of today should take note. Your hours on the field or court and your dedication to youth sports is paying off, even if you don’t realize it. You are always sending a positive message, and your kids are listening…to every word.

Charles Singleton is more than a career boxer. He’s more than a celebrity in Beaufort. He is genuinely thankful for his accomplishments in life and extends that appreciation to all those who helped him along the way. He is a hero of the best kind…a gracious hero.

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Wendy Pollitzer is a versatile writer living in the Lowcountry of South Carolina.

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