Carmel was one of seven children in a Maltese family from Tunisia who settled on the Burdett Estate in Stepney in the 1950’s. His Dad worked as a butcher in Stratford. Carmel grew up a tough, wiry and fiercely competitive little kid, mad on sport and dreaming of becoming a professional footballer. At 7 he joined Loxley Estate football team. “I was good on the ball and I could run all day.” At 10 he was playing for Millwall FC Youth Team. He joined the Arbour Youth Club in Stepney to train as a boxer. Gradually the fight game took over his life.

As an amateur at 16 he changed his name from Carmel to Charlie Magri. He fought his way through the amateur ranks to become ABA Youth Champion at his weight at 16, ABA Flyweight champion (51 kg) at 18 and at 21 represented Britain in the Montreal Olympics.

“Champagne Charlie” as he was nicknamed – though he never drank a drop as a boxer – turned professional, winning the British Flyweight Championship then the European Championship and finally at 28 , the World Championship.

An East End hero, he was a big celebrity who never made much out of his boxing career. After his last fight, his manager, Terry Lawless, said, ‘What you’ve got to do now, son, is get off your arse and work for a living.” Charlie became a Tower Hamlets Council road sweeper and caretaker. Then in true TV East Ender style opened a “Queen Vic”, his “Victoria” pub in Mile End.

Charlie also runs a nice pet shop I used to visit in Roman Road, selling budgies, mice, gerbils etc. and delivering quality grooming , nail clipping, shampoo and blow dry pampering to local cats and dogs.

A nerd on the Internet (alias ‘Dame Moo Newby’) posted a very disparaging comment about the shop. I wonder what would happen if I pass on this person’s name and address to Charlie who fought 35 professional boxing matches, two thirds of which ended up in knockouts.


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