Golden Gloves Champion Dies
Charlie Gumbs, a Huntington fixture who shined in the spotlight of the middleweight boxing scene in the 1950s and 1960s, died Jan 4.
Gumbs, of Huntington Station, was 84.
As one might expect for one of Huntington’s best-known men about town, Gumbs went out in the spotlight. This past fall, he was honored as a grand marshal of the fourth annual Huntington Awareness Day Parade, saluted for his boxing career and contributions to the Huntington Knights of Columbus.
Gumbs left his imprint throughout the town. An active bachelor well into his 80s, he would frequently hop into his Cadillac Eldorado to meet friends and make the rounds at local restaurants. A seat at the bar at Huntington restaurant Porto Vivo literally has his name on it; it was unveiled at his 80th birthday party held there.
He certainly earned that seat. He was one of the Gerard Street restaurant’s biggest fans, and during his nearly nightly visits, Gumbs didn’t just dine – he held court.
“He was always popping by the kitchen, asking what’s good tonight, always shaking everybody’s hand and buying people a glass of wine, socializing with people,” said Joe Balbo, the restaurant’s vice-president of operations.
The Porto Vivo visits were typical of his lifestyle. In a May 2011 Long Islander News profile, Gumbs recalled his routine: he would jump in his classic ride to meet friends and spend some time “mingling and jingling.”
“It didn’t matter if he had a good day a bad day – he always had a smile on his face,” Balbo said. “He was like the grandfather of Porto Vivo.”
Balbo said Gumbs was quite popular with the ladies, and Gumbs knew it. In the 2011 profile, he recalled a time a woman approached him in a restaurant.
“She was all over me. Her boy didn’t look happy about it, but I can’t help it. The ladies like me. It’s because I’m a gentleman,” he said proudly.
Gumbs, a Huntington native, grew up on Woodhull Road with his parents, two brothers and one sister in the home his father built in 1927. He graduated from Huntington High School and went on to become an undefeated middle- and light-heavyweight boxer in the United States Armed Forces and a two-time Golden Gloves champion.
The fighter said in the 2011 profile that he followed in the footsteps of his older brother, Rudy, who was a three-time Golden Glove heavyweight champ. The younger Gumbs was a gifted knock-out artist who mastered the ring in the ’50s and ’60s.
“I was good. I would knock them out with a left hook and boom, knocked out. I nearly knocked everybody out,” Gumbs said.
Asked in 2011 why he quit fighting, he grinned and quipped, “I’m too pretty.”
Gumbs worked for Grumman and trained before and after work. He fought in Japan while serving in the Korean War and was the undefeated champion in the east in the U.S. Armed Forces. He won the 1951 Golden Gloves championship and took the title again the following year.
While he boxed, he always held down a full-time job. In addition to selling cars, he transported blood for the Greater New York Blood Bank and worked in construction as a tin knocker. In Huntington, he volunteered as an usher for St. Patrick’s Church during 5 p.m. Mass and enjoyed hanging out in his lounge, listening to jazz music.
Gumbs is survived by many nieces, nephews and cousins.
Visitation is Jan. 9 from 2-4 and 7-9 p.m. at M.A. Connell Funeral Home, 934 New York Ave., Huntington Station. A 9:45 a.m. funeral Mass will be celebrated Jan. 10 at St. Patrick’s R.C. Church in Huntington.