Vai's View: Vai's View: Farewell to Charles Woodworth, a champion, inside and outside the ring

Published: Friday, Dec. 23 2011 12:00 p.m. MST

Chuck told me he was drawn to my dad because he was a fighter but also because he was not LDS. Chuck Woodworth taught my dad two things and in this order: boxing and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Boxing is what drew my dad to Chuck and that bond made him receptive to the gospel.

When we immigrated to the States, my dad's hope was to train me to become heavyweight champion of the world. We moved to Mesa, Ariz., because the Woodworths were living in Tempe where Chuck was teaching at McClintock High School. Dad's master plan involved Chuck helping with my coaching and training.

Six months after our arrival, however, our plan was foiled when the Woodworths were called by Pres. N. Eldon Tanner to return to Tonga to serve as mission president.

We basically lost touch with the Woodworths until three years ago. A man I had taught and baptized in South Dakota named Bob Dull lived in Lindon, Utah, in the Woodworths' LDS ward. A high priest group leader paired them as home teaching companions. Neither knew the other had a connection to me — until news of my charity fight with Jose Canseco made the Deseret News in the summer of 2008. Bob Dull and Chuck Woodworth came east for the fight and we've been re-connected ever since.

Chuck Woodworth was a great man. He and Marsha raised wonderful children, all educated at BYU. In fact, one of his kids, Jed, is a Harvard grad and can be found on the jacket of Richard Bushman's book on Joseph Smith, "Rough Stone Rolling." Jed Woodworth has second billing as a researcher for Bushman's biography on the Prophet.

Chuck was a family therapist, specializing in helping battered women. He spoke so soft you had to lean in. He was so meek and humble, you'd never know he was a pugilist. But as a boy, I was witness to some of his toughness. Before leaving for Tonga as a mission president, he and dad used to lace up the gloves and spar on his carport in Tempe. Chuck was probably 37 and dad was 30, both fit. I was given a stopwatch and told to time them for three-minute rounds and one minute of rest. Sometimes I lost track, I was so immersed in their sparring sessions — toe-to-toe, throwing haymakers.

Neighbors would gather from all around to watch. Afterwards, they hugged and laughed like the best friends they were.

May you find your reward, Chuck.

A great warrior is gone.

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