Washington, June 26: Nick Charles, a former taxi driver who became the first sports anchor of Cable News Network Inc. in 1980, died yesterday after a two-year battle with bladder cancer. He was 64.
Charles died at his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico, CNN said, citing his wife Cory.
On the set for CNN's debut June 1, 1980, Charles and Fred Hickman anchored the Atlanta-based cable network's “Sports Tonight” for most of the next two decades.
“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,” said Jim Walton, Charles's field producer in his early days and current president of CNN Worldwide.
Born Nicholas Charles Nickeas, he grew up in Chicago's inner city as the son of a taxi driver. During high school he worked nights to help pay the family's bills. He drove a taxi to pay tuition to Columbia College Chicago where he studied communications and journalism.
At the age of 24, he was hired as a sports anchor for WICS in Springfield, Illinois. He then moved to television stations in Baltimore and Washington before joining CNN.
While he covered the Olympics, Super Bowls and Kentucky Derbys, boxing was his passion, CNN said on its website. He covered the Buster Douglas knockout of an undefeated Mike Tyson in 1990, as well as the bout in which Tyson bit Evander Holyfield's ear.
“Mourning the loss of a true warrior. My friend & brother, Nick Charles,” Tyson wrote on Twitter.
Charles is survived by his wife, Cory, and their daughter, Giovanna. He has three children from two previous marriages: Jason, Melissa and Katie.