*DEBUT* COLUMN Jackie Kallen: Boxing in Detroit
Editors Note: BoxingInsider.com is VERY excited to announce ‘The First Lady of Boxing’ Jackie Kallen has joined our site as a contributor.
BOXING IN DETROIT
By Jackie Kallen
Looking back after 33 years in boxing, I think I took those early years for granted. It was the late 1970s when I stumbled into this incredible world and being from Detroit was a blessing. The era of the illustrious Kronk Gym was just beginning and I was there to be a part of it.
As a journalist for a daily newspaper, I was sent to do a story on a young 4-round boxer named Thomas Hearns. After seeing his fight and meeting him, Emanuel Steward, Mickey Goodwin and Prentiss Byrd—I was hooked. I feel in love with this sport and started spending time down at the Kronk Gym n McGraw and Junction.
I did stories on Emanuel, Mickey, Hilmer Kenty and Milton McCrory. Before long, I convinced Emanuel to hire me as the Kronk publicist. Nothing was as much fun as doing all the press kits for the guys, setting up photo shoots, running press conferences and weigh-ins and planning pre-fight parties.
Being a woman was a little daunting at first. There were some old-timers who resisted. Especially Murray Goodman and Wally Matthews. Those two always felt I’d do better in the kitchen. Their attitudes spurred me on and I held nothing against them. I felt they were just “unenlightened.”
Ten years later, I decided (by accident) to get into managing. I was helping Bill Kozerski do PR for a fight between George Foreman and Bobby Hitz. Since Hitz had no management, I volunteered. That opened the door and I soon had Kenny Gould and James Toney.
Those days in Detroit were magical. Bill Kozerski’s Fight Night promoted fights at the new Palace of Auburn Hills. I put together my Galaxy Boxing Team and moved into my own gym. I soon signed Scotty Buck, Rob Diffanbach, Bernard Harris, Tarick Salmaci, Johnny Walker, Bronco McKart, Terry Pitts, Chris Johnson, Leo Nolan, Lonny Beasley, Pat Lee, Tom Johnson, Pinklon Thomas and many more. The Galaxy Gym was on fire.
I got divorced and moved to LA in 1997. That was the end of the Galaxy Gym. I miss it to this day. That’s why I got so excited last year when my good friend of 30 years—Joe Donofrio—invited me to start promoting fights again with him at the Palace.
But I have come to learn that the glory days of boxing in Detroit have ended. It is a different era. How the hell can I help get those days back? I want to turn back the clock and make it 1980 again in Detroit. At least when it comes to boxing.
Joe Donofrio is an amazing promoter. He loves the fight game and has done some excellent shows at both the Palace and Meadowbrook. But how can you throw a boxing show if people show little interest in coming and sponsors turn their backs on helping. It is a real challenge. Putting women on the card, featuring title fights, all the bells and whistles and angles just don’t seem to work.
I wish the boxing fans in the Detroit area would tell me what they want and what it will take to revive boxing in our once-electric hub of boxing. I would come back and start another Galaxy Boxing Gym if there were enough good fighters to support it. I would bring in TV if we had a strong enough main event from our area.
I can’t blame MMA entirely. I know it is taking a bite out of the audience. But I know it’s more than that.
What will it take to bring boxing back to Detroit?