By Jackie Kallen
I am the luckiest woman in boxing. I learned from the best. The first fight I ever saw in person was Thomas Hearns/Raul Aquirre in 1978 Third round knockout. At the time, Hearns was 9-0–all KOs. I was hooked.
I couldn’t believe how a young man could be so lethal inside those ropes and so quiet and polite out of the ring I was a newspaper columnist at the time and was writing a feature on this new welterweight sensation. The duality of his personality fascinated me.
I was soon going to every fight, interviewing Emanuel Steward, Mickey Goodwin and other aspiring young boxers. After a few months, Emanuel hired me as the Kronk publicist. I spent a lot of years in that 100 degree Kronk Gym, watching boxers who were all united in their quest to be the best.
Thomas didn’t break his knockout streak until he was 18-0. He trained like an animal, sparred like a machine, and went into that ring to destroy. But when he faced Alfonso Hayman in Philadelphia in 1979–he just couldn’t pull the trigger. He got his first decision and then went on to get five more KOs before facing Mike Colbert at the Superdome in New Orleans.
Boxing wasn’t used to a guy like “Hit Man.” 24-0 with 22 KOs. He fought anyone that stood in front of him and never cared if he saw a tape of his opponent or not. He was always in shape, always ready to fight, and never questioned Emanuel’s decisions.
I got spoiled. I assumed every fighter had this work ethic and attitude. (Years later, I discovered that was far from the truth.) By the time Thomas fought Angel Espada for the USBA title, Kronk also had Hilmer Kenty who won a world title that same day.
The boxers who came out of the Kronk Gym in the 70’s and 80’s were fearless warriors. They did their job, listened to their trainers, and amassed amazing records. They all believed in the phrase from Charge of the Light Brigade: “Ours is Not to Wonder Why, Ours is Just to Do or Die.”
What happened to that era in boxing? Many boxers today are so sheltered and babied that they question every opponent. They want easy fights against guys with lousy records. They seem to forget that you have to beat the best to BE the best.
Jackie Kallen is a boxing manager who has been in the business for over three decades. Her life inspired the Meg Ryan film “Against the Ropes” and she was a part of the NBC series “The Contender.” www.JackieKallen.com, www.facebook.com/JackieKallen