Jackie Kallen, the “First Lady of Boxing” and one of the sport’s first and most successful female managers has relocated back to her roots in Detroit with one of her main goals being to help resurrect the sport of boxing in the Motor City.
Kallen is working in association with promoter Joseph Donofrio to put on a boxing show entitled “Winter Warfare” this Friday, January 6, at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
Having spent 33 years in the boxing world, first as Thomas Hearns’ publicist and then later as a manager, Kallen has guided the careers of six world champions including, most notably, James Toney’s, and was twice nominated as Manager of the Year.
Her life story inspired the film Against the Ropes starring Meg Ryan. She is now a successful motivational speaker and travels cross country to speak at conventions, women’s health groups and colleges.
Jackie, what brings you back to Detroit?
Well, first and foremost family. I was born and raised here and my entire family and all my childhood friends are here. I’ve been away a long time and I started to realize what’s truly important in life. Family and friends are number one. But also, it seems like the city is in a rebuilding stage and I love the challenge of being part of a renaissance. Thought it would be fun to be part of.
What are your plans as far as boxing in the area?
I’m looking at opening up a Galaxy Boxing location again. I think it would be great to help bring the boxing scene back to how it was at its height in the 70s, 80s and 90s, because we had a beautiful golden era, with Thomas Hearns, James Toney, Bronco McKart, Tom “Boom Boom” Johnson, Milton McCrory, and then we went into kids like Damian Fuller who did well. I’d love to see that come back again. I just need to find the right location. We had such a great program and a lot of fine fighters came through our doors and a lot of young kids got off the street and learned the discipline that boxing gives you.
What other professional endeavors will you be involved with in Detroit?
I’ve been doing life coaching in Los Angeles and I found that a lot of the same principals I used to encourage fighters to become champions also work with everyday people who are working towards whatever their particular personal goals are. I had success with that and thought it would be fun to do that back here.
Tell me about the boxing show this Friday.
Yes, I’m working in association with Joe Donofrio. I’d like to think we’re going to do some big things. We’re bringing in Micky Ward for this fight. Micky is a friend and Joe mentioned wanting to bring him in. Micky and I were both honored last year in LA at a big event. They gave an award to Jake LaMotta, Micky Ward and myself because we’ve all had boxing movies made about us. I called him and he’s coming in. He’ll be at the fight and the weigh-in to meet and greet with fans. Micky is such a great guy. Id would love it if we can resurrect boxing at the Palace the way it used to be. At one time, boxing was a regular Friday night event at the Palace, but the fan base has to be there. You have to have people buying tickets to make it worthwhile.
What do you think is the main problem with boxing right now?
The young crop of kids coming up are very talented, but it’s not really boxing’s time right now. It comes and goes in phases and for now, MMA has pushed it aside. I’d like to think boxing will have resurgence.
So what are you and Joe going to do differently with these shows?
Well, first, it doesn’t work if you have different fighters on every show and there’s no identifying with any of the fighters. People come out when they have someone to root for. Otherwise, you have to be a diehard boxing fan to come out. Boxing is a personality-driven sport. In order to get people to come out, you have to give them a hell of a good show. I’ve been to shows recently all over the country where the matches were so flat and uneven. One guy 8-0 and one guy was 12-14. And you know, the journeyman fighter hung around for three or four rounds, and at the end he didn’t win a single round or just quit. I don’t like those kinds of shows. I hope to find talent we can match competitively so that when people come to a fight, they don’t know which corner will win every fight. That’s the problem with some of these local shows. They are so one-sided and self-serving, just to build fighters’ records. On this show on Friday, we don’t have any big names, just a bunch of fighters with fairly even records who are ready to put on a show for the people.
Thank you for your time Jackie. Good luck with everything. Is there a message you want to send to the boxing fans and fighters in the Detroit area?
I’m hoping to scout some good talent in the area and find some young prospects that we can start a program around and watch these kids develop. That’s the fun of boxing, seeing these young superstars develop from early in their careers. That’s what makes it interesting. If anyone knows of any good talent, or knows of a fighter looking to get their career jump started and are looking for representation, please do get a hold of me. I want to talk to you. You can email me at [email protected] or go to my Facebook page.
Tickets for the “Winter Warfare” are available at The Palace of Auburn Hills Box Office, palacenet.com, all TicketMaster outlets or via charge by phone at 248-645-6666.
Doors open at 6:00 pm and fights start at 7:00.
All bouts subject to change.