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The Fort Wayne News and Sentinel
31 Jan 1920
Thousands of pages have been written about Champion Jack Dempsey and his wonderful hands and arms and legs, and the success he has earned with them. Here and there in the thousands or pages there has been some passing mention of one Jack Kearns, his manager.
Usually it is just a line saying that Jack Kearns is In Tia Juana conferring with James Coffroth, the famous promoter; or that Jack Kearns has just received an offer of $500,000, more or less, for a Dempsey- Carpentier match; or that Mr. Cochrane, England, is on his way to California to make a big proposition to Dempsey and expects to see Mr. Dempsey and Mr. Kearns in a
day or two.
Dempsey, as champion, is in the eyes of the world. But behind Dempsey is Jack Kearns. And to my mind Jack Kearns is not by any great margin the smaller figure of the two. It's no small feat to take an unknown boxer, discouraged and with little enthusiasm for a game that has brought only hard knocks and poor success, and in less than two years make him the greatest world champion ever known in the ring.
And in such demand that the sums offered for his service make chicken feed of any amount any other champion ever received.
I hunted up Jack Kearns in his office in Los Angeles and found him there sitting behind a large flat desk covered with telegrams and letters, gazing admiringly at a long typewritten list that he had just pinned against the wall at his elbow.
"There it is, up to date." Said Kearns, indicating the list with a wave of his hand. "There are the first twenty offers for the Dempsey – Carpentier match ranging from $200,000 to $750,000."
"I suppose you know which one you are going to take” I suggested.
“Oh, no," said Kearns. "I'm in no hurry . I’m just looking them over. When I know the bids are alll in I'll accept the one that looks best. I've had offers of $400.000 for Dempsey’s end and judging from the way the bids are growing It may be higher. But there are other things to be considered besides money. I'll have to know that the people who bundle this match will carry every thing through in the cleanest and most sportsmanlike manner.
Dempsey wants no favors because he's champion. He’ll win if he can, and the man who can beat him is welcome to the title and all that goes with it. Jack would like to box every week and take on the best man in sight. But he’s satisfied with any arrangement I make, and it's up to me to
take care of the financial end. That's why I'm looking them over so carefully."
"You don't seem much excited over all this big money” I said.
Jack Kearns is one of those open faced, blond haired, blue eyed fellows who looks as If he were everybody's friend and had nothing on earth to conceal. He leaned back in his chair and laughed as if he'd thought of a good joke.
"It might make a fellow a little dizzy." he said, "to think that two years ago I was offered $20 for Dempsey’s end, and now they're falling over each other to hand us four or five hundred thousand dollars." Here the telephone bell rang and Mr. Kearns was told that two gentlemen from New Orleans had just arrived with a personal offer for the bout were waiting in the outer office. He disappeared for as much as five minutes.
Just as he came back the phone rang again, with the information that a representative of a certain millionaire movie magnate had just arrived from New York and was coming right up to insist upon getting a signed acceptance of a Carpentier-Dempsey proposition wired on a few
"He says he knows he has outbid any one else and I have no excuse for not taking up his offer at once," explained Kearns. "I'll have to stall. Here's Cochrane all the way from London, and I told him he'd have his chance to bid. And Coffroth and some other fellows I've promised to listen to. No. I won't do any signing or accepting just yet"
Kearns Also Fought In Ring.
"While we are waiting." said I "let's go on with this story. I believe you used to do a little fighting yourself. What was the biggest purse you ever got?"
"Seven hundred dollars," said Kearns promptly, coming right down from the realms of high finance without a jar. "That was about all the money there was in the world in those days. Why, I was born and brought up in Frisco in a fighting district. In those days a fellow was in great luck to have saloon keeperfor a manager because he was sure to eat. He could get next to a free lunch.
I weighed from 128 to 135 and I fought Chicago Jack O'Keefe and Charlie Rogers and Denver Kid Parker: lost once and won once. I fought Australian Tommy Tracey twice, to a draw, and beat Mysterious Billy Smith in twenty rounds, but Billy was in pretty poor shape. I fought Mose LaFontise fifteen rounds at Idaho. He was a tough one. I fought Jimmy Potts and Billy
Landon. And Aurelia Herrera knocked me out in twelve rounds. I fought Dal Hawkins twelve rounds. Those were days of real fighting.
We used to have private fights for Senator Clark and some other big millionaire mining men up north. I was a slim kid and the tough fellows I fought hammered me around the kidneys until I thought I’d be better off as a manager. So I turned right around and managed Kid Parker and kid Scales and Indian Joe Gregg and Young Peter Jackson and freddy Weeks. Weeks was a great bantam in those days. He was a few years too soon to be in the big money he’d make today. I had Kid McFadden and Dick Hyland and Frankie Neil and a lot more.
I got together a bunch of good ones and took them to Australia. There were McGorty and Clabby and Joe Bonds, Billy Kramer and Billy Murray And Red Watson. That Watson would have been a champion if he'd taken care of himself. In Australia I signed Les Darcy to a contract and arranged to bring him here but that slipped up. When Darcy came over a bunch of managers went him and got him to throw me over.
Les Darcy was a great fighter. "After that I took Strangler Lewis to San Francisco to wrestle. "I had a training Quarters in Oakland and had Red Watson and Ortega working out there. "That was how I happened to fall in with Jack Dempsey. Jack had started fighting and lost a four round bout to Willie Meehan and been knocked out by Jim Flynn in a round and had given it up. He was working in the shipyards. I met him standing around on the corner and liked his looks.
“How’d you like to come up and work out with Ortega?” I asked Jack. "'Oh. I can't fight” he said. “I’m no good. I'm tired of the game and through with it.' "'Come on over and work with the boys a little anyway.' I said. ""I've got to work all day tomorrow” said Jack, “but I'll be up Saturday afternoon.”
"He came up and boxed Saturday afternoon and Sunday. He was a nice boy and I offered to take him east in a month if he'd improve in boxing. He was strong and quick, but he would lead his right hand — said he couldn't use his left.
“So I had the boy’s take a punching bag rope and tie Jack's right hand down to his side and make him box with his left. He had to use his left then, and pretty soon he was hitting pretty well, and because he hadn’t a right to block with he was bobbing from side to side and ducking under punches. That was the beginning of his swaying style of fighting he’s used ever since. The style that has fooled Willard and Fulton and all the rest.
Offered Kearns $20 for Dempsey to Fight Meehan
“I went and tried to get him a match and they laughed. Dempsey’s a bum – he can’t fight” they said.
They offered me $20 for Dempsey and I persuaded them to give him 20 per cent. He gave Meehan an awful beating. Then he beat Bob McAllister and knocked out Charlie Miller in eight seconds and Al Norton in two punches.
After that they began to look him over. They gave him a match with Gunboat Smith. The Gunner was good then. Dempsey had one fault still. He’d pull away from a punch instead of ducking close in. I told him about It but he would pull away. The Gunner measured him and caught him as he pulled back and nearly knocked him out. Jack reeled forward and the Gunner socked him
again. That was when I learned Dempsey was game.. He lasted the round out. Between rounds 1 whispered to him to go get the Gunner before he could start from his corner. Everybody thought Dempsey was whipped, but he ran across the ring at Smith and gave him a fierce beating. Jack never pulled away from another punch.
After that he beat Carl Morris, and then he went east. He knocked Morris out twice. "In New Orleans he shifted, swung around and hit Morris in the stomach and knocked him out with the first punch. Morris fell on his face with his mouth open and his tongue stuck out so far it was covered in resin.
Here the telephone rang again and I left Kearns talking to a man from Texas who wants to hold the big bout on his cattle ranch.
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I have a link where Kearns said Darcy was the greatest MW of them all (I assume out of those he saw, which was considerable. Darcy was told a lot of things about doc, all of them bad, but of course what else would Snowy Baker and Hugh D. McIntosh say, they wanted the great man for themselves. Apparently When Darcy was on his death bed, he had decided that Kearns was a far better man to run Darcy's career, (he was of course right, Baker and McIntosh were far worse than Kearns would ever have been. In my opinion Kearns is one of THE great managers, maybe the best.
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