Exclusive Interview: Jackie Kallen

By Percy Crawford


Exclusive Interview: Jackie Kallen

PC: How has everything been Mrs. Kallen?

JK: Everything has been really great. I’ve got some new young prospects that have really been keeping me busy. It’s great to see these young kids on their way to a title. I love that. The title march is so exciting.

PC: Matt Remillard just captured his first title in the biggest fight of his young career...

JK: (cutting in) The WBC youth belt.

PC: How proud did he make you the night he captured that title?

JK: Well you know I have to say, he’s only 20 years old. Anything he does I’m just so proud of him because he’s still so young. He had never even fought an eight-rounder. He had only fought six-rounder’s and to go from six round fights to a ten round fight and dig deep and pull out a victory, I was thrilled. He’s just a great young man.

PC: Will you be attending the Manfredo/ Spina fight?
JK: No. I wish I had someone on that card to give me a good excuse to be out there, but since I don’t, I wont be out there. That’s a great matchup. I really like that fight. I think it’s interesting. Especially for people who live around their and know both of them.  I really hope ticket sales go well because they’re both really nice guys. Who are you picking in that fight?

PC: Honestly, I think Manfredo will be too much for him.

JK: I kind of agree with you there because of the level of training he’s getting out here at Freddie Roach’s gym might be a cut above what Joey’s getting. I think Peter is getting first class sparring and that may make the difference, but we’ll see.

PC: What did you think of The Contender’s second season?

JK: I obviously have good feelings about the show being a part of it since the very beginning. I thought the first season was really far superior, but we had Stallone on there and it was a much bigger budget. It was on NBC. Everything about it was bigger and more interesting. I think the athletes from the first season were more diverse, which made the show more interesting.

PC: Do you keep in touch with any of the season one contenders?

JK: I do. I stay in touch with quite a few of them. I stay in touch with Tarrick of course because he’s a fighter I used to manage. He’s a personal friend. I stay in touch with Jimmy Lange. I was just in Virginia for his fight last weekend. We all live out here so it’s always great to see Miguel, Sergio or Alphonso. I saw Bonsante last weekend. He got a win on Jimmy’s card. It’s always good to see him. He’s a lot of fun. The only one I don’t have any contact with is Juan De La Rosa. I really don’t know what’s up with Juan. Occasionally, I’ll email back and forth with Ishe, but it was just an honor working with all those guys. I respect all those guys and hope to stay in touch with them the rest of their careers.

PC: Back to Remillard real quick. What do you see in his near future?

JK: Hopefully more wins. We probably won’t do another ten rounder right away. We’ll get him a couple of eight-rounders just to get his feet wet. I think whether it’s the Continental America or one of the other smaller belts will be the next step up the ladder. Working him up into the top ten rating where we can hopefully maneuver him into a world title fight within the next year. Really you can’t predict how fast it’s going to go because an injury or something could keep you out a couple of months.

PC: How important do you think it is for them to keep boxing reality shows around for boxing to get back to being a main stream sport?

JK: I think it’s a huge help. It shows the average person at home who doesn’t really know much about our sport that these people are human. It puts a face on them and it puts a reason why they are fighting so hard. They’re fighting for a goal and their families. They’re not just fighting for the sake of violence. That’s probably why people pick this sport, which is probably the toughest sport, because it’s the only one-on-one combat sport with the exception of MMA. Football can be brutal and hockey could be very violent, but they’re team sports. Boxing is the real deal. You’re out there and you’re exposed with just you and your opponent. I hope shows like The Contender show that these guys are not intellectually limited and are good business men.

PC: You mentioned MMA. Gary Shaw recently announced that he’s going to start being involved in MMA. Is that something that you will take part of?

JK: I do have my promoter’s license to promote MMA and that’s a sport that’s growing by leaps and bounds. MMA is outselling boxing in most markets. If there is a boxing show and a MMA show, the MMA show seems to be drawing more people. It’s a sport to definitely keep your eye on. Those are tremendous young men too. The ones that I’ve known and worked with are terrific young men. They train so hard and take their sport so serious that I’m a big fan of it and hope to get involved in it more.

PC: You have a demanding schedule. What keeps you motivated to stay in boxing?

JK: The biggest part of it, and that’s why I’m working with the sheriff’s department out here, is to develop more gyms in the area where there are a lot of kids at risk. There is nothing more thrilling than seeing a young person having a dream and having the opportunity to reach that dream. Most of the athletes that go into boxing couldn’t afford the other sports because they are expensive. You don’t see kids at risk go into skiing, tennis, or golf; they tend to go to a sport that is more affordable and that they have easy access to. Every time I have the choice to help a young person go into the gym rather than join a gang or get into trouble it’s so satisfying. Can I take this person from the ground up and build a world champion? It’s a creative craft to manage a fighter because every move you make has to be the right one. You have to strategically plan a career and that’s a privilege to have someone’s future in my hands. That’s a huge responsibility and I just love it – I find it so challenging. I can’t imagine not being involved in boxing.

PC: That was my next question – How long do you see yourself involved in boxing?

JK: As many years as my body will allow me to climb in and out of the ring and do the traveling and everything else. I was with Angelo Dundee this weekend and he’s in his 80’s and still going strong. I don’t plan on slowing down anytime soon. There are still too many kids out there that need help and someone to care enough about them to protect them and steer them in the right direction.

PC: Do you ever think there will be another female that will impact the sport of boxing like you have?

JK: I thought there would be by now. I’ve been doing this 28 years and I thought by now someone else would’ve got the bug and dug deep and got into the trenches, but so far there hasn’t been another manager that’s tackled the sport and embraced the way I have. It doesn’t mean that there won’t be somewhere down the line, but so far the only one’s I hear about is the champion’s wives managing their husband’s career. For some reason, I feel like they think it’s too daunting of a task and they’re biting off more than they can chew. It’s like getting in the shark tank; you’ve got to move carefully without getting eaten up. I think that’s part of the challenge for me is that I was a fish out of water - one of the only females in a male sport. It became a very interesting game for me and the more that I’m challenged the more I step up. I guess it’s my own stubbornness.

PC: Did you ever think about quitting?

JK: No, never! The more obstacles that were put in front of me, the more I had in my mind that they weren’t getting me out of here. It’s like a vitamin to me. You put down the gauntlet and I’m going to fight harder.

PC: You are definitely an inspiration to a lot of women, but who are some of your inspirations coming up?

JK: That’s a great question, I don’t get asked that much and I think that all people, female and male, should have mentors that we look up to and take the time to help us. Obviously in my case, my mother, she was a writer, an actress, a singer, and a very outgoing person. She was a great role model. She taught me how to get along with people and how to get out there in the world and that anything was possible. She never made me feel like anything was outside of my reach. That was really a great lesson because when I was younger I used to always think I couldn’t do that and she would tell me I can. As I got older, my next role model was Barbara Walters. I went into journalism to follow in her footsteps. Along the way I discovered boxing and that became a bigger part of my life than journalism, but I always respected the way she conducted herself. She met every important person from every walk of life and always knew how to handle herself. One of the biggest thrills of my career was going on The View and actually sitting face-to-face with her. To know that my career had come far enough that I would actually be on her show was a great experience.  She’s 75 and still going strong and looks terrific. I respect that woman.

PC: You said you’ve been in boxing for 28 years. What is the biggest difference between now and when you first got involved?

JK: The lack of enthusiasm of the sport. When I first got involved, the days of Hearns, Hagler, Duran, and Leonard, they were such great match-ups if you went to a fight in Vegas it was the biggest event of the year. It’s not like that anymore. Very few fights generate that type of atmosphere. It seems like you have to go to a UFC fight to see a star-studded crowd. The excitement that used to be in boxing has seemed to switch over to MMA. I think it’s because of so many bad decisions in boxing. People are starting to look at boxing like professional wrestling. In all due respect to Samuel Peter, who seems like a great guy, I don’t think he beat James Toney. I wouldn’t pay my money to see a pay-per-view fight to see it go the other way and the wrong guy get the decision. I have eyes, I know what I saw. I think the fans are just disgusted. It’s embarrassing and insulting to the viewers to say you don’t know so we’ll tell you who won. It annoys me. You see things that you wouldn’t have saw 20 years ago, such as fighters afraid to fight each other. Maybe it’s the promoters, because they don’t want to risk the big money fights. They put these guys in fights that are so one-sided that it’s not exciting anymore. There is nothing that can match the first Tommy Hearns vs. Sugar Ray Leonard or Hearns vs. Hagler. Those were classic match-ups.

PC: What do you think boxing could do or should do to fix the weigh-in situations?

JK: That’s a real touchy subject because it’s different in different areas. In California the weigh-in has to be within 24 hours of the fight. That doesn’t give the fighters much time to hydrate and build their bodies back up - which goes back to correcting the problem of fighters not fighting at their natural weight. Some fighters just wait too long to start losing the weight - which is a discipline problem.  They have to completely dehydrate and dry out and that’s very dangerous. That’s something that I really had a problem with back in the James Toney days - him trying to make middleweight. If you are a tall fighter and you have the luxury of moving up to a higher weight class then that’s the solution. If you’re a short middleweight who really can’t do great against light heavyweights, then that’s a problem. That was a problem that we had with a fighter at Kronk named Mickey Goodwin in the 70’s. He was a great fighter and a great puncher but he was a short stocky little guy who had a lot of trouble making middleweight. That could be the demise of a really good fighter.

PC: Who are some of the fighters that you enjoy watching now?

JK: There are so many. When you’re a boxing fan, you’ll watch any two guys fight if it’s a good fight. I put Floyd Mayweather high on my list. I think he does everything pretty much right. I’ve always been a fan of Bernard Hopkins. I just think that guy is phenomenal. I have the utmost respect for him, in and out of the ring. I’m always happy to see him fight. I like watching guys like Oscar and Shane Mosley. Seeing them progress and grow up after watching them fight on James Toney’s undercards is amazing. I used to like the entertaining guys. Hector Camacho Sr. and Jorge Paez always made it fun to watch. You don’t see that quite as much anymore. I think we need the younger kids following boxing. Our US team hasn’t been great lately and I think it’s because so many kids are going to basketball and football. I try, in my small way, to help by working with USA Boxing. I go out and speak at schools and Boys and Girls Clubs any place where there are young people. I try to tell them the benefits of getting out of gangs and getting into a boxing gym - joining a group that becomes like your family in a positive way.

PC: I appreciate your time and it’s been a pleasure. Anything you’d like to say in closing?

JK: I love boxing. I want to see this sport grow. I want to see young people get off the streets, put down their guns and go into a boxing gym to learn how to fight. It’s great self-defense and discipline and you just might have it. I drive from bad neighborhood to bad neighborhood looking for that one kid that jumps out at me that can be the next James Toney. I know he’s out there. I hope I can find him.