Jackie Kalin swims with sharks

From her days at the Kronk Gym to managing fighters through that fiery and unexpected relationship with James Toney, Jackie Kallen has a story to tell, Craig Scott writes

standing above James Tony As he receives instructions between rounds, Jackie Kalin cuts a scary figure, snarling across the ring in the face of his opponent, while dressed in all-black to match her fighter’s torso. The black color hides the sweat used as it bounces off the shiny leather of both men during the championship competition; It also hides blood.

Underneath, neither the coach nor the boxer cares about the man trying to punch holes in Tony; They use 60 precious seconds to drag themselves back to the same page during a short pause in the heat of battle. However, Kalin, an angel on the shoulder of the mighty, turbulent Michigan, does not flinch. Her piercing eyes cast a glance from somewhere in the middle of her golden hair mass, which is sitting just as if she was attending a movie premiere or a glittering ball.

Although she looks out of place in this photo, she never lets boxing count, and has since helped create roles for women behind the scenes in a sport she noted was once “all male.” Boxing is a different sport now, but Kalin is still as brave as she was then, perched on the arena, ready to pounce like a defending mother.

She is now close to 75 years old and has decades of experience, she says boxing news Those times have changed, but her principles for effective management have remained the same: “With Boxers, I try to see what kind of life they lived, where they came from, and what they went through. Do they want care or that kind of maternal therapy or are they left on their own and feeling independent?” to try to discover it.

“When I see or work with someone who has mental health issues, or if they have other issues like drug or alcohol abuse issues, I can’t always solve the problem, but I can work with them, rather than deal with them. Those things are more common now, he says,” he says. About her people. You can take someone, you can help them, and that’s what really satisfies me right now. That feels great. If I could do this every day, I would.

“I think I’ve been given the skill of being able to motivate and inspire people,” Kalin continued. “I am a very positive person, and I do not allow negativity to creep in, it has affected a lot of the fighters I have worked with. I have always stressed the importance of winning, but also the importance of being humble and accepting defeat with grace and dignity. I try to teach my boxers not to punch or be frustrated. their opponents, because if you lose to the guy you just said was a tramp, what does that mean? You lost to a bum.”

Interestingly, it was a journalism career that saw young Kalin wrap up at Emmanuel Steward’s Kronk Gym in Detroit, and give interviews Thomas “The Killer” Hearns Before one of his seizures in the late seventies. She jumped into covering sporting events in 1975, and previously established herself in the entertainment world, making her way through interviews with some of the biggest names in show business – Frank Sinatra and Elvis, to name a few.

“Sinatra was definitely cooler,” she said, without stopping to think. “It was Rat Buck, Chairman of Old Blue Eyes. He was fair And therefore cool. Elvis, when I met him he was on a lot of drugs. It was at the end of his career; He was a legend and an icon. It was amazing. But I wouldn’t have used the word ‘awesome’ at the time.”

Kalin had cooked dinner for the Rolling Stones at her home in Detroit and spent time with the Beatles in New York, but flashy concerts and album covers will be replaced by blood-stained hand wraps and a life indulged in the loneliest sports.

“I became a publicist for boxing at Kronk Gym; Tommy Hearns and Emmanuel Steward and the gym we had there in Detroit. Boxing just became my favorite sport. Once I fell into it, that was it. I kind of saw boxing as a microcosm of life, you know Everyone has a fight in their life. You fight for your health, you fight for equality, you fight for a better salary, you fight to get along with someone. I’ve never attended a boxing match before, and I fell in love with it right away. Immediately, my first fight I couldn’t wait to go back to the next stage.

“Success in any field, there are certain things in common. Boxing is no different. Anyone who reaches the top, whether it is in politics, sports or entertainment, there has to be an innate talent; you must be born with a certain talent in that area. Every person Successful I’ve met has that innate ability in his area. You have two great soccer players. Why does one become Tom Brady and the other not? Two singers: one becomes Lady Gaga and the other sings at weddings. It’s that little extra thing.”

Kalin refers to her first client, Bobby Heitz, and tells us she was amazed when she worked at Kronk and spoke to the heavyweight, realizing that not all professional boxers have managers. The pair bonded and a host of other heroes followed soon after.

“It was like going to college for me,” admitted Kalin, the subject of the Hollywood movie Against the Ropes (2004), starring Meg Ryan. “I learned a lot from working with him [Bobby Hitz] And while I was working with him we saw James Tony there. If I hadn’t been there with Bobby, I wouldn’t have seen James at all. The way it all came together was very coincidental.

“Keep in touch with Bronco McCartt, Tom Boom Boom Johnson, Lonnie Beasley, Penclone Thomas and Bernard Harris. We talk on the phone, text each other, we’re all friends on Facebook. I love him – he’s awesome. It’s such a pleasure to know that these The people I’ve worked with for 25 years still have such closeness. They are all a special part of my life, and each has a special place in my heart. I still get birthday cards and Mother’s Day cards from these guys, all these years after managing them.”

Most recently, in receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, Kalin has remained optimistic despite suffering the loss of a year at the hands of the global pandemic. Her energy and passion are unparalleled, and to say she rolls the plates would be an understatement. I caught Jackie two years ago and I remember being amazed by her continued optimism – unwavering.

Faced with questions about delays or missed opportunities, she responded, pointing to a series of positives to balance the argument: “Oh my God, the year I flew in and I can’t say I’ve done much or gone to many places, but it’s been a year. I’m still here, and I Glad that. I was gifted with a ton of energy – I was born this way. I can go all day and still go out all night and have a great time. Even though I’m 75 – which may sound old to some people, I mean it’s three Quarters of a century – but that’s just a number to me.

“I’ve written two books, but it’s a lot nicer when someone writes you one, so I have a writer working on a book about me right now. I do a lot of motivational talking, so I’ve been doing certain things through Zoom and online. Before COVID, I was doing podcasts. My own, but the studio had to shut down during COVID, so I’m looking to start that backup again with a much bigger platform at the end of the month.

“The other thing in the works is another show – it’s like ‘Do you think you can dance? ‘, but it’s ‘So, do you think you can box?’ It would be with unknown fighters. Not like The Contender, because those fighters were all in the same weight class. This would be a variety of boxers, male and female, and of different races. We’ll follow their stories and find out why they got into boxing, find out some demons they deal with and what are the blessings in their lives.”

All of the above is backed by her continued and direct involvement in the sport of boxing, managing a small number of young prospects, including unbeaten Connecticut hope Meequan Williams, 16-0-1 (7). Kalin said boxing news She will always have “one foot in boxing”, but achieving a proper work-life balance eventually became very important to continuing to run her gym and nurture a large pool of professional fighters.

Williams and other Kalin prospects find themselves in a very different sport than the McKart or Hitz sport of the ’80s or ’90s. It’s been watched as the rise of social media has caused jobs to shine and stand still in equal measure. She explained that the boxers now “want to know a lot”.

Elusive fights, worrying about fans’ perception of opponents, and grabbing undefeated records with white knuckles wouldn’t cut it back in the original Kronk crew days: “The shift I’ve noticed is that some boxers today are a little softer. I remember when the guy’s attitude is: ‘Just make me fight.'” I don’t care who it is, I’m going to beat this kid.

Holly Stein/ALLSPORT

“We didn’t have a lot of tapes. There was no YouTube. There was no BoxRec to find the opponent. I just went in there and did your job. Now, they want to know all the little details,” It’s too long for me; Fight so-and-so. He was in the amateurs with a guy I know. There is a lot of information available, and now fighters are talking about themselves far from which fights they can comfortably win. The fighters in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s were tougher.

“In those days, your record wasn’t there for the whole world to see. If you lose a battle, the whole world didn’t know about it and it wasn’t a big deal. Now, there is tomorrow and the world knows tomorrow. It’s a different culture, a different world. The game has changed, so The positions of the fighters also changed.”

A very difficult position to change was that of James Tony, who was undoubtedly Calin’s shining light and the defining relationship in boxing. Still one of the most naturally gifted fighters of his generation, the multi-weight world champion Tony, who hails from Ann Arbor, wore shorts emblazoned with the Star of David, in honor of his manager’s Judaism.

Their union was creative and unique. Stored photos can only tell a small part of their story.

Crazy stories circulated about Tony heading to Calin’s apartment with a firearm after losing to Roy Jones Jr. The duo dominated the sport of boxing for years after shocking and stopping Michael Nunn in 1991, but lack of discipline prevented Lights Out from ousting their great opponent. When I met Kalin in 2018, she hadn’t been in touch with James for some time, and lost contact because she kept getting busy. Fortunately, things have changed.

“I keep in touch with him and his kids,” she happily said. “Last month, my son and I FaceTimed with him, so we’re on good terms now. James is such a big part of my life and I’m thankful that we’re back in regular contact with each other. It’s very heartwarming to me. I think it was just the time [that brought us back in contact]. I called him, and I said, “Hey — let’s go have lunch.” We did, and it was great. Life gets in the way sometimes. He did what he wanted. I was doing my job. But I was missing him, and I wanted to revive that friendship, so it was really cool.”

She laughs and discusses her legacy and her desire to be remembered as one of her kind – a pioneer; I explain that I don’t think she has anything to worry about. Kalin humanizes a sport famous for its charm and treacherous reputation and takes on its character when swimming with sharks.

It’s hard to summarize its impact within the boxing community on female coaches, writers, PR actresses, or aspiring managers. But if she could or if she had to, I feel like she’d be back in the ring again, fighting for them all by fearlessly taking those first steps into the unknown.

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