Birth Name: John C. Hurley
Born: December 9, 1897 in Fargo, North Dakota
Died: November 17, 1972 in Seattle, Washington
As a boxing man, the iconoclastic "Deacon" Jack Hurley was one of the most colorful and fascinating characters in the sport. In addition to being regarded as one of the great masters of his day as a promoter, a manager, a trainer, and a cornerman, Hurley also had few peers when it came to cultivating sportswriters with his unique personality, strong opinions, and fascinating stories. The great sportswriter, W.C. Heinz, based one of the major characters in his highly regarded boxing novel, THE PROFESSIONAL, on Hurley.
As a manager and a trainer, Hurley was known to demand fifty percent of his fighters' purses. Yet he was regarded by many as one of the most honest people in boxing. Moreover, he was known to give his full efforts to see that his boxers did well in the ring and made alot of money.
When it came to training and managing his fighters, Hurley was known as a perfectionist with strong ideas. He would drill his fighters to do exactly what he expected of them. As a result, knowledgable people could tell a Hurley-trained fighter from others. Hurley also selected the opposition of his fighters carefully in order to bring them along gradually--methods in vogue today.
Hurley attempted to start a boxing career after serving with the United States Army's First Division in World War I. However, he had poor eyesight and lacked the physical ability to be a boxer. He moved into promoting and managing in his native Fargo, North Dakota, trying his hand with "Masked Marvels" before discovering his most talented attraction -- fellow Fargo native Billy Petrolle. Managing Petrolle allowed Hurley to travel throughout the United States, where he showed some of his managerial savvy, which included dressing the Italian-American Petrolle in an American Indian blanket to hype him up as an Indian boxer. Petrolle would go on to be a great fighter despite not becoming a world champion.
After Petrolle's retirement in the mid-1930s, Hurley moved into Chicago where he continued to manage fighters, most notably Billy Marquart and Lem Franklin. During the 1940s, he worked for five years as a promoter at the Chicago Coliseum. His most notable promotion was the Chicago meeting of Tony Zale and Rocky Graziano, which set an indoor record at the time for the largest gate, at $422,000.
In 1948 he went back to managing fighters, and began working with Omaha welterweight Vince Foster. Foster, who was knocked out in one round at Madison Square Garden, would die tragically in a motorcycle accident.
Hurley moved to Seattle, WA, where he began a long residence at the downtown Olympic Hotel. Soon afterward he discovered Harry (Kid) Matthews. Hurley refined Matthews's style and used his cunning public relation skills to build up Matthews's ballyhoo, to such an extent that members of the United States Congress began to speak up about the "injustice" of Matthews not receiving a heavyweight title shot.
After Matthews retired, Hurley continued to work with fighters until his death in 1972. Most notable was his promotion of the 1957 heavyweight title fight in Seattle between Floyd Patterson and Pete Rademacher, and his ability to sell Rademacher, who had never fought as a professional, as worthy of a title shot. Hurley also managed late 1960s/early 70s heavyweight contender Boone Kirkman.
Hurley spent his final days in Seattle, living in the Olympic Hotel. He is buried in Holy Cross Cemetery, West One-half, Lot 35, Block 7, Old Section, Fargo, ND.
Fighters Managed by Hurley
- Babe Daniels
- Lem Franklin
- Dixon Hoxsey
- Boone Kirkman
- Russie LeRoy
- Leo Lokovsek
- Billy Marquart
- Harry (Kid) Matthews
- Bill Miller
- Jackie Moore
- Billy Petrolle
- Elmer Rush
- Dick Schwinder
- Billy Seward
- Burt Singer
- Al Van Ryan
Awards and Recognition
Inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame, "Expanded Category" (Managers & Trainers)