Jack Hurley

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Name: Jack Hurley
Alias: Deacon
Birth Name: John C. Hurley
Born: 1897-12-09
Birthplace: Fargo, North Dakota, USA
Died: 1972-11-17 (Age:74)
Hometown: USA
Promoting Record: click

As a boxing man, the iconoclastic "Deacon" Jack Hurley was one of the most colourful 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 corner-man, 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 a lot 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, knowledgeable 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 with Kid Matthews: 1952

Hurley thought about becoming a professional boxer prior to serving with the United States Army's First Division in World War I. However, he soon realized he lacked the physical ability to be successful. After the war, he began promoting and managing in his native Fargo, North Dakota, trying his hand with "Masked Marvels" before discovering his most talented attraction Billy Petrolle. Managing the young Italian American allowed Hurley to travel throughout the United States, where he gave Billy the nickname, "Fargo Express," and dressed him up in a Navajo blanket, both of which resonated with sportswriters and served to make him a household name in the 1930s. Petrolle would go on to be a great fighter and become one of Madison Square Garden's biggest drawing cards despite not becoming a world champion.

After Petrolle's retirement in the mid-1930s, Hurley moved to Chicago where he continued to manage fighters, most notably Billy Marquart and Lem Franklin. Beginning in the late 1930s, Hurley staged eight fight cards in three years (1938-'41) at the Chicago Coliseum. In 1942, he partnered with with Irving Schoenwald and Jack Begun to promote bouts for seven years (1942-'49) at the Chicago Stadium, then the nation's largest indoor arena. His most notable promotion there was the second middleweight championship fight between 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 by Charley Fusari at Madison Square Garden, would die tragically in an automobile accident at the age of 22.

In 1950, Hurley followed his then newly signed fighter Harry (Kid) Matthews to Seattle where Jack began a 22-year residence at the downtown Olympic Hotel. Although Matthews previously had fought without financial success for 12 years, Hurley saw potential and was able to change Harry's style and use his cunning public relation skills to ballyhoo Matthews, 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


External Links

The One Is Jack Hurley, Volume One: Son of Fargo by John Ochs: [1]; Links to the other two volumes: [2], [3] (2017 publications)