RingSide Report

World News, Social Issues, Politics, Entertainment and Sports

From James Toney to Meg Ryan: The Life of Jackie Kallen – The First Lady of Boxing

“I hope boxing reclaims that glory and stops playing second fiddle to MMA.”- Jackie Kallen

Jackie Kallen has been managing fighters for over 33 years and many words are used to describe her. One word defines her is “innovator.” She was one of the first female boxing managers and continues to this day to be successful. She has had a movie based on her life called “AGAINST THE ROPES” which starred Meg Ryan in 2004. Currently, she is working on several projects including a reality show and a pilot.

RSR was able to catch up with this pioneer of our sport and get her thoughts on the game and her career…

KN: How long have you been a fan of the sport and was there a specific fight that made you a fan of the sport?

I have been involved in boxing now for 33 years. The first fight I saw in person was in 1978. It was Thomas Hearns vs. Raul Aguirre and I went to cover it as a sports reporter. I never looked back and have loved boxing ever since that night.

KN: How did you get into managing boxers?

After interviewing Thomas Hearns in 1978, I went to work for the Kronk Gym as their publicist. I held that position for ten years, traveling all over the world with the Kronk boxers. In 1988, I decided to try my hand at managing. I discovered that I loved it and have been doing it ever since.

KN: What was working with James Toney like?

It was never boring, I can tell you that. James had really high highs and really low lows. When he was in a good mood—there was nobody more fun or more entertaining to be with. When he was in one of his bad moods—it was a different story. But he was probably one of the best fighters I have ever worked with. He had so much talent and natural ability. Boxers like him only come around every so often. It was an honor to manage such a great athlete.

KN: What was the reason for the split with Toney and are you still on speaking terms?

Our contract ran out after six years and he chose not to renew it. I will always have a soft spot for James. He was like a son to me and a brother to my two sons. I will always be happy to run into him. There is no one on earth that I am not on speaking terms with. Life is way too short for that.

KN: Who do you manage today?

Today I manage Michael Dallas, a junior welterweight from Bakersfield, California. I also handle Ramon Valenzuela, JR., a middleweight from Chicago. I am about to turn a kid pro from LA named Zac Wohlman, a welterweight. I also work with Jimmy Lange, a junior middleweight from the DC area, who was on “The Contender” with me.

KN: What are your goals or do you feel you have reached all the goals in your career?

I will always set new goals for myself. I cannot imagine feeling that you have accomplished everything in life. My short-term goals are to finish the autobiography that I am writing, sell the reality show that I am currently shooting a pilot for and start filming the movie that I am co-producing. My long-term goals are to have another couple of world champions under my belt and to possibly get married again.

KN: What do you think of the current state of boxing?

I feel sad about today’s boxing scene. I miss the golden era of the 1980s and 1990s—when the top prospects fought the best in their weight class. The matches were excellent, the fight crowd was full of beautiful people, and every title fight was an event. There were fights on all the main networks and boxing was a popular sport. Little boys dreamed of being the next Muhammad Ali. There were gyms in every neighborhood and the Golden Gloves were loaded with talented young kids. I hope boxing reclaims that glory and stops playing second fiddle to MMA.

KN: With Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao set to retire in a couple of years, who do you think will carry boxing after they are gone?

That’s a great question. There are some good boxers out there, but no one has yet emerged as the future superstar. In my opinion, the best of the upcoming group are Tim Bradley, Amir Khan, and Andre Ward. All of them are under thirty and their combined record adds up to 77 wins and only one loss. I also like Sergio Martinez and Lucian Bute, but they are both a bit older now.

KN: What is Fatal Femmes fighting?

Fatal Femmes Fighting was an all-women’s MMA league that I was affiliated with. They went out of business, though, and it appears that there is not a huge market for female cage fighters.

KN: What is a typical day like for you?

They all vary, but I guess a typical day would be going to the boxing gym to watch one of my guys train or take a look at a new prospect, a few hours of writing, an hour or two of returning phone calls and emails, a possible lunch date with a friend, a meeting or two, read one of the many scripts that people send me and try to squeeze in a game of Scrabble. I also travel a lot, so I often find myself at LAX or Burbank.

KN: What did you think of the movie portrayal of you?

I didn’t care for it, to tell you the truth. That was NOT me. I hate to criticize anyone—not the screenwriter, not Meg Ryan, and not the director. But it veered greatly from the true story and the Hollywood version lost most of the flavor, controversy, warmth, and integrity. But that is water under the bridge and I have moved on. It was a great learning experience.

KN: Is there anything else you would like to say?

I love boxing and I believe in the sport. It will bounce back if enough good people get involved as managers and promoters and if we develop some superstar fighters. I am so proud to have been a female pioneer in this male-dominated sport. I wish that more women had followed in my footsteps over the years. I loved being labeled “The First Lady of Boxing,” but when will there be a second lady?

Leave a Reply