Manager, Promoter, and Matchmaker
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.
A selection of stories about Jack Hurley
Until you've met the old professor, Jack Hurley, you just haven't been around. He's boxing at its best; sharp, suave, honest, uncompromising. As dour looking as a plate of pickles, he has a sense of humor like a stiletto. He stood up at a meeting of sports writers one day and declared they were a bunch of free-loaders, interested only in complimentary tickets. They chuckled and patted their palms. Anybody else they would have applauded with a handful of smashed potatoes.
To say Hurley is the man behind Harry "Kid" Matthews is to underrate the guy. He is Matthews. He does everything- bat the pitching and catching of blows in the ring, and we don't mean this sardonically. Harry's sudden Jump to fame after long years of plugging dates from his meeting with Hurley.
Harry is the perfect fighting machine, but the thing that has made him great is his ability to absorb teaching and follow instructions. He has subordinated all his own ring knowledge to put himself completely in Hurley's hands. He doesn't even bother thinking about who or when he's fighting next If you think the Kid is unsmart you should see his bank account.
Full Time Job
Hurley works at the job of being Harry Matthews 24 hours a day. We've had calls from the guy at home in the middle of the night, and so have other writers all around the country. The guy's phone bill must be monstrous. He confided once he had $20,000 invested in Harry before he began getting dividends.
He takes 50 per cent of the Matthews earnings and out of it foots the bills. This arrangement startled Harry when he first went to Hurley and offered the old professor his contract. He suggested the usual 33 ˝ per cent was sufficient. "How much you earning now?" asked Hurley. "Nothln'," said Harry. "How much," stabbed Jack, "is 50 per cent of nothing ?"
In the Matthew’s corner on fight night he reaches full stature. You've heard how he talked the Kid into believing when he was all but exhausted during the Bob Murphy fight - that he had his second wind and was in better shape than Murphy. No doubt Jack had to do some mental gymnastics this week when Danny Nardico was giving the kid a large, bad evening.
It's an odd thing to say about a man who fought for 13 years before meeting his Svengali, but it was Hurley who taught Matthews to fight. He told the Kid he was nothing but a novice ( made him a bit mad. Incidentally ) and started him all over.
Was Unfancy Dan
"The object of this same is to hurt and be hurt," he told Harry the Kid. "You're nothing but a fancy Dan, and not very fancy." They spent hour after rugged hour in the gym, teaching an experienced fighter how to throw a punch. The fact that Harry was young enough , he's 28 now , and willing to learn saved the partnership and made the fighter.
This is unusual in the fight game a manager doing all the chores for his man. The common practice is to turn the boy over to a trainer so the manager will have enough time for the mental work and for many of them there isn't that much time. Once, just once , we asked professor Jack why he didn't hire a trainer.
"A trainer," ha said, "is a man with a towel across his shoulders. Anybody can wrap a towel around his neck and fill his mouth with toothpick swabs. I should let one of those bums ruin my life’s work
26 May 1957
Yes, sir. there he was, breezing into the office. Tall, slender, a little balder and greyer than he used to be. He looked like a church deacon with a predatory glint In his eye. Of course, you recognized the character Immediately as Jack Hurley, the smartest hombre we ever met in the fight racket.
IN A FEW thousand well chosen words. Jack quickly disposed of the atom bomb, the Suez Canal and the budget and then got down to something of vital interest to the world at large, namely and to wit, the next heavyweight title fight.
Yes, sir. It seems that pompous Cus D'Amato, manager of Floyd Patterson ,the champion, had issued a lordly summons for brother Hurley to depart immediately from the state of Washington and appear before him. Cus, Jack confided has offered me the promotional rights For a title fight which I may stage anywhere I desire. Fine, but who has been selected as Patterson's victim and where will the slaughter take place and will anybody make money?
Mention of the word money brought a broad smile to Jack's handsome face. "MONEY," said he, "is something I've always been able to make, especially for others, but never have been able to keep. I made matches for Jim Norris for seven years in Chicago and never lost on a single show. Here he diverged a little to explain how Norris has ruined the fight game" in this country. He continued:
"An opponent will be no trouble. I can always dig up somebody. As for the place. It naturally would be Seattle, where I can guarantee everybody can make a bundle”you will remember that Jack was the manager of Billy Petrolle who used to belt out brother lightweights and even welters with equal ease. Where is Billy now? Billy had little education but plenty of brains and when he quit with considerable dough in his kick, he started a small iron foundry and years later sold out for $100,000.
"THEN, ABOUT eight years ago," Hurley said, "he wanted to go into a nice quiet business where he could make a little and so I steered him Into the church goods business in Chicago, and he's made a big success ever since. Sells rosaries, statues, medals, candles, prayer books and other church books. "Imagine one of the toughest of all fighters selling church goods.But then .Billy always was a devout guy. Well, I got to hustle off to keep a date with D'Amato." And off he went.
Hurley has Another Athlete
Deacon Jack Hurley, Seattle’s master manipulator of maulers has got himself another athlete, a white hope. When muscular Bob Albright shouldered his way past Joey Rowan of Philadelphia last Thursday in an unimpressive 10-round decision it, was only the beginning of what Hurley,and Albright, hope will be a pleasant relationship for the future. Although Albright apparently won in the late stages of the bout primarily through his added beef ( he weighed 223,Rowan 33 pounds less at 190), Professor Hurley hadn't hoped for a decisive win this early in Albright's rebuilding program.
The ex- Los Angeles heavyweight was termed green but game when Hurley decided to give him the benefit of his (Hurley's) guidance. "I'm teaching Albright from the feet up," said Hurley recently, and It was no exaggeration. "He's got no balance, no leverage . I want him to unlearn what he's learned before, and In six months I'll have him ready to move up into the rated ranks. And he will."
Something From Nothing
If there are any fight managers left who can make something out of a piece of raw fighter, Hurley is one of the few. He’s a genius as an instructor and at moving a fighter up the ladder. It’s an education to watch him train one of his fighters. Hurley marks a square on the floor of the gym and has the fighter stand on a chalk line which is only three feet square. He makes him punch without moving his feet. He teaches him how to get into punching position and weave and rock and get leverage. Hurley teaches him to hold his hands close, just out in front of him a little bit, and in this way he is in a position to punch quickly with either hand. He learns to weave and come out of it with a left hook or to bring a right up from a crouch, and every punch is thrown with the body behind it.
He’s Worth It
Hurley lets you know that Albright is in good hands, but onlookers agree that it’s not just a manager’s boast. Hurley and his fighters split purse 50-50, but he’s one manager who is worth all his 50 per cent. While most others aren’t worth a dime over 10 per cent. Ordinarily a manager’s share is one third, but Hurley has demonstrated he is no ordinary manager.
“ I teach my fighters, I train them, I do their press work and handle their business affairs “ he points out. “ There luck to have a manager like me. If I hadn’t come along most of them would have been bums”. Such words could put Hurley in an unfavorable light, but there is no sign of swagger or boastfulness in him, nor is there undue modesty. He’s merely stating the facts.
Hurley never claimed that Harry Kid Mathews could fight, but he maneuvered him up the fistic ladder almost to the top, which was a knockout by Rocky Marciano. But lots of other fighters have met that end. And Mathews retired from the ring with more than $150,000 in his bank account. Bob Albright may not go as nearly that far, even with the famous Hurley tutoring. But if he can defeat a “name” heavyweight like Joey Rowan after only a few lessons for his feet in Hurley’s “from the ground up” course of training he might have something by the time the Professor gets to his mitts.
Talkative deacon Holds Spot In Pre Fight Appearances
The Northwest's leading one-two fight combination, the Deacon who it anything but a deacon and the Kid who is past being a kid, arrived in the Tri-City area early Wednesday and were immediately up to their ears in advance promotion for the area's first big- fight. Friday night the Kid – Harry Matthews of Seattle will be the center of attraction when he goes against Harley Breshears of Parma, Idaho ,in a 10-rounder at Sanders field. But meanwhile, the talkative Deacon ,Jack Hurley, holds the spotlight in the round of activity preceding the fight.
After getting up late Wednesday morning, he and the silent Matthews appeared first at a press confab, then at a personal appearance in Richland, and finally both showed up at the ball game. Matthews went home at the end of five. Hurley, an avid baseball fan, stayed until the final out. It was at the press gathering where the talking half of the combination was the centre of attention, while the fighting half sat by quietly nodding agreement or saying yes when called upon to do so.
Hurley touched on home, marriage, and mother, plus bayonet fighting and his fabulous former instructor, Sergeant Cassidy , the was on hand Wednesday but Breshears will not come here until today. Concerning the fight,Walker said that if Breshears should get past Matthews, he will try to match him with Ez Charles the next time around.
Hurley,too, is considering an Ez Charles match, as well as the possibilities of a Layne, or Chuck Albright card next, if Matthews wins over Breshears. The Charles - Matthews card would probably be in Seattle; a Layne - Matthews fight would probably be in Idaho. Of the possibility of a Matthews- Pat McMurtry fight. Hurley said he would like it but didn't think the McMurtry camp would go for it.
When Matthews arranged this comeback fight, he said it was because he felt he had as good a chance as anyone to win the heavy weight crown now that Rocky Marciano has retired. And on other heavyweight Hurley said there were but three or four who knew how to fight. Of those, he named Archie Moore. Floyd Patterson