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The Boxing Biographies Newsletter

Volume 6 – No 7   16th Oct ,  2010


All the contents of this edition has been provided by Mr Tony Triem


Boxing Historian
Member, IBRO
Publicist, Int'l Ring 101
Former Director - WBHOF
Indian Springs, NV


Jack “Doc” Kearns

Maker of Champions

1882 - 1963

By Jack Kearns II




Jack Kearns was born John Leo McKernan in Iron Mountain, Michigan. At the age of one, he, along with his mother and father, traveled by wagon train to Seattle Washington, via the legendary Oregon Trail where they settled in 1886. His father, Phillip Leo, a political writer, former Scout for the Union Army, Civil war veteran at age 15 and a member of Cox’s army, was the Wagon Master on the trail.


In 1896, young Jack traveled to Alaska, where he met the celebrated author, Jack London, whom he discovered was also an oyster pirate in San Francisco Bay. This, and many others of London’s adventures, influenced Jack’s approach to life.


London renamed Johnny McKernan, Jack Kearns, after a character he wanted to eventually write about. He thought that person might be the type of character Johnny would emulate and since the now newly named Jack Kearns’s aspirations were to be a boxer, London thought of Kearns as a tougher sounding name.


Young Kearns thought the name selection was providential since he had heard from his father that their first family member emigrating from Ireland in the early 1700’s, named John Dennis McKernan also had an alias, name of John Kearns. In later years as he researched through the family members, he discovered that Dennis was actually thrown out of England along with all the other Irish rabble-rousers that fought and hated the English for what they had done to Ireland in the past.


While in the Klondike, he discovered that there were so many different kinds of colorful characters and they all seemed bent upon making a name for themselves in many different ways and fashions. But most had one thing in mind, becoming famous and wealthy with little concern for their own and others health and welfare. The fight game was where he belonged. That’s where the real money, excitement and action were.


Kearns managed over eighty fighters in his sixty-five year career in the boxing game. Jack Dempsey, Mickey Walker, Joe Maxim, Archie Moore, Jackie Fields and Abe Attell were the


world champions he managed.  He also managed, promoted and guided Benny Leonard, Battling Nelson, Harry Wills, Kenny Lane, Billy Murray, Bob Satterfield, Jimmy Clabby, Red Watson, Roscoe Toles, Soldier Bartfield, Hank Bass, Jack Dorval, Oakland Jimmy Duffy, Dick Hyland and many other ranked fighters and former champions, while usually a silent partner with many other managers and promoters.


Maxim and Walker were his favorite fighters. Walker, because he, his wife and family became close friends with Doc’s own family. Plus, he was Doc’s drinking buddy.  Maxim, because he always said, “the powder puff punching Maxim was the toughest guy I have ever seen. Imagine going to a gunfight with a ping-pong paddle in each hand. Especially against the murderous punchers he faced. Maxim and Dempsey had great chins, Joey needed it.”


The good Doctor was the consummate hustler and promoter, while maintaining his reputation as a standup guy in the fight game. He was the main figure responsible for the


Dempsey - Carpentier fight that became the first million-dollar gate in sports history. He also broke four banks in Montana and made over $300,000 when the local real estate promoter tried to hustle him for free publicity by claiming he wanted to promote a Jack Dempsey – Tommy Gibbons match in the town of Shelby that was probably the first sports event where the hustler got hustled. Kearns was a wonder when it came to making money, and spending it.