Pioneer Jackie Kallen Joins Brilliant James Toney In The Hall Of Fame

Jackie Kallen is a female pioneer in the sport, an iconic former publicist of the Kronk Gym in Detroit, who went on to famously manage James Toney to his world title win.

Kallen now is getting her just due and will be inducted into the 2024 International Boxing Hall of Fame class, two years after Toney went in.

“All I can say is I want to say, ‘What took you so long?’” said Kallen. “I was so hoping to get in when James Toney got in, but even to get in a few years after him is a great, great feeling.”

Former heavyweight Bobby Hitz was the first pro boxer Kallen managed. 

Toney’s meteoric rise to fame was catapulted when he defeated Michael Nunn, and that is a milestone most historians remember her for. 

Kallen was often close to Toney as the decision of a bout was read out, and that was the case after he defeated fellow future Hall of Famer McCallum. 

“I started in boxing 45 years ago and the boxing Hall of Fame didn’t come around until maybe 10 years after that, and then I thought it was mostly fighters – maybe five years after they retired,” Kallen added.

“[Boxing] has always been an old boys club, and I knew that as a woman in the sport it takes me a little longer to get the same thing the guys get. But, I just waited patiently and thought that someday they would recognize me and they did.”

Though she is a self-admitted easy-going person, she also takes pride in saying she will not allow someone else to walk all over her. She sees the ability to do both as the secret to her success in boxing.

“As much as I am a peace loving person, even keel, I am a little bit of a badass underneath all of that,” Kallen went on. “So I wasn’t going to let them drive me out of the sport that I loved, and I felt I just had to prove myself. Because when you are a minority in any business or career choice, or whatever, you have to prove you know as much as the guys. So I was always being tested – morning, noon and night – always being tested. I am just a tough person and I don’t listen to outside critics.”

Kallen met Toney in the gyms in Detroit. The legendary Emanuel Steward had passed on managing Toney, but Kallen didn’t. 

The two came from the ground-up as she took Toney from small shows to a world title in two-and-a-half-years, something she was not sure would be possible in this day and age. 

“Seeing [Toney] get inducted a couple of years ago was such a sense of pride to me, because when I got together with James, he was just a little four-round fighter, and it was up to me to mold him and make all the right moves to get him to a title shot,” said Kallen. “We did that in two-and-a-half years, which I don’t think you could do today, because the business is so completely different than it was back then. To have taken this young man from zero to the top of the mountain, it was a great feeling. I was so happy for him, that he fulfilled his dream of being a champ and then he did it again, and again.”