Jack Kearns

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Jack Kearns (right) and Jack Dempsey

Jack "Doc" Kearns (August 17, 1882 – July 7, 1963) was born as John Patrick Leo McKernan on a farm in Waterloo, Michigan[1] to Phillip H. McKernan (January 31, 1837 – 4 January 4, 1900) and Frances M. Knauf (aka Hoff,[2] later Quigley) (October 2, 1849 – 1938), daughter of German immigrant and Waterloo, Michigan settler Peter Knauf (30 July 1809 – 16 August 1882). His father was the son of Irish immigrants Philip and Amelia "Ann" McKernan, and is noted as being "among the early pioneers in the Northwestern Territories of Montana, Idaho and Washington."[3]

Professional boxing[edit]

Known as "Young Kid Kearns", he adopted the Kearns surname while boxing. Following 67 professional lightweight and welterweight fights, he became more well-known as a flamboyant boxing coach and manager.[4] Kearns was reportedly tutored as a manager and promoter in San Francisco– then the epicenter of the boxing scene in America –by veteran featherweight Dal Hawkins, the former boxing instructor at the Seattle Athletic Club, a city in which Kearns had briefly "piloted a primitive taxicab."[5]

He is most remembered for achieving the first "million dollar gate" in boxing when the Jack Dempsey vs. Georges Carpentier bout generated a record $1,789,238 in ticket sales,[6]and for managing Jack Dempsey, who became World Heavyweight Champion from 1919 to 1926, and gave him the nickname "The Doc". Kearns was sued by Dempsey, then repeatedly and unsuccessfully sued Dempsey for large sums of money, following his firing; the two became friendly again in later life. Following his death, Dempsey was quoted as saying that Kearns, "made me a champ... he was a great manager, and I'll miss him."[7][8] Kearns managed six world champions: Jack Dempsey, Mickey Walker, Jackie Fields, Benny Leonard, Joey Maxim, and Archie Moore.[9]

Personal life[edit]

On March 20, 1915, he married Edythe Angell (c. 1898 – 1966) in Tennessee, a dancer who, with her sister, Gertrude, had performed in Vaudeville as the "Angell Sisters" and, solo, as "Ledana".[10] The couple divorced, and he remarried August 4, 1921; the pair were also divorced, on March 18, 1932. However, Kearns disputed the existence of this second marriage to a woman known as Legana Kearns, despite a judgement against him for alimony, which he lost by default, being a no-show in court.[11][12]


The Million Dollar Gate, Kearn's memoir, as told to sportswriter Oscar Fraley, was published posthumously, in 1966.[13]

In 1989, the LA Times reported Kearns to be "one of the great sports con men of the century."[14]

In 1990, Kearns was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame (IBHOF), and is there lauded as "a master of publicity and... largely responsible for making possible the first million-dollar gate in boxing history" at the 1921 Jack Dempsey vs. Georges Carpentier bout.[15]


  1. ^ " BoxRec.com Jack Dempsey - Related Biography: Manager John "doc" Kearns. Retrieved July 11, 2018.
  2. ^ Onofrio, Jan "Kearns, Jack (1882 - 1963)", Colorado Biographical Dictionary, Somerset Publishers, Inc., Michigan, USA, 1999, page 144. Retrieved August 6, 2018.
  3. ^ "HISTORY OF JACKSON COUNTY, MICHIGAN" Interstate Publishing Company, Chicago, USA, 1881, page 1149. Retrieved July 11, 2018.
  4. ^ Encyclopedia.com "Jack Dempsey 1895-1983", The Gale Group, 2004. Retrieved July 11, 2018.
  5. ^ Waltzer, Jim The Battle of the Century: Dempsey, Carpentier, and the Birth of Modern Promotion: Dempsey, Carpentier, and the Birth of Modern Promotion, Praeger, USA, 2011, page 21. Retrieved August 27, 2018.
  6. ^ "Sport: Prizefighting's Million-Dollar Gates". Time.com. 8 March 1971. Retrieved 2018-08-27.
  7. ^ "OBITUARY: Jack Kearns, manager of Dempsey, dies at 80; Earned and spent a fortune as pilot of six champions. Associated with Rickard life full of drama taught Dempsey left hook Dempsey winner in 15". The New York Times. 8 July 1963. Retrieved July 4, 2018. Jack Kearns, who managed Jack Dempsey and other boxing champions, died today at the home of his son Jack Kearns Jr. He was 80 years old.
  8. ^ "Pick jury for trial of Kearns vs. Dempsey". The Milwaukee Journal. Princeton, New Jersey. 16 November 1927. p. 17.
  9. ^ Onofrio, Jan "Kearns, Jack (1882 - 1963)", Colorado Biographical Dictionary, Somerset Publishers, Inc., Michigan, USA, 1999, page 144. Retrieved August 6, 2018.
  10. ^ NYT The New York Times, July 27, 1966. Retrieved July 11, 2018.
  11. ^ Madera Tribune Number 102, August 29, 1931. Retrieved July 11, 2018.
  12. ^ AP "Mrs. Kearns To Fight In Court", Oakland Tribune, Oakland, California, July 24, 1929, page 3.
  13. ^ Kearns, Jack, et al The Million Dollar Gate, by Jack "Doc" Kearns and Oscar Fraley, Macmillan, New York, 1966, ISBN 978-1785313813. Retrieved August 12, 2018.
  14. ^ Gustkey, Earl "Town in Montana Was Overmatched: In 1923, Shelby--Population 500--Took On Jack Dempsey and His Manager", LA Times, February 5, 1989. Retrieved July 4, 2018.
  15. ^ IBHOF "Jack (Doc) Kearns", International Boxing Hall of Fame, 1990. Retrieved July 12, 2018.

See also[edit]