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Over the course of Field's amateur career, he participated in 54 fights, winning 51 of them. During the 1924 Summer Olympics, Fields won a gold medal in the featherweight division. He was 16 years old.

On July 25, 1929 Fields faced Joe Dundee in a match for the welterweight championship. Fields was awarded the fight in the second round after Dundee, having been knocked down twice, delivered a foul blow which left Fields incapable of continuing the fight. Dundee, who had taken a $50,000 advance to participate in the fight, claimed that the foul was unintentional. Fields stated he believed Dundee, but noted that it was the only bout he had ever won on a foul.

Young Jacob Finkelstein took the name Jackie Fields from the Fields Department Store in Chicago and grew up on Maxwell Street on the city’s West Side. This section of the city produced some amazing fighters in the ‘20s and ‘30s, guys like Barney Ross and Kingfish Levinsky. Fields knew many of these men. But they were not all boxers, far from it. They were just other kids in the neighborhood. I’m gonna run some names by you, so you get an idea of what an interesting place this was in the early decades of the 20th century. Bandleader Benny Goodman was the son of a tailor on Maxwell Street, as was Admiral Hyman Rickover. Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg’s father was a fruit peddler. Actor Paul Muni’s dad owned the neighborhood theater. Even William Paley, President and Chairman of CBS, emerged from Maxwell Street. There must have been something in the water!.

When they arrived in California Jackie was just fourteen years old. His dad bought a restaurant in Ocean Park, but it would always lose money. Jackie didn’t like school, so like many kids in those days he dropped out of Lincoln High and looked around for a way of helping out his family. A neighborhood friend, Irv Glazer, was working his way through Stanford University by boxing professionally. He hooked Jackie up with trainer George Blake at the Los Angeles Athletic Club. Blake had taught Barney Ross how to fight when they both lived on Maxwell Street back in Chicago. Jackie had a lot of natural ability. He came in five days a week to work out and learn from his mentor. Blake liked what he saw in the young man. The kid had guts and determination, and Blake taught him the basics of the ring.

It wasn’t long before Fields got his first fight against Fidel LaBarba, who at the time was the Pacific Coast Flyweight Champion. George was hesitant about putting Fields in with someone who really knew how to box. Since it was just a three-rounder for some local banker’s dinner in exchange for twenty dollars, Blake took a chance with the kid. No surprise, Jackie lost the decision. George however was impressed by the boy’s courage. Blake, I know I can lick him, but I wasn’t in shape. I want to fight him again.” George shook his head and said that it wasn’t necessary, his boy did fine. (Fields had fifty-three more fights as an amateur, losing only three.) He came in the next day to pick up his twenty dollars worth of merchandise. As an amateur he wasn’t allowed to receive cash, but instead of a watch, camera or trophy, he took it in groceries for the family.

Jackie grew much bigger in the next couple of years. He was no longer a boy and now had the body of a grown man. He had to move up and fight as a featherweight. His amateur winning steak impressed Avery Brundage, the head of the U.S. Jackie was picked to go to Paris as part of the U.S. He won the gold medal that year, 1924, as Olympic Featherweight Champion. He was only sixteen years old.

Jackie was a boxer who had the unique ability to box an opponent or slug it out. He was a smart fighter who knew how to use the ring to his advantage. Fields was a tough opponent but didn’t have a heavy punch. He was quick, skilled and had a lot of staying power in a fight. One of his later managers, the infamous Doc Kearns, who also managed Jack Dempsey, said of him, “Best all around battler the United States ever produced.”.

Jackie had wanted to fight his old newspaper buddy Mushy Callahan—they both delivered newspapers before their boxing careers took off—for his NBA Light Welterweight title. Rooney even offered Mushy $25,000 to put up that anemic title, but Mushy wouldn’t do it. Jackie was very aggravated about it. He had fought Mushy a couple of times in the gym and felt that he had his number.

So instead he fought a rematch Young Jack Thompson on March 25, 1929 at the Coliseum in Chicago for the vacant NBA World Welterweight Title. Fields won that fight by a UD10 going away. He was now the welterweight champion of the world but things were not yet completely settled. Joe Dundee, aka Pal Joey, had the New York State version of the title. So the two gents had to meet in the ring to settle things and determine exactly who the true champion was.

After fighting and winning three tune-ups, Fields met Dundee at the State Fairgrounds Arena in Detroit on July 25, 1929. The bout only lasted two rounds. In the first, Dundee was knocked down twice by Fields. In the second round the slaughter continued, with Dundee hitting the canvas three more times. Joe got up and Fields knocked him down again. The New York State Champion crawled to the ropes, pulled himself up, and then deliberately punched Jackie—in the groin! The next thing Fields knew, he was in his dressing room and the undisputed champion by DQ. Why the deliberate punch to the groin by Dundee? He wanted to save his side bet of $50,000 on himself to win. You see all bets are off in case of a foul, even a deliberate foul. Or as Jackie poetically called it: “That bum and his buddies had bet money on the fight.”.

After a three-month rest, Fields returned to active duty. He had ten fights in the next five and half months, including bouts against Vince Dundee (57-6-11), Gorilla Jones (36-6-2), Young Corbett III (83-8-21), and Tommy Freeman (77-10-14), which set up a third fight with Young Jack Thompson.

Fields-Thompson III was on May 9, 1930. In a hard fought contest, Jackie lost his crown by decision over fifteen rounds. He was disgusted by his performance and impulsively decided to retire.

A few weeks later Jackie bumped into Doc Kearns who told him he could get him another shot at Thompson and the welterweight title. Jackie came out of retirement. In the meantime, Thompson had already lost the title to French Canadian Lou Brouillard. If anyone could straighten this mess out it was Kearns. Look what he had done for Dempsey’s early career. (He also later managed Mickey Walker, Joey Maxim and Archie Moore.) They signed a “no cut” contract. All the purses Jackie won in his first year with Kearns would belong exclusively to the fighter. “I want nothing,” Doc told him. “I want you to win the title back. After I win the title back for you than we will be partners.” The sportswriters had already written Fields obituary by describing him as “all washed up.” He wanted to prove them wrong. Jackie Fields wasn’t an old man. He was only twenty-three years old at the time!.

Jackie had ten fights between September 1930 and January 8, 1932, when he met Brouillard at Chicago Stadium. The French Canadian was a southpaw with a 64-7-1 record. Fields was 63-6-2 at the time. Brouillard could jab and hit with either hand. One had to watch both Lou’s hands real close. Jackie knocked him down in round eight on the way to a unanimous ten-round decision. Jackie Fields was welterweight champion again.

Jackie fought a few non-title bouts after that, to pick up some easy money. On the way home from a bout in Louisville, he was involved in a bad car accident in Hammond, Indiana. He lost the sight of his right eye (a detached retina) on a country road, but he and Kearns managed to keep it under wraps.

Later in Field’s dressing room Kennedy confessed, “I made a mistake.” He had raised the hand of the wrong boxer! Doc Kearns was so enraged that he jumped on Kennedy right there and beat the hell out of him! The title was gone, “spilt milk” as they said back in the day. Jackie fought one more time, outpointing Young Peter Jackson at the Olympic Auditorium over 10 rounds. This time retired for good with a record of 74-9-2-1 NC, with 31 of those wins coming by knockout.


Jackie Fields: Two. (2014). Retrieved on April 27, 2014, from

Jackie Fields. (2014). Retrieved on April 27, 2014, from

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