Jackie goes down in history as a two-time world champion of extraordinary toughness and skill. At the 1924 Olympics, Fields became the youngest Olympic boxing champion ever -- he was only 16 years old when he won the Olympic featherweight championship! He followed this achievement by becoming the world welterweight champion first in 1929-30, and then again in 1932-33.
Birth and Death Dates:
b. February 9, 1908 - d. 1984
Fields grew up in a Jewish neighborhood in Chicago, and recalled that "Being in the ghetto, you had to fight." When his father contracted tuberculosis, the family moved to Los Angeles, where Jackie was introduced to boxing. He began in 1921 and by 1924, Fields had competed in the pre-Olympic AAU Nationals. Despite a broken hand, Jackie reached the semifinals, and earned a place on the Olympic team as an alternate. On the boat ride to the Paris Olympics, Fields defeated two other Olympic candidates to make the team. He then surprised everyone by winning the gold medal, and making history.
After his Olympic triumph, Fields turned professional and closed his amateur career with a sterling record of 51 victories in 54 fights. In his first professional fight (September 1924), Jackie faced Joe Salas, whom he had defeated in the gold medal match at the Olympics. Fields won the rematch in a four-round decision. The following year, Jackie won five of his first six matches before stepping into the ring with the great Jimmy McLarnin. Fields, attracted by the lucrative purse ($5000), was devastated by the crafty and experienced McLarnin; Jackie was counted out in the second round (it was the only time in his career he was knocked out).
Fields rebounded from his first professional loss by moving up to the lightweight division and winning his next 15 fights, and 23 of his next 24 over a two-year span. Included in this streak was a 12-round no decision non-title bout against lightweight champ Sammy Mandell; Jackie's lone loss was a ten-round decision against former featherweight champ Louis "Kid" Kaplan. After an equally excellent 1928 (14 wins in 15 fights), Jackie finally received a title shot in 1929. After moving up in weight class again, Fields defeated Young Jack Thompson to win the vacant NBA welterweight title in March. Two months later, Jackie got a chance at the undisputed world title. In July 1929, Fields faced Joe Dundee, the world welterweight champ, and dominated the bout. Knocking Dundee down once in the first round and twice early in the second, Jackie was in complete control of the fight. On his fifth knockdown of the second round, Dundee crawled across the ring and punched Jackie full-force in the groin. Fields went down, but was declared the champion by disqualification.
Jackie's first fight after winning the title was against Dundee's brother, Vince. Although a non-title bout, it was hard-fought, with Jackie emerging as the victor in the ten-round decision (he knocked Dundee down in the sixth). In May 1930, less than a year after winning the title, Fields lost it to rival Young Jack Thompson in a 15-round decision. Jackie later explained the loss by saying: "It was one of those nights when I was overtrained. I couldn't lift my hands up." Fields contemplated retirement, but decided to continue boxing, though he did so less frequently. After only four bouts in 1931, Jackie got another title shot, this one against Lou Brouillard, who had defeated Thompson for the welterweight title. Fields knocked Brouillard down in the eighth round and won the ten-round decision, to become world champ for the second time.
In 1932, Jackie was involved in a car accident in which he lost sight in one eye, although he told no one about it at the time. Handicapped as he secretly was, Fields defended his crown anyway in February 1933, and lost the title in a fight he deserved to win, a tough 10-round decision to Young Corbett III. The referee Jack Kennedy, known for his impeccable honesty, admitted to Jackie's Hall of Fame manager Jack "Doc" Kearns after the fight that "I made a mistake," and told "Doc" that he had raised the wrong hand. The enraged Kearns hit the referee, sending him sprawling to the floor. Fields fought only one bout after his loss to Corbett, because his eye injury had become too troublesome. Jackie retired in 1933.
In 1962, his legendary manager Jack Kearns called Fields "the best all-around battler the United States has ever produced." Jackie's Olympic triumph was made into a movie in 1939 called The Crowd Roars. Fields also coached the U.S. boxing team at the 1965 Maccabiah Games in Israel. Jackie is a member of the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.
Wins: 74 (30 by knockout)
No contests: 1