Fields was a member of the United States boxing team at the 1924 Paris Olympics. He became the youngest athlete to ever win an Olympic gold medal when he won in the featherweight division at the age of 16!
Fields, who grew up in a Jewish neighborhood in Chicago, said, "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, had competed in the pre-Olympic AAU Nationals. Despite a broken hand, Jackie reached the semifinals and 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. When he got home from the Olympics, however, his mother spanked him for stepping into the ring! Fields finished his amateur career with a record of
51 victories in 54 fights.
Jackie turned professional in 1925 and quickly moved up the ranks, defeating the likes of Mushy Callahan, Sammy Baker, and Jack Thompson (for the NBA welterweight title). In July 1929, Fields faced Joe Dundee for the world welterweight title, and won the match after Dundee fouled Jackie with a low blow. In May 1930, Fields lost the title to Jack Thompson, and explained the loss by saying: "It was one of those nights when I was overtrained. I couldn't lift my hands up."
Fields retired after the fight, but returned to the ring two years later to face Lou Brouillard for the welterweight title. Jackie won in 10-rounds, achieving his second world champion title. In 1932, he was involved in a car accident in which he lost sight in one eye, although he told no one about it at the time. In February 1933, Fields lost the title in a 10-round decision to Young Corbett III. The referee, Jack Kennedy, admitted to Jackie's manager Jack Kearns after the fight: "I made a mistake," and told him he had raised the wrong hand. Kearns hit Kennedy, sending him sprawling to the floor. Fields fought only one bout after his loss to Corbett because his eye injury had become too troublesome. He retired with a professional record of 74 victories (30 knockouts), 3 draws, 9 losses, and 1 no-contest.
In 1962, legendary fight manager Jack Kearns called Fields: "the best all-around battler the United States has ever produced." His Olympic triumph was made in to a movie in 1939 called The Crowd Roars. Jackie coached the U.S. boxing team at the 1965 Maccabiah Games, and he is a member of the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. He was elected to the Boxing Hall of Fame in 1977.
Birth and Death Dates:
b. Feb. 9, 1908 - d. 1984
Use links below to navigate through the olympics section of Jews In Sports.
Great Jews in Sports by Robert Slater (New York: Jonathan David Publishers, 2000)
Jewish Sports Legends: The International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, by Joseph Siegman (Washington, D.C.: Brassey's, 2000)
encyclopedia of JEWS in sports, by Bernard Postal, Jesse Silver, and Roy Silver (New York: Bloch Publishing Co., 1965)
The Olympic Games: Athens 1896-Sydney 2000, (New York: Dorling Kindersley, 1999)