One of the world’s most famous promoters.
Jack Curley’s ability to promote top named
wrestlers and boxers in the most anticipated of
matches was unequaled. The stage was usually
Madison Square Garden, the most renown
facility in the world. He began promoting in the
1910’s, and began to gain fame in mat circles
when he sponsored an international tournament
held at the Lexington Opera House in 1915.
People began to take notice of his mat
knowledge and the sport was evolving before the
New York fan’s eyes. Curley brought a
newcomer named the “Masked Marvel” into the
fold with a loud mouthed manager. Both the
Marvel and his manager would disturb the
matches and challenge nearly everyone. The
commotion caused more fans to look on and
created much interest. The Marvel entered the tournament and eventually walked away
the winner. His prize was a match with the defending World Champion, Joe Stecher. It was
promoting genius and planning.
The work of one man to come in and draw the fan’s ire and eventually lead to up to a
World Title Match with the champion was a creative maneuver still used today. Adding the
mask and the unknown commodity, the Marvel could have been anyone. Curley could
have put Charlie Cutler or Frank Gotch under that mask and no one would have been the
wiser, other then the true enthusiasts. Either way, the mask allowed amenity and allowed
Mort Henderson a chance at glory. Stecher did retain his title, but Curley turned the sport
from it’s most pure form into the beginnings of what it would become.
Curley was one of twenty-plus promoters from across the nation to converge on St. Louis,
Missouri in February 1928. He was on hand for the Joe Stecher-Ed Lewis World Title
Match at the New Coliseum which took place on Monday, February 20, 1928. Lewis beat
Stecher that night. Also on hand was Paul Boswer, Ray Fabiani, Ed White, Gabe
Kaufmann, Jules Sigel and Joe Coffey. Tom Packs hosted the event. Over 7,500 fans
witnessed the event live and the said gate was $60,000. Curley formed a pact with five
other men from different territories in the United States on November 29, 1933 in New York
An agreement between promoters would share talent and the profits from some of the
biggest matches in the United States. The men were Joseph “Toots” Mondt of New York,
Ray Fabiani of Philadelphia, Ed White of Chicago, Tom Packs of St. Louis and Paul Bowser
of Boston. Curley announced on May 31, 1933 that he was lowering the top price for
ringside tickets for the Jim Browning vs. Joe Savoldi World Unification Title Match on June
12th. The top price previously at Yankee Stadium a year before was $8.80, and for the
unification match, was $5.50. Browning won the match and strengthened his claim. Two
years to the day since his last big wrestling promotion, Curley announced the signing of Jim
Browning vs. Jim Londos for the World Title Match on May 31, 1934.
The bout would be staged at Madison Square Garden Bowl in June. A Unification Match of
sorts, and a bout needed to put the New York State Athletic Commission’s recognition back
on top. Londos came through on June 25th, regaining the NY World Heavyweight Title in
front of 20,000 fans, paying an estimated $40,000. 10 percent of the card went to charity.
The gate and attendance were both under estimated. The gate was originally predicated
to have been more then $75,000, with more then 30,000 fans witnessing the event live.
Curley suffered a huge loss when he was double-crossed by his matchmaker, Jack Pfefer
on March 2, 1936 in New York. Pfefer cut a side deal for Dick Shikat to beat O’Mahoney at
Madison Square Garden, paying the wrestler $50,000 to do so. Curley was no fool.
Before the match took place, he knew that there was a chance that Shikat could shoot his
champion before a live crowd and destroy his fragile position. Curley asked Shikat to put
up $15,000 in bonds before hand and got it. Why would Shikat lose the money? Because
he had Pfefer’s backing. A lawsuit ensued after Shikat walked away the titleholder, and
Curley even asked the champ to face O’Mahoney in a guaranteed bout at the Garden with
a $40,000 purse. Shikat did not sign, he remained with Pfefer and took his title to
Columbus, Ohio. Curley was in a corner and so were his mates. They had no World
Champion and O’Mahoney had been crushed.
Shikat later lost his title to Ali Baba and the lawsuit was dropped. The wrestling trust of
promoters was broken. At the time of his death on July 12, 1937 in New York, Curley had
successfully promoted more then 20,000 wrestling contests. His efforts did not go
unnoticed during a time of mass popularity in the northeast. The Madison Square Garden
World Title Matches he offered were visually seen by tens of thousands of fans at a time.
Astonishing. Curley made New York heavyweight wrestling what it was and propelled the
city into a class of it’s own. Just as he was as a promoter.
The legendary Jack Curley died on July 12, 1937 in New York City.
Other Historical Notes:
On September 16, 1911 in Chicago, Mildred Schull Curley was granted a divorce from
promoter Jack Curley. She was awarded a case settlement of $22,000, perhaps some of
the money Curley made off the Gotch-Hackenschmidt affair earlier in the month.
In February 1912, Curley was looking for a place to stage the Flynn-Johnson boxing match
and discussed matters with officials in Salt Lake City. He was also considering New Mexico.
On Sunday, January 27, 1929, Curley negotiated to bring new World Heavyweight
Champion Gus Sonnenberg to New York City for a show at Madison Square Garden on
A major announcement was made on January 2, 1931 by promoter Jack Curley that he was
going to promote the first professional tennis match of sensation Bill Tilden at Madison
Square Garden in New York City on February 18, 1931. Tilden was going to match up
against Karel Kozeluh. Within weeks, Francis T. Hunter also joined Curley's troupe. The
deal earned Curley a nice amount of publicity, including a lengthy article written by Lorena
Hickok, featured in newspapers around February 18. The piece mentioned his ties to the
Willard-Johnson boxing match in Havana, booking the Vatican choirs...etc.
Curley reportedly knew Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Pancho Villa, the Prince of Wales, and
many other dignitaries, rubbing shoulders with the elite throughout the world. He'd been a
promoter for 37 years, staging wrestling in the U.S., England, Austria, Italy, Germany, and
France. Way back before he was running the Garden, Curley recalled a promotional effort
in an old distillery in Iowa City around 1898. The ring, on that occasion, consisted of four
men holding up a rope and a gasoline torch for lighting.
Curley was a real self-made man.
Research by Tim Hornbaker
|Jack Curley Wrestling & Boxing History