JACK HASSEN : 1925-2002
By Tony Nobbs
12.12 - Australian boxing this week mourns the passing of former Lightweight contender Jack Hassen who died peacefully in LaPerouse, Sydney on Sunday night after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease. Hassen was born in the Western Queensland town of Cloncurry but was raised on the Aboriginal mission, Palm Island by the parents of George Bracken, another Aboriginal boxer who later won the same Australian Lightweight Title Hassen once won in tragic circumstances.
Like many boxers of the era, Hassen began boxing in Jimmy Sharman's legendary tent shows in his late teens, making a small earn and eating poorly while traveling around country towns, boxing a round or two for a pound or two. He had previously tried his hand as a stockman and labourer. He naturally progressed to the stadium shows in Brisbane, Queensland and shortly developed into a main eventer, courtesy of his brutal punching power. Early victims included local Champion George Kappeen, Roy Treasure, American Tommy Stenhouse and two French visitors in 1949, Pierre Montane (KO 10), rated number 8 Lightweight in the world at the time and Andre Famechon, whose son Johnny later migrated to Australia the following year and captured the WBC Featherweight Championship in 1969. Hassen's first loss was to Mexican Rudy Cruz on points which was a setback to the immediate World Title plans his wily manager Ern Mc Quillan had for him.
On September 19, 1949, Hassen was matched with Melbourne's Archie Kemp for the Vacant Australian Lightweight Crown held previously by McQuillan's prize star, Vic Patrick. Kemp stayed away from Jack for eight rounds and looked to be about to handle Hassen his second straight defeat. But in the ninth and tenth rounds Hassen began to land solidly and in round eleven hurt Archie , firstly with a left rip before connecting powerfully to the head. Jack could see Archie was in serious bother trapped in a corner. He momentarily stopped throwing before referee Joe Wallis motioned for him to continue and the following blows caused Kemp to die the next morning from a cerebral hemorrhage. Hassen was the new Champion and he fought for two more years but his career was as good as finished. Some fighters can overcome tragedy like this, but Hassen couldn't. He could never punch with the same vengence.
After the Kemp fight, Jack lost on points to Mexico's Baby Ortiz on May 15, 1950,was knocked out the brilliant American's Freddie Dawson and future World Champion Joe "Old Bones" Brown in June and September. Hassen came back in early 1951 to knock out Ken Bailey in ten rounds but was twice knocked out by Australia's welterweight Champion Mickey Tollis before he was retired by Frankie Flannery, the wild man of Australian boxing, who punished him for nine rounds on October 15, 1951. His final record read 29-7, 23 KO's Hassen had made a small fortune in the ring but lost most of it outside and he returned to Sharman's tents, traveling the country taking on local pugs who dared to face the famous Jack Hassen. He later worked on the wharves in Sydney for almost four decades, keeping a small interest in the Australian fight scene and living in La Perouse. He was married with four children and eighteen grand children.
Jack Hassen's funeral takes place at St Andrews Catholic Church, Malabar, Sydney at 1 pm on Friday, Dec 13.