"Gypsy" Jem Mace the first heavyweight boxing champion of the World and the last of the great bare knuckle prize fighters pictured in later life with his belts and trophies ORIGINAL black & white 5 1/2" x 3 1/2" postcard. Circa 1888 to 1910.
Condition excellent (minor foxing on reverse)
James "Jem" Mace (8 April 1831 – 30 November 1910) was an English boxing champion. He was born at Beeston, Norfolk. Although nicknamed "The Gypsy", he denied Romani ethnicity in his autobiography. A middleweight, he succeeded in outboxing heavier opponents thanks to his dancing style, clever defensive tactics and powerful, accurate punching. Mace has a commemorative plaque in the centre of Norwich.
Jem Mace was the 2014 Inductee for the Australian National Boxing Hall of Fame International category.
After an apprenticeship in the boxing booth of Nat Langham, he made his debut in 1857 and, in 1861, he won the title of Champion of England by defeating Sam Hurst at Medway Island, Kent. He successfully defended it in 1862 against Tom King, but was defeated by King later that year. King then retired. In 1866 Mace was once again recognised as a champion following his defeat of Joe Goss at Purfleet, Essex.
Bare knuckle boxing was an outlawed sport and, as such, its exponents were always liable for arrest and prosecution. In 1867 Mace was arrested on the night before his scheduled title defence against Ned O'Baldwin. He was bound over in court not to fight again.
In 1869 he relocated to the United States where prizefighting was still flourishing. He toured with the celebrated American boxer John C Heenan giving exhibitions of glove boxing. In 1870 he defeated Tom Allen at Kenner, Louisiana, near New Orleans. He defended his title twice against another American, Joe Coburn, in 1871. On both occasions Mace secured a draw. However, on 6 April 1871, Mace suffered a loss in New Orleans to Gentleman Jose Alonso.
Following an attempt on his life in Mississippi, he returned to England. In 1876, he was back in America, this time as a glove boxer and, in a historic early clash under Queensberry Rules, he defeated Bill Davis at Virginia City, Nevada. From 1877 to 1882 Mace lived in Australia where his long series of exhibitions paved the way for the Worldwide acceptance of glove boxing. With the help of his protégé, Larry Foley, he schooled a generation of Australian boxers, notably the Caribbean born Peter Jackson.
In 1882 he toured New Zealand where he discovered future World Heavyweight Champion Bob Fitzsimmons. In 1883 he was back in the USA as manager of the New Zealander Herbert Slade, who, however, failed to benefit from his tuition. In 1890, at the age of fifty eight, he fought in an exhibition with the Birmingham fighter Charlie Mitchell.
In 1896, returning to New York City to fight against Mike Donovan he was acclaimed by World Heavyweight Champion James J. Corbett as "the man to whom we owe the changes that have elevated the sport". Mace continued as a purely exhibition boxer and his last recorded entry into the ring was in 1909 when he was 78 years of age.
Ring Magazine established a Hall of Fame in 1954, whose members mostly converted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, which inducted Mace #34 in 1990.
As Mace rose to become the British champion he supplemented his income with exhibition work in the popular Victorian traveling circuses, even becoming a circus proprietor himself for a short time. Most notably, he toured Lancashire with Pablo Fanque's Circus Royal in the late summer and autumn of 1861—Fanque being England's first black circus proprietor and later immortalised in the Beatles song "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!"
Mace was a skillful violinist who originally aspired to a career in music. Indeed, the trashing of his violin by three thugs in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, and his subsequently thrashing them led to the ring. He may have been noted for posing like Greek statues, a pastime more attributed to women and actors of the time.
In 1866, Jem Mace became the proprietor of the Strawberry Gardens pleasure grounds at West Derby, near Liverpool. At various times, he was also a professional runner, publican, circus proprietor and racehorse owner. He kept a saloon in New York City for several years, the Capitol Saloon on Twenty-Third Street in Manhattan, which was frequented by notorious underworld criminals including shangheier Shang Draper. John Morrissey the former boxer, Dead Rabbits criminal gang leader, and Tammany Hall politician had a bloodless dispute in Mace's saloon. In 1871, Jimmy Haggerty, the gangster from Philadelphia arrived in the saloon and was mortally wounded in a bar fight from a gun shot received by Reddy the Blacksmith, of the Bowery Boys gang. Jem Mace later ran a hotel in Melbourne, Australia.
Jem Mace married three times, twice bigamously, and fathered at least fourteen children by five women. He possibly had an affair with famous American actress Adah Isaacs Menken.
During his life Jem Mace made and gambled away a considerable fortune. Mace ended as a penniless busker in Jarrow, Durham and was buried in an unmarked grave at Anfield Cemetery, Liverpool, England. In 2002, the Merseyside Former Boxers Association arranged a memorial headstone by his grave.
In popular culture
"Lando" western by Louis L'Amour calls him "the World champion prize fighter, an Englishman and a gypsy. He whipped the best of them, and he was not a large man, but he was among the first to apply science to the art of fist fighting." "By footwork you can shift a man out of position... Certain blows automatically create openings for the blows to follow." (Lando p294) "Never weighing more than 160 pounds, he had been the World's champion, defeating men as much as 60 pounds heavier." (Lando, p495).