The death of Jem Mace


November 30, 1910
Death of England’s most famous prize-fighter
Jem Mace, the most famous of English pugilists, died yesterday morning at his lodgings in Jarrow, at the age of 80. Mace had been travelling the country since January of this year with a boxing and “strong lady” show. He joined it at the Agricultural Hall, and went North. His health had been bad, however, and when he last visited his family in London he was suffering from bronchial troubles.

On Tuesday his family was advised by letter that his condition was serious, and a telegram arrived yesterday stating that he had passed away.

Mace leaves a young family, the youngest of four being 12 years of age. His second wife died three years ago.

Jem Mace: Illustrated Sporting and Dramatical News: December 10, 1910.

Jem Mace was one of the old-time prize-figheters – the sort of pugilist one look to find in old-fashioned prints. He was the hero of 500 battles in the ring, and knew only three defeats.

He once possessed £70,000 in the bank, and won £10,000 on a single match. Also (says the “Star”) he had racing stables of his own; but last year he applied for an old age pension.

Mace was born at Beeston, near Norwich, on April 8, 1831. At 18 he could drive his fist through an inch-thick panel. Among other little hobbies, he was wont to tramp the country and earn an odd sovereign or so for “standing up” to big bullies.

His first fight was when he was about 14. It was a match for £5 between Jem and a jockey boy. The encounter took place in a field, and Jem won his first victory.

Indeed, most of his early battles were with jockey boys at fairs in the Eastern counties.

The toughest fight Jem ever engaged in was with a Stalybridge man many years afterwards. “We fought,” said Mace, describing it once, “for six hours, until he could see me no longer. Then I broke one of my arms, and I finished fighting one-handed.”

Nat Langham, the only man who ever beat Tom Sayers, was the earliest to take Jem in hand. While travelling with Langham’s booth Mace was beaten by Jack Pratt, of Norwich, after 50 rounds, through his hands giving way, and because he had not been properly trained.

In 1855 Mace defeated Slack at Mildenhall, and was then taken by Langham to the Rum Pumpas Club in London, where he sparred with Lord Drumlanrig.

His next important contest was on February 17, 1857, when near the mouth of the Medway he disposed of Bill Thorpe in 17 rounds.

In his match with Bob Brettle a left hand blow on the jaw “put out” Mace in three minutes, but at their next meeting he turned the tables on Brettle after a fight which lasted over the better part of two days.
“Bob Brettle and Tom King beat me,” said Mace on one occasion, “but they were accidents, and in other battles I beat them. I was a bit careless the day I fought Bob Brettle, and he caught me on with his right and smashed my jaw, knocking me clean out. But next time I beat him, and beat him fair.”

After Tom Sayers retired from the championship in 1860, Mace was regarded as his legitimate successor, but his supremacy was challenged by Tom King. He and Tom went at it “hammer and tongs” at Godstone for 42 rounds, and Jem won. This was in January, 1862. Tom King was dissatisfied, and a further match was arranged. This took place on the bank of the Medway on November 26, 1863.

The betting was 100 to 1 on Mace, and the fight lasted 21 rounds. An unlucky slip left Mace open to a blow on the jaw, which knocked him out, and dispossessed him of the championship.

Mace had three matches with Joe Goss. The first Jem won, after an hour and 57 minutes; the second was drawn, while Jem won the third.

In 1869 he went to America, where he fought many battles, and in Australia he met Ned Kelly, the Bushranger.

Jem Mace, the British Champion of the World 1874: Illustrated Sporting and Dramatical News: March 17, 1934.

His last fight was on November 30, 1871, when he and Joe Coburn drew at St. Louis after 12 rounds.

In these later days Jem had been seen on the stage, and at Christmas, 1908, he appeared in a sketch at Hull.
(Source: Nottingham Evening Post: December 1, 1910)

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