Home Boxing News Jem Mace: The Transformational Pugilist

Jem Mace: The Transformational Pugilist

Jem Mace (1831-1910) was arguably the greatest boxer that pre-dated the twentieth century, Mace would be regarded along with Daniel Mendoza the most influential boxer of the bare-knuckle era. James Corbett would famously exclaim about Mace, “the man whom to whom we owe the changes that elevated the sport.” Mace would be a pioneer in the use of lateral movement, counter punching, and blocking punches. Mace long career span would take him to three continents and the usage of boxing gloves after the bare-knuckle era. Mace also had to adapt from the shift of the revised London prize rules and the more modern Marquess of Queensberry rules. Ranging in weight as a modern welterweight to super middleweight it was incumbent that Mace utilized boxing ability to defeat larger opponents. Mace would be considered the English champion at the welterweight, middleweight, and heavyweight division.

Nowadays, that is a range of seven weight classes and over 50 pounds. Mace would be introduced to fisticuffs after he fought off three hoodlums who destroyed his violin near his home of Norfolk, England. The professional debut for Mace has been a source of dispute. Some sources report it as 1849 against Sydney Smith, while others report an 1855 match with Bob “Slasher” Slack. Mace would win the English welterweight title in 1860 against Bob Brettle in Essex, England. In 1861, Mace would defeat Sam Hurst for the heavyweight title of England. Despite giving up a reported 100 pounds (about 7 stones) Mace would knock out Hurst in eight rounds. At the time, the bout was held at the London Prize rules which still allowed some of the inside wrestling that would be later eliminated with the Marquess of Queensberry prize rules. Mace would successfully defend that heavyweight title in 1862 against another naturally larger opponent in Tom King. Unfortunately for Mace, he would lose the rematch with King and would not be given a third rubber match. As a result, Mace would set on his sight at the middleweight title against Joe Goss. Mace would defeat Goss in 19 rounds in 1863 and defeat him again in 1866 this time for the heavyweight title. Like more modern pugilists; as Archie Moore, Bernard Hopkins, and George Foreman, Mace would still have success in the sport when he closed in and surpassed 40 years of age.

Mace would defeat Tom Allen for a Trans-Atlantic heavyweight title of both England and United States in 1870. The 40-year-old Mace would defend his title against the highly regarded American Joe Coburn in 1871. Coburn had realized that Mace was an excellent counter puncher off the jab, and thus wouldn’t throw a blow. The lack of action prompted the draw. Mace would travel to Australia and New Zealand in his latter years doing exhibitions and discovering future boxing legend Bob Fitzsimmons. The final years of Mace life would be spend in his native England in which he would continue exhibitions and teach the sport. The boxer known as the “Swaffham Gypsy” would die at the age of 79 in 1910. Mace was inducted into the pioneer section of the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.