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Boxing Historian
Illustration by Federica Coppolecchia
"Daniel Mendoza
vs. Richard Humphreys at Odiham (1788)"

The art and science
of Daniel Mendoza

The true adventures
of an 18th century pugilist

By CHRISTOPHER JAMES SHELTON

www.ringsideboxingshow.com

Daniel Mendoza was born on July 5th, 1764, in the parish of Aldgate, London. The family was middle class, which meant that he was neither a product of privilege or abject poverty. The goal and expectations of the Mendoza family was for the son to learn a trade, become a respectable but bland member of the societal middle class. Mendoza had left home at age 12 to learn his trade, as a glass cutter, for an apprenticeship with a respectable family. Mendoza would eventually thrive and believe in the proper etiquette, from student to 'Master', that one day as the learned while the next as teacher. The problem for Mendoza was a restless spirit. He bored easily. He also appears to be involved with a non stop series of fights, that if you believed him, as his father did, was always the fault of someone else. Mendoza learned Hebrew in school, and I assume was Bar Mitvahed, but he would never be a religious person. The Bar Mitvah ritual itself is about the boy becoming a man while accepting moral responsibility for his actions. Mendoza witnessed antisemitism throughout his youth, which generally brought about fisticuffs, but he rarely discussed such stuff as an adult.

 

The first pugilist encounter for Daniel Mendoza was at 16-years old, 1780. There was a personal dispute, involving bad manners, between an athletic adult delivery man named Porter and a member of the Mendoza work entourage. Mendoza was on his 3rd apprenticeship attempt, as fighting for the reason that he left the homes of the glass cutter and fruit grocer families that he had lived prior. Mendoza had quit school and was now serving under a 'Master' tea dealer. The dispute that would evolve into a pugilist showdown involved honor, with a heated argument over a gratuity, so Mendoza offered to fight Porter. This was an adult man against a young boy, but fortunately the toughest guy in the region would protect any personal conduct propriety and act as the corner man for Mendoza. His name was Richard Humphreys.

 

Richard Humphreys held the respect and disdain that accompanied a pugilist of any renown. These were often honor matches, like the one with Mendoza/Porter, with little financial reward. Money could be made, if gambling were involved, with a gracious winner sharing their winnings. If Humphreys slipped a few guineas into his pocket afterward, this was needed money, and though he would swear to himself and his loved ones never to do it again, he would continue to accept the next challenge. His size and no nonsense toughness was the embodiment of a pugilist.

 

Daniel Mendoza

 

Daniel Mendoza: “This battle, which first brought me into public notice, laid the foundation of the fame I afterwords enjoyed; the spirit and resolution I displayed throughout a contest with an antagonist of such superior strength, excited the general applause of the spectators.” Mendoza thrilled in the moment of such an exciting encounter. There was a bit of unexpected coin change in his pocket, any money was appreciated, while the lack of fear against a larger foe that assisted with his self esteem. The bout lasted 45 minutes. Humphreys would have offered boxing advice and words of encouragement. But for someone to perform so well against a larger foe, it is likely that Mendoza was creative and innovative, and his own teacher, almost from the start.

 

Mendoza was approached and agreed for another bout that same week. This time he would be paid for a professional encounter. Daniel Mendoza: “I met my opponent, and here again had to contend against superior strength; but after a contest which lasted near an hour, had the satisfaction to come off victorious.” Once again as his corner man, and acting as a mentor and coach, was Richard Humphreys. It is a shame that the relationship between Mendoza and Humphreys would become one day so poisonous. Their conversations must have been mutually pleasurable. Both men were literate and intelligent. Mendoza was the more serious minded of the two, which allowed Humphreys an easygoing sly sense of humor underneath his gruff exterior, while a diminutive Mendoza aggressively planned whatever it took to escape his mediocre existence. Still, this contest offered a confidence builder from the best pugilist in the region. Daniel Mendoza: “Some of the spectators called out to (Humphreys) to direct me where to strike, I well recollect him reply, 'There is no need of it, the lad knows more than all of us'.”

 

Mendoza's next bout of any consequence was aged 19, 1783, versus an experienced, 21 year-old pugilist, named Tom Tyne. The location was at Layton Stone in Essex. The prize was 5 guineas a side. The fight lasted 75 minutes with Tyne as the winner when Mendoza voluntarily retired. It was disappointing for Mendoza to suffer his first defeat, but he rebounded emotionally fast, and besides he could always blame a loss on something or someone else. Daniel Mendoza: “My friends would not suffer me to continue the contest any longer and therefore the battle was decided against me.”

The next recorded bout, against a pugilist named John Mathews, was an endurance battle that would show more of the wrestling holds or throws of Mendoza. A bare knuckle contest would stop each round following a fall down, whether by punch or a wrestler hold. There would be a 30 second rest between rounds. The contest would be over when either pugilist could not continue for the next round. The location for the Mendoza/Mathews battle was Kilburn Wells. The prize was 6 guineas. The battle lasted for 2 ½ hours. An exhausted Mathews began to fall down intentionally in order to avoid being hit while receiving a short rest. Daniel Mendoza: “At length I availed myself of a favorable opportunity and seizing my opponent did not quit my hold till I forced him to give up.”

 

Mendoza had left the tea dealer, wanting no part of that life despite his apprentice role, and knew that pugilism was too lowly a trade to consider as a professional. Mendoza liked his own gregarious personality, mixed with verbal skills and love of an audience. He felt that he would be perfect for the legitimate acting theater. He signed on for a drama based on the life of the Jewish queen, Esther. Mendoza placed on the costume, and with more nervousness than he imagined, took the stage and attempted to sing. It was a disaster with the audience openly heckling him. Greatly embarrassed for the moment, but only the moment, because he could re-energize himself by blaming others for any life defeat. Daniel Mendoza: “Together with the awkward and embarrassed behaviour of my companions at the time, so excited and disgusted the audience, that they would not suffer us to proceed, and we were finally hissed and hooted off the stage.” Galling the theater manager, who was as likely cheap and dishonest as 'galled', Mendoza asked for the promised acting payment. The manager told him no. Mendoza demanded payment. The manager told him no. So Mendoza left the theater with a “valuable epaulette” as his self-determined fee.

 

Mendoza had fantasized himself as a showman or entertainer, or anything that would avoid an anonymous and dreary trade life job that promised steady employment, but a meager existence with little luxury or excitement. But his terrible stage appearance, mixed with an awful singing voice, momentarily grounded his dreams. He returned to trade work, with a kind tobacco employer, in White Chapel. The employer was impressed by Mendoza's pugilism side life and encouraged such activity. Mendoza fought again in Chatham against a larger foe with a local reputation. The prize was 5 guineas, and may have been fronted by the employer who attended the bout. Mendoza was a 5-1 underdog. After a grueling 1 ¼ hour bout, the larger foe surrendered, with Mendoza as victorious. Mendoza won the 5 guineas 'official' prize, plus a monetary gratuity, from an impressed employer who profited from gambling. Mendoza was likely of mixed mind. He was thrilled by the excitement of the bout itself, excited by the official prize money and any 'tip' that was added on, but then resentful that others made more money from his victory than himself.

 

Mendoza left the tobacco employer due to boredom and low wages. His next job, which he landed due to pugilism, was smuggling stolen property. The pay was 1 guinea a week along with free room and board. If Mendoza thought he was a patsy to gamblers through pugilism then life as a petty criminal taught him of a more dangerous sort of life and employer. Mendoza was taking all the risks, traveling horseback, with risk of arrest or worse. Mendoza was told to avoid law enforcement and to fight with his life to protect the stolen merchandise. Mendoza was caught by peace officers and briefly imprisoned. A fellow smuggler was killed days later while 'protecting' stolen goods during a hold up. Mendoza quit this dangerous work, but only after deciding that the horse would be his “payment” instead of a guinea.

 

Mendoza returned to pugilism with a life altering single day. It was a spontaneous bout, over a supposed insult while on horseback, for 1 guinea. The battle in Kentish Town lasted for 30 minutes until the opponent surrendered. The prize was low, because Mendoza might have put up his own money, but the gamblers rewarded him. His 1 guinea bet turned into a nice 6 pounds prize. The excitement and money spurred him into another 'insult' bout several hours later. Mendoza accepted the 1 guinea betting prize. Most important, since he had money on him, is that he refused to put up his own funds. Someone backed the guinea betting prize and rewarded Mendoza 2 guineas as payment for his victory. Other gamblers were more generous and he wound up with 14 pounds. Mendoza had turned two bouts, with 2 guineas as total prize payment, into 20 pounds and 3 guineas, while learning never to risk any of his own money. Mendoza must have been flushed with manic excitement, over the thrill of congratulations and cheering spectators, mixed with better money than he could find elsewhere. Mendoza managed to get into another 'insult' bout on this same day. He won the fight, but it was not the money maker of the previous two. It was still a great day for Mendoza, one that remained in his mind with pride for many years, and with money in his pocket, he decided that his earnings entitled him to lavish entertainment that night.

 


Daniel Mendoza art lesson #1:

 

(ACTION): “Master strikes with his left arm on your face.”

 

(RESPONSE): “Parry with your left forearm, barring at the same time your stomach with your right forearm, throwing head and body back.”

 

(ACTION): “Master strikes round at your left ear with his right.”

 

(RESPONSE): “Parry with your left arm, turning up the elbow so as to cover the side of the head, holding the stomach with the right forearm, throwing head and body back.”

 

(ACTION): “Master strikes at your stomach with his left.”

 

(RESPONSE): “Bar your stomach with your right forearm, keeping your left opposite his nose, throwing your head and body back.”

 

(ACTION): “His left arm strikes at your right side.”

 

(RESPONSE): “Stop with your right elbow, keeping your left fist opposite his nose, throwing head and body back.”

Daniel Mendoza art lesson #2:

 

(ACTION): “Master strikes with the feint, 1, 2, at your face, striking fist with his left at your face (which is the feint) in order to hit you in the face with his right.”

 

(RESPONSE): “Parry with your right forearm, and secondly with your left forearm, covering the stomach with your right forearm, and throwing head and body back.”

 

(ACTION): “Master feints in the same manner, beginning with his right.”

 

(RESPONSE): “Parry first with your left forearm, and secondly with your right forearm, covering the second with the left forearm, and throwing head and body back.”

 

(ACTION): “His left feints at your stomach, to hit your face with his right.”

 

(RESPONSE): “Bar your stomach with your right forearm, and parry the blow at your face with your left forearm, throwing head and body back.”

 

(ACTION): “His left feints at your right side to hit your face with his right.”

 

(RESPONSE): “Stop with your right elbow, and parry his blow at your face with your left forearm, throwing head and body back.”

 

(ACTION): “Master strikes at the face, 2, at the stomach, with alternate arms.”

 

(RESPONSE): “Parry the 1st with the proper forearm, and the 2nd with the proper bar; that is, if he strikes with his left at your face, and his right at your stomach, parry his left with his right forearm, and his right with your left across your stomach; if he strikes 1st with his right at your face, and his left at your stomach, parry his right with your left forearm, and his left with your right across your stomach.”

 

(ACTION): “He strikes at the face, 1, and 2 at the side.”

 

(RESPONSE): “Parry each with their proper forearm and elbow.”

 

(ACTION): “He strikes at your stomach, 1, and 2 at the side.”

 

(RESPONSE): “Bar the 1st with the proper forearm, and catch the other with the proper elbow.”

 

Daniel Mendoza art lesson #3:

 

(ACTION): “Master strikes with his left at your face 1; with his right, do 2; with his left at your stomach 3, the blow intended.”

 

(RESPONSE): “Parry the 1st with your right forearm --- the 2nd with your right forearm --- the 3rd with your right forearm, barring your stomach, throwing the head and body backward.”

 

(ACTION): “Master strikes at your head 1 with his left; do 2 with his right; at your face, and 3 with his left, the intended blow.”

 

(RESPONSE): “Parry the 1st with your left; 2nd with your right; 3rd with your left, your forearm covering ultimately your stomach, and throwing head and body back.”

 

(ACTION): “Master strikes with his right at your head 1; left do 2; right at your side, the intended blow.”

 

(RESPONSE): “Parry the 1st with your left forearm; 2nd right forearm; 3rd left elbow.”

 

Daniel Mendoza art lesson #4:

 

(ACTION): “Master's left strikes at your face.”

 

(RESPONSE): “Parry with your right forearm, and return with his face with your left, which he catches in his open hand.”

 

(ACTION): “His right strikes at your face.”

 

(RESPONSE): “Parry with your left forearm, and return at his face with his right do.”

 

(ACTION): “Master's left strikes at your stomach.”

 

(RESPONSE): “Stop by barring with your right forearm, and return at his face with your left, which he catches.”

 

(ACTION): “His right strikes at your stomach.”

 

(RESPONSE): “Stop by barring with your left forearm, and return at his face with your right.”

 

(ACTION): “Master's left strikes at your right side.”

 

(RESPONSE): “Stop by catching the blow on your right elbow, and return at his face with your left.”

 

(ACTION): “His right strikes at your left side.”

 

(RESPONSE): “Stop by catching the blow on your left elbow, and return at his face with your right.”

 

(ACTION): “Master's left chops at your face.”

 

(RESPONSE): “Parry with your right forearm, and return at his face with your right.”

 

Daniel Mendoza art lesson #5:

 

( COUNTER ACTION): “Master parries with his left, and riposts with his left at your face.”

 

(RESPONSE): “Parry this ripost by catching his wrist with your left fist, and striking a back handed blow across his face with your left hand.”

 

(COUNTER ACTION): “1, 2, 3, at the face, beginning with the left.... Master will parry with his right, and ripost at your stomach with his left.”

(RESPONSE): “Stop this with your right forearm, and return with his left to your face.”

(COUNTER ACTION): “1 at the face, 2 at the face, and 3 in the stomach, beginning with your left, keeping your right fist opposite his face.”

 

(RESPONSE): “This he will stop with his right, and ripost the same again, 1, 2, 3, at your stomach, which you must bar.”

 

(COUNTER ACTION): “The scholar strikes with his left at the face, the Master parries with his right, and riposts with his left at the stomach.”

 

(RESPONSE): “Knock the blow down, and return strait at the face.”

 

Daniel Mendoza art sparring lessons:

 

#1: What if your adversary aims all round blows?

 

(RESPONSE): “Which is generally the case with a man ignorant of Boxing, you should strike straight forward, as a direct line reaches its object sooner than one that is circular.”

 

#2: What if your adversary gives way, or is staggered by a severe blow?

 

(RESPONSE): “You should not be anxious to recover your guard and stand on the defensive, as this will be only giving him time to collect himself, but take advantage of his momentary confusion, and follow up the blow.”

 

#3: What if you have an arm reach advantage over your adversary?

 

(RESPONSE): “You will have an advantage, as your guard will keep him at a distance, and as your blows, by reaching farther, will be struck with more force.”

 

#4: What if your adversary has an arm reach advantage?

 

(RESPONSE): “Your superiority will consist in close fighting. You must endeavour to get within the compass of his arms, and aim short strait blows which will reach him before he can strike at you, and if he does strike at you, his fists will go over your shoulder.”

 

Daniel Mendoza (April 20, 1789): “If any instructions in the preceding appear difficult or obscure, I shall be happy to give every necessary explanation to those who will have the goodness to apply to me, for that purpose, at number 2, Paradise Row, Bethnal Green; or number 4, Capel Court, behind the Royal exchange.”

 

(NOTE: A special thank you to Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati, Ohio, for their assistance. - CS).


 

Mendoza was now of mixed mind about pugilism. On the one hand, it was deemed as a dangerous profession by the lowest of the low, in an English society that reveres class. On the other hand, a fight here or there, especially with gambling involved, would place real money into his hands. Mendoza would leave these skirmishes, slightly degraded by how he earned this money, but also exhilarated by the audience and attention. Mendoza would vow never to fight again and then he would fight again.

 

Richard Humphreys was in a similar bind. He was also concerned, maybe less so than Mendoza, about the low social status that accompanied a pugilist. He would also retire and then fight again. His situation was different because of his fighter reputation. There was a 'gunslinger' association attached to his name so that to defeat him could make a name for another. Humphreys would be challenged after vowing to never fight again, but his pride and 'honor' would not accept an insult, or anyone questioning his manhood. Humphreys would accept any money to be had from a bout, any money at all, but personal honor more than financial compensation seemed to be of greater motivation.

 

Daniel Mendoza versus Richard Dennis, a Groom. Prize: 1 guinea. Mendoza badly injured his ankle in the 30 minute bout which he won. A relative placed the prize money for Mendoza so the payout was: the relative ½ guinea, corner man ½ crown, Mendoza 8 shillings. There was 3-4 months of recovery due to a sprained ankle. During this recovery process he decided to become a professional pugilist.

 

Daniel Mendoza versus William Bryant, a Watch Spring Maker. Location: Islington. Prize: None. Quite a crowd gathered for this bout. It was a 30 minute fight, marred by low blows accusations and it was ultimately ruled a Draw. No money was exchanged, which understandably upset Mendoza, who fought a 'free' bout.

 

Daniel Mendoza versus William Nelson.... This would be a bout that would change pugilism history. The bout itself was one of Mendoza's best and would show him to be a worthy contender against any opponent. Daniel Mendoza: “He was an uncommonly large and powerful man in the prime of life, and fought several hard battles.” Nelson began as a 7-1 favorite and the odds placed him at 10-1 before the bout. Mendoza eventually dominated in a 75 minute hard fought victory.

 

The pre-bout is where the real action of this fight took place. Humphreys had protected and worked with the 5'7, 165 pound, clever pugilist. Humphrey's main patron, Mr. Elson, advanced 20 guineas for Mendoza as his stake of the prize bet. Mendoza accepted the money and then ignored Elson afterward. Humphreys was embarrassed and angered. He had prepared to train Mendoza at a residence on Epping Forest. Mendoza claimed, as would become a lifelong habit, a series of reasons to explain his behavior. At first, Mendoza claimed that Humphreys was too difficult a trainer, with much emphasis on physical conditioning, while Mendoza insisted that his youth and science made such work unnecessary. Then Mendoza claimed, it was not actually the physical work, as much as the residence itself. Mendoza insisted the place was overrun by prostitutes, and the inevitable fights between clients and prostitutes in the middle of the night, was disruptive to his mental state. Mendoza would forever claim it was a “training disagreement” but the dispute revolved around money. Mendoza would not return any money advanced by Humphreys' patron. Mendoza now claimed that the 20 guineas was a 'gift' from an admirer. It would be awhile, but eventually Mendoza was arrested and jailed for theft of the money. Another patron of Mendoza, Mr. G, eventually paid off the claims which included punitive expenses. By then, Humphreys was the most famous pugilist in England, while he remained furious at Mendoza. The anger was returned by Mendoza, now aimed at Humphreys, because he claimed --- well, who knows what logic Mendoza had convinced himself --- but he had been arrested and embarrassed and chose to view himself as the victim.

 

Mendoza fought again in Northampton, a 90 minute bout, that found him victorious. The battle concluded with the larger pugilist unable to stand. Mendoza does not mention the prize money involved, but the local pugilist held some sort of reputation, so that the victory extended the fame and esteem held by others. Mendoza had only one bout on his mind, against the pugilist who had defeated him, Tom Tyne.

 

Daniel Mendoza versus Tom Tyne II. Location: Surrey, near Croyden. Prize: 20 guineas a side. Mendoza had actively sought out Tyne to avenge his only defeat. Daniel Mendoza: “For having fought with uncommon shyness and maneuvering for near an hour, he gave in, having received several severe blows in the course of the battle, which all his dexterity could not prevent.” One of the highlights of Mendoza's life, along with the celebration that followed, was thwarted by Richard Humphreys on a celebratory visit to Roe Buck in Aldgate. Mendoza had not yet been imprisoned or fined by the court for having cheated Humphreys' patron. Humphreys began with verbal threats before challenging Mendoza to fight him on the spot. Mendoza refused. So Humphreys grabbed Mendoza in an attempt to encourage fisticuffs. Mendoza again refused and walked away. Mendoza had retained his composure in front of Humphreys but was badly shaken by the encounter. Daniel Mendoza: “(Humphreys) behaviour to me was rude and contemptuous, and he seemed very desirous of provoking me to strike him; for after using scurrilous and abusive language, he seized me by the collar, and tore my shirt with much violence.”

 

It would be Richard Humphreys, now the most famous and feared pugilist in England, that would increase his fame and place pugilism back on the map as a popular sport. The bout was held on May 3, 1786, at Newmarket. Humphreys was the favorite, as the slightly larger pugilist, and he ultimately dominated the 45 minute contest. More important than any prize money for the pugilists were the 40,000 pounds wagered through gambling. This bout was apparently fair, but with so much money at stake, the wheels would be placed into motion to alter future boxing bouts. Pierce Egan: “Humphries (s.i.c.) was considered a most distinguished pugilist: he was so attractive as to revive pugilism, which had been on the decline for some time.... The set-to was witnessed by their Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales, the Duke of York, the Duke of Orleans, and most of the French nobility then in England.... The amateurs were highly gratified, and both pugilists established their fame, but more particularly Humphries (s.i.c.).” Other factors which would be significant later is the discomfort that Humphreys felt from his fame. He did not feel comfortable in the presence of royalty, so while a King George III might like and admire Humphreys, they could not develop a personal relationship. The other factor was that while Martin, the Bath Butcher, was on the losing end of the contest, there was still fame to be gained through the pre-bout hype and anticipation.

 

A wealthy patron, Mister Tring, approached Mendoza to engage for money in a publicized bout against, Martin the Bath Butcher. The official prize would be for 50 pounds, but with much money in betting stakes, could make considerably more. The bout, held at Shephard's Bush on April 17, 1787, outside Surrey, lasted 26 minutes with the smaller Mendoza winning fairly easily. Daniel Mendoza: “Several gentlemen, who won money on the contest, were also pleased to reward my exertions in a very liberal manner, by which means I suddenly came into possession of wealth far beyond what I ever expected to be Master of, having received altogether considerably more than 1000 pounds.”

 

Mendoza visited Epping, 1787, to enjoy the local fair. As he checked into an Inn he was surprised to find Humphreys waiting for his arrival. Humphreys, still enraged over the Nelson bout and his patron taken advantage, so he again challenged Mendoza to fight him on the spot. Mendoza admits that he became angered and launched a verbal assault against his one time mentor. Humphreys returned the verbal abuse. At that, Mendoza had decided they were even and all should be forgiven and forgotten. Humphreys disagreed and repeated his demand that they fight that moment. Mendoza says that he was outnumbered and would only consider such a confrontation if it were within the rules of boxing. The situation worsened, and whether official or a street brawl, blows were exchanged. Peace Officers arrived and broke up the fight. The good for Mendoza, as he had been secretly intimidated by Humphreys size and strength and reputation, was a confidence that he could defeat his former mentor if they fought under the Jack Broughton Rules in an official pugilism encounter capacity. Daniel Mendoza: “I now felt confident that even though he was my superior in strength and size, I was fully equal to him in activity and knowledge of the art of pugilism.”

 

Daniel Mendoza, now possessing fame after his victory over Martin the Bath Butcher, fought his only recorded bout against a Black pugilist around this time. The pugilist was the servant of Colonel George Hanger, the eccentric soldier/writer, outdoors, sporting man. Mendoza battled someone of enough fame that the outcome earned him 200 pounds. Daniel Mendoza: “(The Black pugilist) had acquired great repute for his skill in pugilism. In about 20 minutes, however, I evinced such a decided superiority over him, that he declined continuing the contest.”

 

A newly domesticated Mendoza had established enough of a pugilist reputation to open his own boxing school, Capel Court. He also married at this time and promised his wife that he would never bare knuckle fight for money ever again. His sparring academy would teach self-defense techniques and training, students and Mendoza himself would wear padded gloves, with open compliance and respect for English law.

 

Richard Humphreys character, which was usually written about in positive terms, showed another side on December 19th, 1787, while he acted as corner man for Champion Tom Johnson. Mendoza worked with them as the bottle holder. Johnson was facing a pugilist named Ryan, who was revered enough to be a 3-2 favorite as the bout began. After 20 minutes of Ryan domination he landed a blow which appeared staggered Johnson. Humphreys entered the ring illegally and held onto Ryan. The Ryan camp, understandably claimed a disqualification foul. Humphreys claimed that Johnson could only lose by falling to the ground which he had prevented. The gambling had much to do with the allowance of cheating. By the time that Ryan had agreed to continue the bout, with a delay of 20 minutes, he appeared demoralized and was easily vanquished.

 

January 9th, 1788.... Richard Humphreys versus Daniel Mendoza

 

LOCATION: Odiham, Hampshire. PRIZE: 400 guineas. Crowd: Thousands. Each was to pay ½ guinea, but the spectators eventually burst through. The fighting ring is a 24 foot raised stage. Humphreys corner man was Tom Johnson. Mendoza corner man was David Benjamin. Humphreys wears flannel shorts with silk stockings.

 

ROUND 1: They began with mutual feints. Pierce Egan: “Mendoza felt no terrors from the proud fame of his antagonist.” Mendoza finally lands a hard blow, loses his balance on the slippery surface, before he falls onto his back.

 

ROUNDS 2-3: The gambling odds now favor Mendoza. He has scored both a knock down and throw down.

 

ROUND 10: The bout is surprisingly one sided as Mendoza dominates with several knockdowns. There was an incident with Mendoza driving Humphreys back to the ropes and in trouble but corner man, Johnson, intervened and the round came to an abrupt halt. Mendoza patrons shouted: “Foul,” but the Umpires disagreed.

 

ROUND 15ish: Somewhere in this area it appears that the betting odds have evened again. Mendoza struggles with the slippery surface. Humphreys handles the adverse conditions better, and as his traction is better his confidence grows. His blows begin to land until he picks up Mendoza and throws him on his head. Pierce Egan: “Mendoza was thrown, and in falling pitched upon his face; his forehead was dreadfully cut just above the right eye, and his nose assumed a different shape.”

 

ROUND (?? – somewhere around the 20th minute): It is a brutal fight with sparring and much action. Mendoza appears to have the upper hand with his counter punches. He is also successfully tiring his foe.

 

ROUND (?? – somewhere around the 25th minute): Mendoza has regained momentum and control. Mendoza steps forward as Humphreys appears in trouble and is backed against the ropes. Mendoza grabs Humphreys in an attempt to throw him. Humphreys has grasped the rail holding the ropes in place. Mendoza loses balance as he grabs an opponent who has a tight hold on the rail. Humphreys releases his rail grip and now clutches Mendoza. Humphreys throws the 5'7 pugilist hard onto his head.... This would be the turning point in the bout. Mendoza is groggy and seriously injured.

 

(ROUND (?? – somewhere around the 26th and 27th minute): Both pugilists are tired. Mendoza is the more seriously wounded, but an exhausted Humphreys cannot finish off his opponent.

 

ROUND (?? – somewhere around the 28th minute): Mendoza attempts to remain aggressive and landed a hard blow to the face. But Humphreys has regained control and lands a hard 3 punch combination, two punches to the ribs and one to the neck. Mendoza backs from the onslaught, his leg loses traction and he falls again. Pierce Egan: “The Jew reeling fell with his leg under him, sprained his ancle (ankle), and was reluctantly compelled to acknowledge the superiority of the Christian.” The bout was halted at just under 29 minutes.

 

Richard Humphreys was now a celebrity and hero throughout much of England. There were Humphreys mugs, Humphreys embroidery, Humphreys prints by merchants anxious to cash in on the star of the moment. Richard Humphreys was a modest man who had not anticipated the fame and idolation. Humphreys had settled the score with a one time friend, against a talented and clever foe, and he was ready to retire from pugilism for good. That was the deal that had been agreed upon by Mendoza. The grudge needed to be settled, which it had, and then they would respect the mutual family desire to quit the sordid world of pugilism for honest labor.

 

While many of these mugs, fabrics, paper releases featured Humphreys alone it was the 'action' releases that titillated the public fancy. The 'pitched' battle, offered as a modern epic encounter, between the muscled and chiseled features of the victorious Humphreys towering over the smaller, thinner, defeated pugilist, Daniel Mendoza. Far from shame, but maybe some embarrassment, the losing pugilist saw financial opportunity in his defeat. While Humphreys had quietly retired, it was a surprise for him to read the newspaper one day to find his own name prominently posted for public consumption, that did not impugn his personal character or conduct but disputed the victory.

 

Mendoza, that you will not take any liberties with my name.”

 

Mendoza: “And I desire, Mister Humphreys, you will not make too familiar with mine.”

 

Humphreys: “When you are well, I shall take you by the collars, as I did once before.”

 

Mendoza: “And I, Sir, shall not turn my back on you.”

 

Humphreys: “I find, after all, that I have come here for nothing.”

 

Daniel Mendoza asked in a sharp tone if Humphreys had paid admission along with his friends. Humphreys said he had paid the 1 shilling. Mendoza dramatically waved his hands to an assistant and told him to refund their money while he took care of important business. Humphreys sat back down in his seat and waited. After a bit, Humphreys again stepped onto the stage and demanded that Mendoza return. The group was told that Mendoza had left the building. I doubt they received any refund, and by now Humphries had confirmed what he had long suspected. He had challenged and humiliated Mendoza in front of a crowd that included royalty a month earlier. Now, he had challenged and humiliated Mendoza again at his own academy in front of another audience and his 8 pupils.

 

Richard Humphreys (The World – 8/7/1788): “I am therefore convinced that spite all his pretensions, the man never meant to fight me, and I hereby declare him a coward.... Richard Humphreys.”

 

Daniel Mendoza (The World – 8/8/1788): “Mister Humphreys has taken the freedom of calling me a coward. I regard my own duty to the publick too much, Sir, to disgust them by retaliating in the same coarse language.... I remain, Sir, your obedient humble servant, Daniel Mendoza.” Mendoza awaited the next published reply by his nemesis. Humphreys disappointed him by no longer participating in public newspaper correspondence. Never at a loss for words, Mendoza began writing and preparing a book about sparring theory while telling his side on the war of words between the two pugilists.

 

Daniel Mendoza (The World – 1/12/1788): “On occasion my strength and spirits were superior to my adversary's, till the last fall but two, when I fell directly on my head, and by the force pitched quite over. I then found myself much hurt in the loins, indeed so much that it was with extreme difficulty I could stand upright, and, by the last fall I received, was rendered wholly incapable of standing, indeed I was scarcely able to breathe, and it was with great difficulty that I could sit on the knee of my second. When Johnson asked me if I had done, I could only answer him by a sign. By this outward accident alone, I lost a battle, on which my warmest hopes were fixed.... Yours, D Mendoza.”

 

Richard Humphreys (The World – 1/13/1788): “Previous to the battle between Mr. Mendoza and myself, that whether I was beaten, or I beat him, I would never fight again, yet as in his address to the publick, through the medium of your paper, he has insinuated that in his late contest with me at Odiham, his being beaten was the mere effect of accident, I do now declare that I am ready to meet him, at any time not exceeding 3 months from the present date.... Richard Humphreys”

 

Richard Humpreys was understandably incredulous at any claim that he not soundly and fairly defeated his opponent. The injured pugilist accepted a 'quit' and that should end their feud. Only after the fact, in a public forum, did Humphreys receive news that his opponent claim otherwise. Humphreys read, along with the public, that he was actually dominated rather easily for the vast majority of the bout. Humphreys reads, along with the public, that it was an an accident, or two accidents, or several accidents, that brought upon the result. Humphreys read, along with the public, that it was not a legal throw down that caused Mendoza's injury, but the ground that actually won the bout. Humphreys picked up his opponent and threw him on his head. That is fair and legal and what a pugilist is supposed to execute in a fight. Humphreys read, along with the public, that maybe it was not the throw down, or the ground, or the follow up throw down of an injured pugilist that decided the outcome, but a corner man (or both corner men) misunderstanding Mendoza's intentions and accidentally stopping the fight. Mendoza offered 'proof', via The World, that it was the result of an unforeseeable accident, and not Humphreys, that prematurely concluded this fight.

 

Dr. Henry Saffory, surgeon, friend of Mendoza, who was not at the fight: “I visited Mr. Daniel Mendoza this morning (January 10th), on his return from Odiham.... I do declare, from every appearance, that it was impossible for him any longer to maintain a conflict, in which he was so severely hurt. The feat of his complaint is in his loins; and I have no doubt but the excruciating pain he must have experienced, was sufficient to deprive him of the ability to stand.” Mendoza had claimed it was a head injury that stopped the fight. The 'proof' now claims it was a lower back region injury that had stopped the fight. Now both doctor and Mendoza claim that, even though it was their side that had demanded an instant rematch, it was now unreasonable of Humphreys to suggest a 3 month time line to heal and fight again.

 

The only problem with the doctor's note, though this would not slow Mendoza, is that it conflicted with his insistence that his own umpire, Mister Moravia, had conspired against him, by declaring the bout prematurely over with Humphreys as winner. Mendoza had also insisted that both corner men, Benjamin and Johnson, had accidentally misinterpreted his hand signals, and declared the bout incorrectly as over. Mendoza also insisted it was head trauma, with equal insistence that it was a body condition, that had forced him to quit. According to Mendoza, it was everything except Richard Humphreys, that had defeated him at Odiham.

 

Daniel Mendoza (The World – 1/16/1788): “The right of odds may very fairly be expected, both from the recent victory of Mr. Humphreys, and the opinion which the friends of that gentleman to warmly support, of his superior skill in the art of Boxing.... The time of fighting it is impossible to mention, since the injury I have received may continue its effect to a distant period. But the moment I am relieved from that complaint, and declared capable by the gentleman who now attends me, I shall cheerfully step forward and appoint the day.... The time of which was limited by my reply being 1 week, is a circumstance, that will not impress the publick with any additional opinion, either of the courage or candour of Mr. Humphreys.... I remain, Sir, your obedient servant, Daniel Mendoza.”

 

Richard Humphreys (The World – 1/20/1788): “Yet I cannot help remarking that neither Mr. Mendoza nor his friends seemed decided where they should fix this unlucky disaster. At first, it was his ancle (ankle); and then there were people who could have sworn they saw 3 of his bones come out. The disorder moved gradually to his hips, from whence, lest it be mistaken for a rheumatic complaint, it is settled, with most excruciating pain in the loins; where I am aware it may abide as long as he finds it convenient.... Richard Humphreys.”

 

Daniel Mendoza (The World - 1/24/1788): "The opportunity of gouging, and the practice of the unmanly arts, being totally away done away with in a scientific display of boxing, should operate as assistant inducement to Mr. Humphreys to accept my challenge.... Mr. Humphreys is afraid, he dares not meet me as a boxer. He retires with the fullest convictions of his want of scientific knowledge.... I remain, Sir, yours, Daniel Mendoza."

 

Richard Humphreys (The Printer - 1/26/1788): "It is my determination, not to enter into the particulars of his last letter, though replete with evasion, absurdity and falsehood. Thus much do I venture to pronounce though no critick - a character in which Mr. Mendoza has, in the opinion of everyone, very unsuccessfully aimed at. Some fame as a boxer, I flatter myself, I am entitled to.... I am ready to meet him; and with his immediate and unreserved acceptance or refusal of these terms, shall end our literary intercourse. Mr. Mendoza says I am afraid of him; the only favour I have to beg is, that he or any of his friends will be kind enough to tell me so personally, and spare me the trouble of seeking them.... Richard Humphreys."

 

Daniel Mendoza (The Printer - 1/27/1788): "Mr. Humphreys would do well to insert this challenge in his family memorandum book; and as a teacher of the art of boxing, it would not be amiss to have it well penned, neatly framed, and hung up in his truly Scientific Academy..... I remain, Sir, your humble servant, D Mendoza."

Richard Humphreys became a victim, not so much from a pugilist, as a literary stalker. A modest man, who has enjoyed the fame and adulation of a celebrated victory, now discovered the darker side of public celebrity. His name and reputation appeared to be public domain. There lacked any sensible response to the allegations of a defeated foe. Humpreys emotions ran the gamut from anger to sarcasm. Mendoza was ever bolder and seemingly empowered by any published reply to his lengthy dissections of their previous pugilist encounter. Humpreys does not believe that Mendoza is stricken with illness. Humphreys kept his promise, to Mendoza's disappointment, as he no longer replied to any newspaper attacks. Humphreys has any doubt removed, in his own mind, that it is all an elaborate publicity stunt when he encounters a surprised Mendoza while attending a boxing event. It has been over 5 months since the original public challenge and simultaneous claim of injury. Humphreys sees a healthy and outwardly nervous man, so bold in newspaper print, but more timid in person.


Daniel Mendoza: "On Monday the 9th of June, when not withstanding an ill fate of health, I ventured to go down to Swithia (or Smitham) Bottom, near Creydon (Surrey), in order to see the battles that were to take place between Jackson and Fewterell, and Crabbe and Watson. At this time I was surprised at being called into the ring by Mister Humphreys, who asked if I meant to fight him or not? And told me that, if it was out of my power to raise the money required (250 guineas), he would fight me for love.... I could not help imputing Mister Humphreys behaviour on this occasion to a desire of taking an unfair advantage, either by provoking me to fight when unable to sustain the conflict, or by endeavoring to impress the publick, if I declined accepting the challenge on the spot, with an idea of my never having seriously entertained any intention of meeting him."

 

The fight of that day involving John Jackson and Fewterel would involve a pugilist that would become an important part of the Mendoza legacy. Jackson's corner man was Tom Johnson. Fewtere's corner men were Warr and Dunn. Richard Humphreys officiated and acted as bottle holder. It was likely from the stage that Humphreys called out Mendoza, and embarrassed him in front of an audience that included royalty. Jackson, aged 19, from Metropolis, dominated the bout over the Birmingham hero. Pierce Egan: "The contest lasted a few minutes above an hour; but Fewterel was considerably punished before he gave in. His royal highness, the Prince of Whales, was much pleased with the intrepidity displayed by Jackson, and acknowledged it to the latter by a small present."

 

Richard Humphreys increased the pressure on Mendoza, to fight or shut up, on July 5th, by entering Mendoza's Capel Court Academy and taking a seat to watch the gloved boxing exhibitions. Several friends accompanied Humphreys, all paying the same entrance fee, and they would have seen a stage in middle of the room that stood four inches off the ground, steel rail guards on each side, with several rows of benches. Whether Mendoza knew of his nemesis appearance is unclear (he likely was informed), so Humphreys finally stepped onto the stage and demanded an appearance by the owner. Student pugilists and audience members were more stunned than riotous over the chaos. Daniel Mendoza finally stepped out, appearing healthy, with a forced smile. Mendoza repeated his regrets that ill health continued to delay any official pugilist confrontation. Once again, Humphreys offered to fight Mendoza on the spot for free. Once again, Mendoza declined.

 

Humphreys: "I want to know, Mister Mendoza, whether you will fight me on the first of October?"

 

Mendoza: "I am not at all, Sir, in a condition for fighting.... You cannot suppose, Mister Humphreys, that I am afraid of you?"

 

Humphreys: "You seem to feel some palpitation."

 

Mendoza: "And you, Sir, seem, if not afraid, at least unwilling, to engage with several persons who wished to fight you."

 

Humphreys: "That is not the question. I wish to fight no person but yourself; and as I am going into the country, I want first to learn, whether you will fight me, or not?"

 

Mendoza: "When I can I will."

 

Humphreys: "When?"

 

Mendoza: "By its being thought by my friends that I am in proper condition. Everybody must see at present I am very ill. Not that I have received any harm from you, but from other causes."

 

Humphreys: "No, the harm that you will receive from me will be the next time that we fight.... But I desire that in the future, Mister Daniel Mendoza: "For thus insulting me in my own Academy, and in a state of illness, without provocation and without necessity, what apology, even had it been offered, could be admitted in excuse? Mister Humphreys could not affect to be ignorant of my indisposition, as many of the papers had but the week before stated that he was in the country, and that I had taken lodgings out of town on account of extreme ill health."

 

The following month Mendoza penned a personal letter to Humphreys stating that he would be ready to fight at Newmarket in the Spring of 1789. Mendoza wrote that all he wished was a written contract stating the terms of the bout. Humphreys did not want a set of written rules, but felt that Mendoza was likely involved in another ploy to avoid an actual fight. Not wanting to provide further ammunition and excuses for Mendoza to claim default he agreed to a written contract.

 

From: Bernard's Inn

To: Mister Mendoza, number 4, Cable Court

 

"(11/15/1788) Mendoza, I have receiv'd your letter and shall meet you at the time and place appointed --- when I hope to find that you are earnest and that I am not again to be trifled with.... Yours, R Humphreys."

 

On November 22nd, Mendoza's Capel Court Academy was raided by a couple of city marshals who shut down the operation as illegal. For Mendoza, this was his earning subsistence, and he had a large family to feed. Daniel Mendoza: "The exhibition of sparring could be proved of personal injury to no man; for it displays all the art of boxing, without any of its danger. It could not be objected to as encouraging idleness, without subjecting plays, concerts, paintings, and all other publick amusements to a similar charge.... If this be an illegal act, why were neither Mister Humphreys nor I taken into custody, when we entered the stage of Covent Garden theatre, for the same purpose?"

 

Four days later, on November 26th, the articles of agreement were finally signed by both pugilists. The bout was officially set for May, 1789. Each pugilist surrendered 20 pounds to T Hotchkins, for the eventual winner or either pugilist if the other backs out. Mendoza insisted on a couple of clauses. One was that everyone who wished to witness the bout would have to pay a fee. The other was to discourage corner men from entering the ring. Humphreys insisted on only one clause, deeply suspicious of Mendoza and his antics, that any fall to the ground without being struck would be regarded as an automatic disqualification. Humphreys was concerned that Mendoza might strike him, back away a step or two and place an intentional knee to the ground, thus ending the round without having the ability to counter punch. Mendoza was responsible for much of the language for this clause and it would turn out to be very important: "If either person falls without receiving a blow, he is to lose the battle, unless such fall should be deemed by the Umpires (one for each pugilist) accidental."

 

February 11th, 1789, held the rematch between Champion Tom Johnson and Ryan, the Bath Butcher. Humphreys was again the corner man while John Jackson was the bottle holder. The same as their previous encounter, Ryan dominated with hard blows and appeared to have victory within his grasp. Humphreys began to interfere with insults and the like which greatly irritated Ryan. After 33 minutes, both pugilists disfigured, Ryan surrendered. Ryan was one of the best pugilists of his time, maybe the best, the betting favorite who dominated the Champion twice, but the cheating by Humphreys protected the Tom Johnson legacy while Ryan would be forgotten by history. There was much money at stake for these high profile bouts. But there was not an equity in prize money for pugilism. It was smart, rich people manipulating others into fighting. The real money was in gambling and then being dishonest in cheating the outcome. FOLLOW THE MONEY does not take you to the boxers - it takes you to the King. The pugilists, and especially the corner men, must accept the brunt of criticism for any wrong doing, but it was instigated and encouraged by people outside the ring wagering thousands of pounds while the pugilists were officially earning guineas.

 

John Jackson

 

On March 12th, 1789, John Jackson fought George Ingleston, the Brewer at Essex. Jackson's corner man was pugilist, Benjamin Brain. Jackson dominated the first 3 rounds. During the 4th round, Jackson slipped on the slippery surface and fell to the ground. He had dislocated his ankle and broken a bone in his leg. No longer able to stand, he offered to be strapped down, if Ingleston agreed to similar treatment, and the bout could continue. Ingleston refused and was declared the victor. Pierce Egan: "There was no alternative left for him (Jackson), but to give in, it being impossible for a man to continue the fight, who could not stand."

 

On April 20th, 1789, for a price of 5 shillings, Daniel Mendoza published The Art Of Boxing, the first pugilist to release written theory on sparring techniques. Mendoza would not realize it at the time, but this plea about the improper closing of his academy would forever cement his place in history. The Daniel Mendoza introduction would state the book's goal: "To explain with perspicuity, the Science of Pugilism, and to lay before my readers, a fair statement of facts, relative to the battle which is shortly about to take place between Mister Humphreys and myself."

 

Daniel Mendoza, The Art Of Boxing: "The knowledge of an art, though not perhaps the most elegant, is certainly the most useful species of defense. To render it not totally devoid of elegance has, however, been my present aim, and the ideas of coarseness and vulgarity which are naturally attached to the science of pugilism.... Boxing is a national mode of combat, and is as peculiar to the inhabitants of this country as fencing to the French.... The 1st principle to be established in Boxing is, to be perfectly master of the equilibrium of the body.... The 2nd principle to be established is, the position of the body."

 

Daniel Mendoza, The Art Of Boxing: "Mister Humphreys merit as a pugilist cannot be doubted; as a member of society, his general conduct is represented - and I firmly believe with justice - to be manly, liberal and respectful.... As to the insinuations thrown out against me by others, I can only say, that the time of my next engagement with Mister Humphreys will soon arrive, and that their truth or falsehood will be ascertained by the meanness of spirit of my conduct on the day of battle."

 

May 6th, 1789.... Richard Humphreys vs. Daniel Mendoza II

 

The anticipation and build up had created an event. A building had been constructed in Mister Thornton's Park at Stilton that was 48 feet in circumference. It held a sold out 3000 paying customers. The media build-up for the fight, back and forth taunting remarks, were revolutionary at the time. Much of the credit belongs to Mendoza, along with the appeal never before so advertised that this would be a fighter versus boxer confrontation. The corner man for Mendoza was Captain Brown. The corner man for Humphreys was Tom Johnson.

 

ROUND 1: Humphreys is offensive and aggressive as he throws a punch to the face. Mendoza blocks the punch and counters with a punch that scores a knockdown.... It is a great start for Mendoza with a maneuver straight out of his book.

 

ROUNDS 2-3: Mendoza is dominating at this early point. All 3 rounds find Humphreys throwing the first punch with a Mendoza block and counter that sends him to the ground..... Pierce Egan: "It soon began to appear that the Jew possessed considerable confidence in his own powers." Mendoza's dominance was apparent. Humphreys was confused and tiring at a rapid pace.

 

ROUND 22: The dominance was so complete that Humphreys found himself defensive and backing. Mendoza threw a punch that spooked Humphreys into some sort of defensive block as he fell to the ground.... Mendoza claims that Humphreys was not struck, and per the rules agreement, this should be a disqualifying foul with the bout over. Mendoza's umpire, an attorney named Harvey Christian Coombe, agreed and declared Mendoza the winner..... Humphreys insists that he deflected the punch as he fell. Tom Johnson becomes irate and yells at their umpire, Sir Thomas Apreece, to rule that the bout should continue.... The spirit of the rule, requested by Humphreys himself, was that any no contact knockdown would be ruled a disqualification. But the actual language "unless such fall should be deemed by the Umpires accidental," made it difficult for Apreece to rule that Humphries had intentionally fallen. Added was the intensity of an enraged Tom Johnson and an increasing hostile crowd that did not want the bout to end in such a disqualification.... For 20 minutes, chaos had erupted, Captain Brown offering to kick Tom Johnson while calling him verbal names.... The rule that no one should enter the ring was violated by both sides. Apreece was letting it be known that he was going to rule that he would not rule. If the bout were to stop, which Apreece leaned toward as the best solution, it would be officially declared a Draw.... Mendoza felt he was close to victory, even though the long rest must have assisted Humphreys, so he voluntarily agreed to wave any dispute on his part so that the bout could continue.

 

ROUNDS 23-24: The results of both rounds are the same with Mendoza sending Humphreys to the ground with some sort of knockdown. Humphreys was likely refreshed with the rest and decided to go all out with an offensive knockout. Mendoza would easily counter the telegraphed punches.

 

ROUND 25: An exhausted Humphreys was a one-eyed pugilist, with a disfigured face, and lacerations on the forehead and lips. Mendoza was still fresh with only a cut to the cheek to suggest that he had been in a fight. Humphreys fell to the ground again untouched. This time both umpires ruled that the fall was intentional and the bout was declared over.... Pierce Egan: "Mendoza had put in some tremendous hits, and in following them up, Humphries (s.i.c.) retreated and fell; when Dan, without the slightest murmur was deemed the conqueror."

 

On October 22nd, 1789, Tom Johnson defended his Championship crown again with another example of cheating. Joe and Bill Ward were his corner men. The opponent was an enormous pugilist named Isaac Perrins, from Birmingham, who stood at 6'2 and outweighed Johnson by more than 40 pounds. Perrins had earned a fame as a quick knockout artist who defeated a series of opponents in under 5 minutes. Their battle was brutal, Perrins scoring the harder blows, until Johnson began to back and intentionally fell to the ground untouched. The bout should have been declared over, but the Umpires ruled that falling down intentionally was legal. (They would have ruled otherwise had it been Perrins falling down). After 62 rounds, with Perrins exhausted, the bout was declared over with Johnson declared victor. Once again, gambling was the major culprit of the dishonesty. The ultimate money outcome was Isaac Perrins earning 267 pounds, Tom Johnson earning 1,533 pounds, while a gambler named Johnson earned 19,000 pounds.

 

The 3rd and final bout between Mendoza and Humphreys took place at Doncaster, on an inn lawn surrounded by houses, September 29, 1790. Several hundred paid ½ guinea while many more entered for free utilizing a river and other vulnerable spots. The corner man for Mendoza was Champion Tom Johnson. The bottle holder was Butcher. The corner man for Humphreys was Bill Ward. The bottle holder was John Jackson. Pierce Egan: "Money was a secondary consideration in this case. Towering fame was attached to the issue of the contest."

 

Fame was not a consideration for Humphreys, but pride and personal ego were important. The most important aspect, at least for later, was the strategy employed by Bill Ward and John Jackson. It is important that they were strategic at all. It meant that this 'science' and 'art' talk of Daniel Mendoza could not be ignored. A counter strategy would have to be employed. Ward and Jackson realized that Mendoza preferred a sparring contest from a certain distance with the 'tiring' of an opponent a key component. The counter strategy to defeat the 'science' was to rush Mendoza and prevent him from sparring. The aim would be an early knockout. Richard Humphreys trained as he never had before, with grueling physical exercise. They would seemingly be aided by Mendoza distracted with other financial opportunities, perhaps over confident, and not bothering with physical training (which he despised). When the two pugilists met for the final battle, with Humphreys having lost weight, while Mendoza was noticeably heavier, their previous physical disparity was not as obvious.

The bout would be embarrassingly one sided. Humphreys was energetic as he entered the ring and through the first 2 rounds, but he was already tiring by the time of his knock down to conclude the 3rd set. As the bout progressed, it appears a pall set in with the realization that the proud Humphreys could not win. The odds that favored Mendoza at the onset, 5-4, had altered to 8-1, and then 10-1. Humphreys was a one-eyed fighter that was openly falling to the ground untouched. The bout could have been halted at this obvious infraction, but the decision was made by all to allow Humphreys to continue. Friends of Humphreys urged him to quit, as did Tom Johnson, but Humphreys momentarily refused. Mendoza had cuts and abrasions to his left eye and side of face from the Humphreys right fist. He had bruised right ribs from the Humphreys left fist. But Humphreys could barely see out of a closing left eye. His right eye had been closed early in the bout. His nose and lips appeared disfigured as they bled. The inevitable finally became reality as Richard Humphreys conceded defeat and collapsed. Friends would carry Richard Humphreys though the crowd for care and safety. A victorious Mendoza, despite the Pierce Egan hyperbole words to suggest otherwise, stepped over to check on the money.

 

Daniel Mendoza: "Whatever reason I might conceive myself entitled to complain of (Humphreys) conduct towards me at different periods, his general conduct and demeanor were such as reflected great credit on him, and deservedly gained him the esteem of the publick, by whom he was always considered and treated as a respectable member of society. I feel a satisfaction in rendering justice to the memory of a powerful though unsuccessful opponent."

 

1790 was a touring year for Daniel Mendoza. It was almost like the acting theater dream he had entertained years earlier. Only now, the character he would be playing was the strategist sparrer who had vanquished the great Humphreys. Mendoza had retired again, honoring the family desires, but with each payday seemed to be in worse shape financially. Mendoza was expansive over his boxing greatness, but rather subdued when it came to discussing his family or what was he doing with his all his money. Mendoza would only write that with 11 kids, and other family members sponging off of him, along with his bad habit of borrowing at a high interest payment, that it had hemorrhaged his funds and left him severely in debt.

 

Tom Johnson

 

January 17th, 1791, was the official end of the Tom Johnson era, as he finally lost a bout that no one could help him to cheat. Tom Johnson's bottle holder was Mendoza. Benjamin Brain's bottle holder was Richard Humphreys. Brain, 38 years old, dominated early on while a desperate Johnson began to pull and hold onto his opponent's hair. After 20 minutes it was over with Brain as the victor. The hair pulling, and the gambling losses for others destroyed Johnson's reputation overnight. Neither Brain or Johnson ever fought again. Brain was dead 3 years later, while Johnson, from hero to pariah, lost everything and was dead 6 years later. The published historical legacy of Daniel Mendoza, if it is to be believed, is that Benjamin Brain won the English heavyweight Championship in 1791, over Tom Johnson. Brain retired and this vacated the title. Somehow, the vacant title of Champion was blessed upon Mendoza. He would fight twice in defense of his championship, both times against "William Warr" and was successful on both occasions. Then he battled Gentleman John Jackson for the Championship in 1795, when Jackson cleverly outsmarted the written rules by holding Mendoza by the hair while beating him senseless. (Historians, so lacking in fresh insight sometimes, all add the same ridiculous aside: "Boxers have never worn long hair since,"even with the eventual emergence of padded gloves for professional bouts). John Jackson is listed as the English Champion of 1795-1800, when I suppose he ultimately retired from retirement, and it tidied history by forcing a logical sequence.


I should mention the decision by myself, for the sake of the article being published this century, that a decision had to be made as to the spelling of the names "Richard Humphreys" and "Bill Ward". The former has "Richard Humphries", "Richard Humphrys", "Richard Humphrey", while the latter has even more unusual spellings (my favorite is "William Wharff") from which to select. I chose Daniel Mendoza's spellings of each pugilist. Mendoza was a literate man and Humphreys was once one of his closest associates, through friendship and hatred. For the latter, I give Pierce Egan much credit for attempting such a difficult project, a sort of Vasari of Boxing, with so many pugilists to juggle and identify. It is a masterpiece 3-volume literary work, but with his own admitted confusion of mixing identities and pugilist names. There were two Ward brothers, a consistent part of the boxing scene of the late 1780's and early 1790's. Egan sort of battles himself as to which is which and whom is whom. Daniel Mendoza was more intimately familiar with "Bill Ward" and that is how he spelled the name while Egan mixes his spellings, including "Bill Ward" as late as 1821. So these were my spelling choices for publication.

Daniel Mendoza spent much of the early 1790's in jail: "A prisoner within rules of the King's bench." Mendoza even fought a 10 minute bout inside jail against a prisoner named, Hadlam. The price of his freedom were the Bill Ward bouts. King George III, with add on of eccentricity, mental illness, 'whims', the privilege of being King, wanted his own private Champion. The King had met Mendoza once during this time and it appears their meeting was cordial. Becoming the King's "pet Champion" would have been the best job in the country. (Except for maybe being King). But the Mendoza traits of aggressiveness and independence, so helpful in his rise to deserved stardom, would not be endearing as a personal human pet for a King. If Bill Ward had defeated Daniel Mendoza, hand picked by the King, then these would have been viewed as title bouts. Mendoza won with an increased dominance, his foe tired and discouraged, and so the Champion was still Benjamin Brain. The corner man for Ward in both fights was John Jackson. Mendoza was only paid a pittance, according to him, with most of any money raised directly paid to his creditors. Mendoza was forced to fight John Jackson, again to pay debt and avoid prison, with the same caveat that if Mendoza wins it is not a title bout, while if Jackson wins, with Benjamin Brain dead, then England has a new Champion.

 

April 15, 1795.... Daniel Mendoza versus John Jackson. Location: Essex, at Horn Church. Prize: 200 guineas. The corner man for Mendoza was Harry Lee. The corner man for Jackson was Tom Johnson. Umpires: Smith and James.

 

ROUND 1: A minute of cautious feints while stalking one another for an opening. Jackson lands a hard punch that flattens Mendoza.

 

ROUND 3: The action has picked up considerably. Both have exchanged in a flurry of punches. The round concludes with Jackson scoring another knockdown.... Mendoza is increasing his dominance, as Jackson must be tiring noticeably, while the betting odds have grown to 2-1.

 

ROUND 4: Jackson aggressively attacks his foe, ignoring all defense, with a punch that he lands hard to Mendoza's right eye and scoring his 3rd knockdown. The odds have altered to even.

 

NOTES: My observation is that the 3rd round indications probably held true. Mendoza's key strategy was to wait out an opponent who increasingly fatigues. Jackson had watched at least 3 pugilists lose to Mendoza prior. He probably felt that he had to win early, or not at all, and that all those larger pugilists never utilized their physical strength advantage. The 4th round ignored 'sparring', disallowed Mendoza the opportunity to apply his outspoken counter techniques, and turned the bout into a fight.

 

ROUND 5: Jackson aggressively attacks his foe, ignoring all defense, as he grabs Mendoza and pins him to the ropes or rail, with one hand and body weight..... It may not have been premeditated, as Jackson would want to trap his foe, while Mendoza would have been attempting to squirm loose.... Jackson pins Mendoza to the ropes or rail, one hand holds his foe's hair in a vice, body weight pressing to prevent movement, while the other hand freely pounds repeatedly to the face.... Jackson beat and beat and beat Mendoza to the face, smaller man unable to defend himself and unable to fall down, as Jackson holds by the hair and beats and beats and beats the scientific pugilist.... The pinning of a foe in a bare knuckle bout, while difficult to execute, was perfectly legal. The round usually concludes, as this one did, when the momentum and movement eventually lose balance and grip, and the trapped pugilist, in this case Mendoza, mercifully slips to the ground.... The only propriety question involved the grabbing and holding of an opponent's hair.

 

Pugilism was illegal in England, though enjoyed by the rich and royal, and a few more incidents like Jackson and the hair pulling would have banned boxing for life. English pugilists had been arrested and imprisoned for such violent behavior. If a pugilists had grabbed the hair of a James Figg or a Jack Broughton in their prime they would have gone to prison. If someone had grabbed the hair of Tom Johnson as recent Champion, it would have been viewed as reprehensible and the crowd might have rioted and attacked the offending pugilist. Tom Johnson, the legendary hero, had disgraced his own legend with his hair pulling of Benjamin Brain. But the important aspect of that incident, only from a pugilist legalese stand point, is that Johnson was not disqualified. So there was 1791 precedent, with Tom Johnson now as corner man for Jackson, arguing successfully to the Umpires on the legality of hair pulling. Pierce Egan: "An appeal was made to the Umpires upon the propriety of the action, when it was deemed perfectly consistent with the rules of fighting, and the battle proceeded. The odds were now changed to 2-1 on Jackson."

 

ROUNDS 6-8: Mendoza is weakened and defeated as he merely defends himself and backs.

 

ROUND 9: Jackson relentlessly attacks on offense as he believes he is close to victory. He lands a series of punches that knock Mendoza down. Pierce Egan: "(Jackson) hit away his man with great ease. Dan suffered considerably, and after falling completely exhausted, acknowledged he had done."

 

For John Jackson, 'Gentleman John Jackson', it would be quite a life. Jackson promptly retired and never fought again. This did not prevent his fabulous life as the English Heavyweight Champion for the next 5 years, and enjoy a personal relationship as King George's III 'private' pugilist teacher. Jackson taught the "art of sparring" to eager, rich students wanting to learn from the best. I assume that studies with Jackson as teacher did not encourage hair pulling.

 

1797 would have seemed to be a good year for Daniel Mendoza. His pugilism school had evolved into a successful stage show. He had once hoped for a career in show business and appeared to have a popular 3-part touring performance. The 1st act was Daniel Mendoza and a paid pugilist partner. Mendoza would explain "the art of sparring" and then demonstrate with various techniques. The 2nd act was Daniel Mendoza, with a bit of comedy, as he mimicked the various well known pugilists: Benjamin Brain, Tom Johnson, Jack Broughton, Isaac Perrins and Richard Humphreys. The 3rd act offered an appearance by pugilists along with light sparring. At least on one occasion, Richard Humphreys, made an appearance to the delighted crowd. The successful show was forced to close due to Mendoza's necessity of hiding from creditors that he had burned for payment. Mendoza could not promote the stage show without their knowledge of where to locate him. By 1799, Mendoza was back in jail over a debt to a wine merchant. Freemasons paid the wine merchant in exchange for Mendoza making some personal appearances at the "boys club". Mendoza passed the century mark, 1800, once again incarcerated. Mendoza had attempted to pay people with his own notes that he had drawn. Englishman attempted to use these notes as currency, and when merchants refused to accept them, law enforcement became involved. Mendoza was convicted for passing counterfeit money and fraud. His sentence was six months in prison.

 

Daniel Mendoza (Oracle Daily Advertiser - 11/?/1801): "A month after our battle at Hornchurch I waited on (Jackson), upbraided him with his unmanly conduct, by laying hold of my hair, and offered to fight him." John Jackson (Oracle Daily Advertiser - 12/1/1801): "For some years I have entirely withdrawn from a public life, and am more and more convinced of the propriety of my conduct.... It being nearly 7 years since I had the satisfaction of chastising him for his insolence."

 

King George III would never have to worry about 'insolence' from a John Jackson or Tom Cribb. They were wise enough to see a great deal in front of them. An opportunity to be English Heavyweight Champion, without having to fight, and at an appropriate time pass along the title to a hand picked successor. If the 'wrong' person should win the title, then it was not really a title bout, and the Championship would return to the King's pugilist.

 

Jem Belcher

 

It appeared that Mendoza would finally have his opportunity to win the title and earn a needed large payday when the English Champion, Jem Belcher (1800-1805), solicited a bout. Belcher was popular with the public and did not want to be idle. Belcher wanted to fight the best, but at the moment it was difficult to locate a pugilist with a name and reputation. Mendoza desperately wanted this fight, but the English authorities arrested him yet again. Mendoza was incredulous, and while he did not specifically cite his Jewish ancestry, did openly wonder why he was being singled out. The younger Mendoza might have defied authority and fought anyway, but he was weary and tired from his various arrests and detentions. Mendoza joked with the Magistrate and promised not to fight the Champion. He was released from detention and the dream match-up, Jem Belcher versus Daniel Mendoza, did not occur. The irony, or more likely hypocrisy of King George III and a dishonest English aristocracy, is that Henry Pierce was released from debtor's prison only on the condition that he fight Champion Belcher. By then, Daniel Mendoza was back in prison over a debt with a beer brewer. Creditors had seized his home and furniture. He returned to find his family homeless and in hopeless debt. In 1806, England passed a law that banished a King's Bench debtor's prison. Daniel Mendoza was released from custody and a free man again.

 

It is difficult to comprehend what a John Jackson contributed to boxing that earned him a place in the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Other than grabbing someone's hair there is little else that marks his boxing legacy. A Richard Humphreys was recognized as the best boxer in England, 1786, and instantly brought credibility and excitement to a sport in decline. The battles with Daniel Mendoza, especially their 2nd encounter, revolutionized the sport with the build up and counterpart verbal sparring that is acceptable and normal today. Richard Humphreys is not a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame. John Jackson rode the coattails, or hair, of the path that Humphreys and Mendoza had blazed. To Jackson's credit, he knew this, and acknowledged it in some way, maybe even earning his 'Gentleman' moniker by assisting Mendoza with funds throughout the years. Mendoza could never find a way out of debt. He died in debt. But Mendoza was grateful for Jackson's assistance, and as the years passed, graciously accepted his “10 minute defeat” without acknowledging further details. Mendoza could even appreciate, that on that April day of 1795 when his hair was pulled while his face pummeled into submission, that it was not for 'insolence' or personality conflict, but that pugilism was a business. John Jackson was taking care of his family, his own future, and business. Daniel Mendoza (1814): “The acts of friendship I have received from (Jackson), have caused me to feel desirous of burying in oblivion all our former contentions; and as we are now friends, I hope and trust we shall continue ever so.” Mendoza also utilized the opportunity, his second book, to thank his wife for 30 years of marriage: “Years of experience in which we had to encounter, as were the deceitful smiles of prosperity as the terrific frowns of adversity, have never given me reasons to repent my choice.”

 

Daniel Mendoza would have two highly publicized bouts (but he occasionally sparred for money) following the 1795 fateful encounter. An 1806 victory over Harry Lee allowed the public to see the legendary pugilist who had disposed of Richard Humphreys. An 1820 battle, versus fellow middle aged, Tom Owen, was viewed as a bit of a freak show. It was made even less relevant, according to Pierce Egan, because the celebrity of Mendoza had fallen to obscurity. With the legends of Jem Belcher and Tom Cribb, a new generation of boxing fans would embrace Tom Spring, while the 18th century was a dinosaur era from another time.

 

For those who harbored ill feelings of the hubris that was Mendoza, the end was sad and not a joyful, as the 56 year-old pugilist, who was never Champion, but now viewed as a “former Champion”, struggled with movement and range. This once proud man, and still proud, was pinned by Owens to the ropes in the 7th round and beaten repeatedly to the back of the head and neck. For that moment, pugilism was as ugly and brutal as the profession's critics espoused. The 8th, 9th and 10th rounds had Tom Owen battering a defenseless Daniel Mendoza around the ring, until throwing him to the ground and landing atop him. It would have been expected and understandable for Mendoza to surrender. But the 11th round, with a final blaze to end a brilliant career, Owen was thrown to the ground with a wily Mendoza atop him. Owen regained control of the 12th round, forced and pinned Mendoza to the ropes, beat on his head as he held him, until Mendoza slipped to the ground and admitted defeat.

 

The sadness of that final bout, along with the publicized realization that an embarrassed Mendoza was broke and in debt (as usual) brought the best and most famous pugilists together for a benefit sparring show. Six weeks following the Mendoza/Owen debacle, an appreciative 57 year-old Mendoza addressed the pugilists (including Tom Cribb and John Jackson) and promised them that this was his final appearance in the public eye. Mendoza was humbled and grateful for the financial assistance, but still unleashed verbal punches aimed at his profession and all of those pugilists who monetarily gained from himself and his now forgotten #1 nemesis.... Daniel Mendoza (8/31/1820): “After what I have done for the pugilists belonging to the prize ring, I do say they have not used me well upon this occasion. In fact, the principal men have deserted me in toto. I think that I have a right to call myself the father of boxing science; for it is well known that prize fighting lay dormant for several years after the time of Broughton and Slack. It was myself and Humphreys that revived it for our 3 contests for superiority, and the science of pugilism has been highly patronized ever since.... I have now only one thing to say --- FAREWELL!”


 


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ALSO BY CHRISTOPHER JAMES SHELTON
Down goes Frazier! 'The Sunshine Showdown'
Last of the bare-knuckle championships
Death of an Irish pugilist
Sharkey-Corbett: A battle of unbeatens
200 years ago ... without gloves
The final interview of legend Al Fenn, manager of Zora Foley

Johnson vs. Jeffries, the 100th anniversary
Sonny Banks, who died fighting, would have been 70

Wyatt Earp's boxing scandal, 1896

 

 

 

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 Christopher James Shelton is a product of the American West Coast. He has lived in Los Angeles and San Ysidro, California, Tijuana , Mexico, and currently resides in Phoenix, Arizona. 

Shelton was the editor of CHEEERS Soundboard, the first solely written/produced mental health recovery center newsletter in America.  He has several credits as researcher/writer/interviewer for CyberBoxingZone including: “Scandal In San Francisco (1896).” “The Last Bareknuckle Championship Bout (1889)” and “The Art and Science of Daniel Mendoza.”

  His research discovery credits include 19th century pugilists George Godfrey, Professor Hadley, Tom Hyer, John L. Sullivan and Jake Kilrain.  Family interviews, mixed with historical research, include lightweights Jack Britton and Billy Hawkins. 

Shelton conducted the final interview with legendary Phoenix manager Al Fenn, and asked candid questions about George Foreman and H.I.V. with former heavyweight champion Tommy Morrison.  HIs favorite historical article, “124-year-old woman challenges John L. Sullivan for the title," recounts the life story of a feisty 19th-century female slave named Sylvie Dubois.

 

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