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Mendoza, Daniellocked

(1765?–1836)
  • Tony Gee

Daniel Mendoza (1765?–1836)

by Henry Kingsbury, pubd 1789 (after J. Robineau)

© Copyright The British Museum

Mendoza, Daniel (1765?–1836), pugilist, the son of Jewish parents, Abraham Mendoza and his wife, Esther, née Lopes, was born, according to the fighter's memoirs, on 5 July 1764 in the parish of Aldgate, London. However, the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue records show he was circumcised on 12 July of the following year, making a birth date of 5 July 1765 much more probable.

Educated for some years at a Jewish school, Mendoza afterwards entered into employment with various tradesmen including a glass-cutter, fruiterer, tea merchant, and tobacconist. During this time he served his pugilistic apprenticeship, impressing the noted Richard Humphries, who later became his bitter rival. Mendoza's first fight of significance was when he beat Sam Martin, the Bath Butcher. The contest took place at Barnet on 17 April 1787 at the instigation of the prince of Wales. On the 22nd of the next month he married his cousin Esther Mendoza (d. 1855) and in the same year he opened an academy at Capel Court, Bartholomew Lane, where he taught the art of self-defence. His popularity encouraged young Jews to gain fistic proficiency, with the result, as Francis Place noted, that abusive treatment of the Jewish community began to lessen (George, 138).

An impromptu set-to with Humphries at Epping in September 1787 led to the first of their three encounters. The men fought at Odiham, Hampshire, on 9 January 1788 and initially Mendoza had the advantage. However, after about twenty-nine minutes, injury compelled him to concede. The result being considered unsatisfactory, they again met on 6 May 1789. An octagonal amphitheatre was specially erected for the occasion in a park, near Stilton, belonging to a Henry Thornton. During the contest Humphries fell without a blow but, following a prolonged dispute, Mendoza agreed to continue and, at length, prevailed. In 1789 he published a small book entitled The Art of Boxing and on 29 September 1790 he opposed Humphries for a final time. The battle, at an innyard in Doncaster, was well sustained and Humphries, despite fighting resolutely, was again beaten.

Thereafter Mendoza was in great demand for theatrical appearances but his return to the fistic arena was delayed until he met Bristolian Bill Ward (later erroneously called Warr) at Smitham Bottom, near Croydon, on 14 May 1792. Although Ward was favourite, Mendoza proved superior in every round except one and, in approximately thirty minutes, was hailed as the victor. When the two met again at Bexley, Kent, on 12 November 1794, Ward took an early lead but was defeated in only fifteen minutes. In a brief, albeit severe, contest Mendoza lost to the much heavier and more powerful John Jackson at Hornchurch, Essex, on 15 April 1795. The latter increased his advantage by unfairly holding his antagonist's hair with one hand while hitting him with the other. A bystander, writing to The Times (20 April 1795), proffered the opinion that had it not been for this 'I have no doubt but he [Mendoza] would have won'.

Subsequently Mendoza became landlord of the Admiral Nelson public house in Whitechapel. To a challenge from Jem Belcher in November 1801 he replied that he supported a family of six children by his exertions as a publican and would only consider returning to the ring to avenge his defeat by Jackson (Star Daily Evening Advertiser, 26 Nov 1801). This did not come to pass and his next encounter, as a result of a quarrel, was when he outclassed Harry Lee in fifty-three rounds at Grinstead Green, near Bromley. Mendoza declined Lee's request for a return match in a letter to The Times (6 January 1807) wherein he stated his time was devoted to 'teaching Gentlemen the art of self-defence; from whence I derive the means of supporting my family'. Pierce Egan thought him unrivalled as a teacher and believed that no man united the theory of sparring with the practice of boxing to greater advantage. Mendoza's last prize-ring appearance was a twelve-round defeat on 4 July 1820 in a grudge encounter with fellow veteran Tom Owen on Banstead Downs. The following month he gave a farewell address at the Fives Court, St Martin's Street, in which he voiced his opinion that he had the right to call himself the 'Father of the Science' (Weekly Dispatch, 3 Sept 1820).

About 5 feet 7 inches tall, Mendoza was well formed, had considerable courage and excellent endurance. His blows were quick, but deficient in force, and he struck more often and stopped more dexterously than any fighter before him. Despite his pugilistic success he periodically experienced financial difficulties, suffering the indignity of an occasional stay in a debtors' prison, and his last years were spent in poverty and distress. He died at his home in Horseshoe Alley, Petticoat Lane, London, on 3 September 1836 and was buried the following day in the new cemetery of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews at Mile End.

Sources

  • The memoirs of the life of Daniel Mendoza, ed. P. Magriel (1951)
  • L. Edwards, ‘Daniel Mendoza’, paper read before the Jewish Historical Society of England, 15 March 1938
  • P. Egan, Boxiana, or, Sketches of ancient and modern pugilism, 1 (1812), 253–80
  • P. Egan, Boxiana, or, Sketches of ancient and modern pugilism, 2 (1818), 11
  • P. Egan, Boxiana, or, Sketches of ancient and modern pugilism, 3 (1821), 60–71, 488–90
  • T. Fewtrell, Boxing reviewed, or, The science of manual defence, etc. (1790), 77–8
  • R. D. Barnett and others, eds. and trans., The circumcision register of Isaac and Abraham de Paiba, 1715–1775 (1991), 92
  • M. D. George, London life in the eighteenth century (1925), 137–8
  • The Times (20 April 1795) [letter to editor about Mendoza–Jackson match]
  • The Times (6 Jan 1807) [letter to editor from Mendoza]
  • Weekly Dispatch (3 Sept 1820) [Mendoza's farewell address]
  • Star Daily Evening Advertiser (26 Nov 1801) [challenge from Belcher]
  • H. D. Miles, Pugilistica, 1 (1880), 71–83, 86–8, 94–5, 112–13
  • Bell's Life in London (4 Sept 1836)
  • Bell's Life in London (11 Sept 1836)

Archives

  • Jewish Museum, London

Likenesses

  • J. Grozer, engraving, 1788 (after painting by S. Einsle), Jewish Museum, London
  • J. Lumsden, engraving, 1788, Jewish Museum, London
  • J. Gillray, two etchings, 1788–90, Jewish Museum, London, NPG
  • W. N. Gardiner, engraving, pubd 1789 (after J. Robineau), Jewish Museum, London
  • J. Grozer, engraving, 1789 (after drawing by T. Rowlandson), Jewish Museum, London
  • H. Kingsbury, mezzotint, pubd 1789 (after J. Robineau), BM, Jewish Museum, London [see illus.]
  • J. Grozer, engraving, 1790 (after drawing by C. R. Ryley), Jewish Museum, London
  • I. Cruikshank, engraving, 1792 (after caricature), Jewish Museum, London

Wealth at Death

died in poverty: Bell's Life in London (4 Sept 1836)