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Daniel Mendoza (5 July 1764[a] – 3 September 1836) (often known as Dan Mendoza) was an English prizefighter, who was boxing champion of England in 1792–1795. He was of Portuguese-Jewish descent.[2]

Daniel Mendoza
Mendoza Boxer.jpg
Weight(s)160 lb (73 kg)
Height5 ft 7 in (1.70 m)
Born(1764-07-05)5 July 1764
Died3 September 1836(1836-09-03) (aged 72)
Boxing record
Total fights37
Wins by KO30
No contests0
Daniel Mendoza.jpg


Early lifeEdit

Daniel Mendoza was born in England, to Moses and Judith Mendoza, to a family of Portuguese-Jewish ancestry.[2]

Early bare-knuckle careerEdit

According to the Ring Boxing Record Book, Mendoza was undefeated in 27 straight fights prior to 1788. Bare-knuckle fights ended when an opponent was knocked out or unable to continue (Technical knockout) or by foul or a draw. Dates and exact locations are unknown, except that all fights were in England. Mendoza defeated the following opponents: Harry the Coalheaver, Tom Wilson, John Horn, Harry Davis, John Lloyd, Thomas Monk, John Hand, Bill Move, John Williams, Richard Dennis, George Cannon, Al Fuller, Tom Spencer, William Taylor, John Braintree, William Byrant, John Matthews, Tom Tyne, George Hoast, George MacKenzie, John Hall, William Cannon, George Barry, George Smith, William Nelson, Sam Martin (11 January 1787 won in 10 rounds), and William Warr (1787 won in 23 rounds). Despite the general prohibition on boxing at the time, the sport was widely popular; Mendoza's fight against Martin was arranged by the Prince of Wales.


Daniel Mendoza's first fight occurred in 1780 when he was aged 16. Mendoza at this time was working for a tea dealer in Aldgate, London. The fight was not a prize fight for a purse, but a contest to settle a dispute with a porter over payment for a consignment of tea. The porter had demanded twice the agreed price for the consignment, Mendoza stated the porter behaved in a manner unfit for a gentleman. After much arguing between the proprietor of the tea dealership and the porter, the porter challenged the owner to settle the dispute by a duel with fists.

Mendoza, believing the porter was cheating his frail employer, accepted the challenge on his behalf. The duel took place in the street outside the tea dealership in a hastily constructed ring. The fight lasted for forty five minutes, ending when the porter declared he was unable to continue. This victory brought a small measure of fame to Mendoza, stories of the fight spreading through the surrounding neighborhoods and portraying Mendoza as the talented whippersnapper who had not just beaten, but thrashed his larger opponent.[3]

His early boxing career was defined by three bouts with his former mentor Richard Humphries between 1788 and 1790. The first of these was lost because Humphries’ second (the former champion, Tom Johnson) blocked a blow. The third bout set history in another way. It was the first time spectators were charged an entry-payment to a sporting event. The fights were hyped by a series of combative letters in the press between Humphries and Mendoza.

Before Mendoza, boxers generally stood still and merely swapped punches. Mendoza's style consisted of more than simply battering opponents; his "scientific style" included much defensive movement. He developed an entirely new style of boxing, incorporating defensive strategies, such as what he called "side-stepping", moving around, ducking, blocking, and, all in all, avoiding punches. At the time, this was revolutionary, and Mendoza was able to overcome much heavier opponents as a result of this new style. Though he stood only 5 feet 7 inches (170 cm) and weighed only 160 pounds (73 kg), Mendoza was England's sixteenth Heavyweight Champion from 1792 to 1795, and is the first middleweight to ever win the Heavyweight Championship of the World. In 1789 he opened his own boxing academy and published one of the earliest books on boxing titled "The Art of Boxing" [4] which was a modern "scientific" approach that every subsequent boxer learned from.

Mendoza helped transform the popular English stereotype of a Jew from a weak, defenceless person into someone deserving of respect. He is said to have been the first Jew to talk to the King, George III. Mendoza was second for Tom Molineaux, a freed Virginia slave, in his fights.

Mendoza's memoirs report that he got involved in three fights whilst on his way to watch a boxing match. The reasons were: (a) someone's cart cut in; (b) he felt a shopkeeper was trying to cheat him; (c) he did not like how a man was looking at him.


In 1795 Mendoza fought "Gentleman" John Jackson for the championship at Hornchurch in Essex. Jackson was five years younger, 4 inches (10 cm) taller, and 42 pounds (19 kg) heavier. The bigger man won in nine rounds, paving the way to victory by muscling Mendoza into the corner of the ring, pulling his hair, and pummeling his head with his free hand. Mendoza managed to come back up to scratch after this, but was soon knocked out. Mendoza was beaten into submission in around ten minutes (The Ring Boxing Record Book wrote that Mendoza was knocked out in the 9th round). Many pugilists, such as James Figg and Jack Broughton, shaved their heads to avoid the possibility of this, until hair-pulling was eventually banned in boxing.

After 1795 Mendoza began to seek other sources of income, becoming the landlord of the "Admiral Nelson" pub in Whitechapel. On 21 March 1806, Mendoza returned to the ring and defeated Harry Lee in 52 rounds. He turned down a number of offers for re-matches and in 1807 wrote a letter to The Times in which he said he was devoting himself chiefly to teaching the art. In 1809 he and some associates were hired by the theatre manager John Philip Kemble in an attempt to suppress the Old Price Riots; the resulting poor publicity probably cost Mendoza much of his popular support, as he was seen to be fighting on the side of the privileged.

Mendoza made and spent a fortune. His memoirs (written in 1808 but not published until 1816) report that he tried a number of ventures, including touring the British Isles giving boxing demonstrations; appeared in a pantomime entitled Robinson Crusoe or Friday Turned Boxer; opening a boxing academy at the Lyceum in the Strand; working as a recruiting sergeant for the army; printing his own paper money; and being a pub landlord.

Mendoza made his last public appearance as a boxer in 1820, one day short of his 56th birthday, at Banstead Downs in a grudge match against Tom Owen; Mendoza hadn't fought for 14 years. He was defeated after 12 rounds.

Intelligent, charismatic but chaotic, he died at the age of 72, leaving his family in poverty. He was initially buried in the Nuevo Cemetery (a Jewish Cemetery near Mile End, now part of the campus of Queen Mary University of London) and later reburied in Brentwood Jewish Cemetery.[5]

Halls of FameEdit

References in popular cultureEdit

  • The actor Peter Sellers was Mendoza's great-great-grandson, and he hung portraits of the boxer in the backgrounds of several of his films.[9]
  • Mendoza appears in several Gillray cartoons.[10][11]
  • In September 2008 a commemorative plaque to Dan Mendoza (made by Louise Soloway) was unveiled in London by Sir Henry Cooper.[12] It hangs on the wall of the main library of Queen Mary University of London, adjacent to the student cafeteria.
  • His former home on Paradise Row in Bethnal Green is marked by a blue plaque.[13]
  • A play about Mendoza, “The Punishing Blow,” by Randy Cohen, debuted in 2009.[14]
  • A short award winning film, "Broken and Outcast," in which Daniel Mendoza appears as a character, was released in 2018.[15]
  • Mendoza the Jew: Boxing, Manliness, and Nationalism, A Graphic History is a book written by Ronald Schechter and illustrated by Liz Clarke
  • describes Mendoza as one of the 5 Hardest Men of the Pugilistic Era.[16]

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ Mendoza states his year of birth as 1764 in his memoirs, but synagogue records suggest 1765 is more likely because he was circumcised on 12 July 1765.[1]


  1. ^ Gee, Tony (2004). "Mendoza, Daniel (1765?–1836)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 7 January 2013. (subscription or UK public library membership required)
  2. ^ a b Siegman, Joseph M. (1992). The International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.
  3. ^ Mendoza - Memoirs of Daniel Mendoza (1816) p.9
  4. ^ Daniel Mendoza. The Art of Boxing. Gale ECCO. ISBN 9781140847991.
  5. ^ Daniel Mendoza on the Find a Grave website
  6. ^ List of inductees on the BoxRec website
  7. ^ "International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame". Retrieved 20 January 2011.
  8. ^ Announcement on the website
  9. ^ Sikov, Ed, Mr. Strangelove, Hyperion, 2002, pg. 4
  10. ^ National Portrait Gallery
  11. ^ Jewish Museum, London
  12. ^ Unveiling of the plaque on the Jewish East End of London website
  13. ^ Plaque #1911 on Open Plaques.
  14. ^ Float Like A Butterfly, Sting Like A ... Jew, by Ted Merwin, Jewish Week, 18 March 2009 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 28 April 2009. Retrieved 22 March 2009.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  15. ^ "Broken and Outcast".
  16. ^ Mendoza on the website

Further readingEdit

  • The Art of Boxing; by Daniel Mendoza; Originals will be hard to find, but reprints are available.
  • The Memoirs of the Life of Daniel Mendoza (1816); A biography by Mendoza himself, very hard to find, although it has been reprinted
  • The Memoirs of the Life of Daniel Mendoza; A reprint, edited by Paul Magriel (first edition 1951)
  • The Memoirs of the Life of Daniel Mendoza; A reprint, edited by Alex Joanides (2011)
  • Edwards, Lewis (1939–1945). "Daniel Mendoza". Transactions (Jewish Historical Society of England). Jewish Historical Society of England. 15: 73–92. JSTOR 29777842. (subscription required)
  • Harold U. Ribalow, Daniel Mendoza, Fighter from Whitechapel (New York: Farrer, Straus, and Cudahy, Inc., 1962)

External linksEdit