Daniel Mendoza

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Daniel Mendoza
Rated at160 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)
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Daniel Mendoza
Rated at160 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)
Daniel Mendoza.jpg

Daniel Mendoza (5 July 1764[1] – 3 September 1836) (often known as Dan Mendoza) was an English prizefighter, who was boxing champion of England 1792–95.



Before Mendoza, boxers generally stood still and merely swapped punches. Mendoza's style consisted of more than simply battering opponents into submission; 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 5'7" and weighed only 160 pounds, Mendoza was England’s sixteenth Heavyweight Champion from 1792 to 1795, and is the only middleweight to ever win the Heavyweight Championship of the World. In 1789 he opened his own boxing academy and published the book The Art of Boxing on modern "scientific" style boxing which every subsequent boxer learned from.

Mendoza was so popular that the London press reported news of one of his bouts ahead of the storming of the Bastille which marked the start of the French Revolution. He transformed the 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.

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 due to Humphries’ second (the former Champion, Tom Johnson) blocking a blow. The second two bouts were won by Mendoza. 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.

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 didn't 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 taller, and 42 lbs. heavier. The bigger man won in nine rounds, paving the way to victory by seizing Mendoza by his long hair and holding him with one hand while he pounded his head with the other. Mendoza was pummelled into submission in around ten minutes. Since this date boxers have worn their hair short.

After 1795 Mendoza began to seek other sources of income, becoming the landlord of the "Admiral Nelson" pub in Whitechapel. 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 Kemble in an attempt to suppress the OP 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 at Banstead Downs in a grudge match against Tom Owen; he was defeated after 12 rounds.

Intelligent, charismatic but chaotic, he died at the age of 72, leaving his family in poverty.

Halls of Fame

In 1954 Mendoza was elected to the Boxing Hall of Fame.

In 1990 he was inducted into the inaugural class of the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

Mendoza, who was Jewish, was inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 1981.[2]

Personal life and family

Mendoza was born in Aldgate in July 1764 to Abraham Mendoza (1731–1805) and Esther Lopez (1731–1813) and was of Sephardi Jewish descent. He was the third son of seven children: Benvenida (1752–1784, Aaron (1754–1759), Isaac (1758-), Sarah (1760-), Raphael (1772-) and Miriam (1774-).

In May 1787 he married Esther and they had nine children: Abraham, Sophia, Isabella, Daniel, Jesse, Louisa, Aaron, Isaac and Matilda.

His ancestors had been in Spain and Italy in the centuries prior.

Descendants and relatives

The Mendoza family has a large range of descendants in many countries including England, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, America, Philippines and Israel. Radio presenter Mike Mendoza and Phillip Mendoza are descendants of Daniel Mendoza. Actor Peter Sellers is descended from one of Mendoza's cousins, and is not one of his descendants as previously stated.[citation needed] The 1st Marquess of Reading is descended from his sister Sarah (1760-) who married Michael Isaacs; their younger son Joseph Michael Isaacs was father of Rufus Daniel Isaacs, who became Lord Reading.[3]

References in popular culture

A play about Mendoza, “The Punishing Blow,” by Randy Cohen, debuted in 2009.[4]

A Conspiracy of Paper, a novel by David Liss, includes a fictional character inspired by Mendoza (author's note).

Mendoza features as a character in Rodney Stone, a Gothic mystery and boxing novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Mendoza is a minor character in T. Coraghessan Boyle's 1982 novel, "Water Music".

The boxer appears in Will Eisner's 2003 graphic novel, "Fagin the Jew".


See also


  1. ^ His memoir states 1764, but synagogue records suggest 1765; he was circumcised on 12 July 1765
  2. ^ "International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame". Jewishsports.net. http://www.jewishsports.net/BioPages/Tables/Sport/Boxing.htm. Retrieved 20 January 2011. 
  3. ^ <Christine Lawes. "Re: Rufus D. ISAACS and Daniel MENDOZA" [1] July 3, 2007 at 02:56:58. The source quotes 'Lord Reading: Rufus Isaacs, first Marquess of Reading, Lord Chief Justice & Viceroy of India, 1860-1935', by Denis Judd.>
  4. ^ Float Like A Butterfly, Sting Like A ... Jew, by Ted Merwin, Jewish Week, 18 March 2009 [2]

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