Mace, James (DNB12)

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MACE, JAMES, 'Jem Mace' (1831–1910), pugilist, born on 8 April 1831 at Beeston, near Swaffham, Norfolk, was son of a tenant on the Windham Estates there. Early in life he was associated with a travelling booth, where he played the violin and gave boxing exhibitions. While thus engaged he attracted the notice of Nat Langham, a showman and former boxing champion, the only vanquisher of Tom Sayers [q. v.], who invited Mace to join his show. Mace made great strides in boxing; his first important fight took place on 2 Oct. 1855 at Mildenhall, Suffolk, when he defeated a local boxer named Slack. His fame soon reached London, and on 17 Feb. 1857 he met and easily beat Bill Thorpe at Canvey Island. Mace was thenceforth acknowledged to be one of the best boxers of his generation. With boxing matches Mace long combined the avocations of publican and circus performer. In 1858 he kept the Swan Inn, Swan Lane, Norwich, and in 1861 the 'Old King John,' Holywell Lane, Shoreditch. He toured with Pablo Fanque's circus during 1861, and with Ginnett's circus in 1862. At one time he was proprietor of the Strawberry recreation grounds, Liverpool.

Meanwhile his fame as a boxer grew, and his matches were numerous. He defeated Bob Brettle, a former victor, on the Essex coast, on 19 and 20 Jan. 1860, thus becoming middle-weight champion. Mace's victory on 18 June 1861 over Sam Hurst (a Lancashire giant, 6 ft. 2½ ins. in height and weighing 15 stone) greatly increased his reputation, and he was challenged for the championship by Thomas King [q. v.] for 200l. a side. The meeting took place on 28 Jan. 1862, and after forty-three rounds of very even fighting Mace won by scientific methods: but he was in turn beaten at Aldershot by King on 26 Nov. following. On King's retirement Mace resumed the title of champion, was challenged by and beat Joe Goss after a severe battle at Plumstead Marshes, Purfleet, on 1 Sept. 186.3, and again defeated him decisively on 6 Aug. 1866. A championship match with an Irish giant, O'Baldwin (afterwards Ned Baldwin), 6 ft. 4½ ins. in height, was arranged for 15 Oct. 1867; but the laws against prize-fighting were at length rigidly enforced, and Mace was arrested, having been chased by the police from Woodford, Essex, and bound over to keep the peace. Mace then went to America, where at New Orleans he outfought Tom Allen of Birmingham on 10 May 1870, and drew with Joe Coburn on 30 Nov. 1871. A visit to Canada preceded his return to London. Subsequently he continued his boxing career in Australia, and carried on a publican's business at Melbourne. He again returned to England, and in 1901 was in charge of the 'Black Bull.' Colville Street, Birmingham, but later, falling into poverty, toured the country with travelling shows and gave sparring exhibitions till his death at Jarrow on 30 Nov. 1910.

Mace married twice late in life and had issue. A black and tint portrait appeared in the 'Licensed Victuallers' Gazette,' 14 April 1899.

The last of the representatives of the old prize ring, Mace, who had a fine constitution and was of great strength and agility, had few if any superiors in his art. He had a graceful and effective style, combined with accurate and scientific judgment and straight hitting, especially with the left. In his matches with Joe Goss he maintained the old traditions of the ring, and remained incorruptible at a time when boxing was on its decline. He never met his contemporary, Tom Sayers [q. v.], whose superior some judges considered him to be.

[The Times, 1 Dec. 1910; Licensed Victuallers' Gazette, 2 Dec. 1910; Manchester Guardian, 2 April 1910 (interview); H. D. Miles, Pugilistica, 1906, iii. 444–488; Fistiana, 1868; F. W. J. Henning, Some Recollections of the Prize Ring, 1888, and Fights for the Championship, 1902, ii. 440 seq. (with portrait).]

W. B. O.