Mace Champion of England (1861)
The Beauty of a Broken Violin
Yarmouth, Norfolk. 1849
Jem Mace, an 18-year-old musician, is busking outside a seafront pub, well rewarded by an appreciative crowd. Suddenly, three drunken fishermen emerge. While the others jeer, the leader seizes Mace's violin and smashes it in half. Mace's response will shock and delight the spectators and change the course of his life.
The Last Request of a Noble Lord
London, St. Martin's Lane. 1858
After a brilliant debut in the outlawed London Prize Ring, Mace's luck has turned. Unable to admit the scandalous reasons for his no-show at a fight rendezvous, he is accused of cowardice and reduced to sparring for shillings in the back room of a London pub. Challenged by Lord Drumlanrig, he admits that he is banned from the ring. The fight- loving toff insists to Mace's boss that he must be given a chance to redeem himself. Three days later, Drumlanrig is dead- a victim of the 'Douglas Curse'.
Tom King
A Clash of Titans
Godstone, Surrey. 1862
After their epic drawn world title fight, both England's Tom Sayers and America's John C. Heenan refuse Mace's challenge.
Only a middleweight, Mace takes the championship of England from the gigantic Sam Hurst and is then challenged by Tom King. King is four years younger, five inches taller and 20 pounds heavier -- a formidable opponent with an exceptional reach, fast hands and a fighting heart.
On the day of the fight, the driving wind and hail turns the ground underfoot into a quagmire, nullifying Mace's incredible footwork. But he finds another strategy to defeat King.
The Birth of the Knockout
Plumstead Marshes, Kent. 1863
With King retired, Mace is left with one effective challenger. Joe Goss is a powerful wrestler and a durable fighter, capable of soaking up punishment and lasting three hours. Mace dances round him, parries his punches and jabs him relentlessly. Goss is battered and blood-stained but refuses to give in. Suddenly Mace delivers a punch of unprecedented ferocity. Goss spins like a top, pitches forward senseless and remains unconscious on the turf for several minutes, with his legs twitching convulsively. Later, Mace describes the technique of the knockout.
Joe Goss
The Supreme Boxer-Puncher
Purfleet, Essex. 1866
For his third fight with Goss, Mace dictates that a 16 foot ring will be used and that seconds must get out while a round is in progress. Deploying the full range of shots open to a bare knuckle fighter but ducking and weaving like a future glove boxer, Mace crushes Goss. His display is hailed as "the grandest bit of fighting ever seen".
But, as the enthralled spectators disperse, none can know that forces are already in motion which will threaten the very existence of the outlaw sport.
Arrested in a Bedroom
London, Herne Hill. 1867
Inspector Silverton of Scotland Yard, fanatical opponent of the London Prize Ring, leads a midnight raid on Mace's secret hideout. Mace, on the eve of his title clash with Ned O'Baldwin, the 'Irish Giant', violently resists arrest and is outnumbered by a squad of police.
The outcome of Mace's court appearance next day will be a decisive turning point in his career.
The Last and First of the Champions
Kennerville, Louisiana. 1870
Just outside New Orleans city limits, Mace, the last Champion of England, faces Tom Allen, Champion of America.
Using his switchblade left jab, blocking, feinting, changing pace and feet, Mace throws unprecedented combination punches. Cutting off the ring like a fistic jailer, he outclasses Allen and is hailed as the first World Champion. He will stand at the head of the lineage which will later include Jeffries, Dempsey, Louis, Ali and Tyson.
Joe Coburn
Targeted for Murder
Bay.St. Louis, Mississippi. 1871
Irish-American Joe Coburn, challenges Mace for the world title. Despite an injured wrist and a referee who never calls Coburn's numerous fouls, Mace secures a draw and retains his crown.
Afterwards, he narrowly escapes with his life as bullets fly. With contract killers on his trail, he cannot remain in America.
'Advance Australia!'
Murrumbidgee Reef, New South Wales. 1879
Outlaw Ned Kelly postpones his confrontation with Mace as police converge in a vain attempt to stop Mace's protege, Larry Foley, from challenging for the Australian title. The fight goes ahead, Foley wins, and on his victorious train ride to Melbourne, is acclaimed by patriotic crowds chanting an anti-colonial slogan -- but lustily adding "Three cheers for Jem Mace!".
The Knives are Out
Maison Laffitte, France. 1886
Prizefight buffs attempt to revive the bare knuckle ring in France where the police will not intervene. Mace agrees to referee a fight for the 'championship' near a centuries- old chateau outside Paris. But English thugs invade the ring and, threatening him with knives, compel him to declare the result they've wagered on. Once he regains his freedom, Mace takes a decision which heralds the end of a sporting era.