Last NameSportCountryYear Inducted

Sport: Boxing
Inducted: 1981
Country: Great Britain
Born: July 5, 1764 in Aldgate, London, England
Died: September 3, 1836

Daniel Mendoza was the first Jewish prize-fighter to become a champion. Though he stood only 5'7" and weighed 160 pounds, Mendoza was England’s sixteenth Heavyweight Champion from 1792 to 1795. Always proud of his heritage, he billed himself as Mendoza the Jew.

He is the father of scientific boxing. At a time when the sport of boxing consisted primarily of barehanded slugging, Mendoza introduced the concept of defense. He developed the guard, the straight left, and made use of side­stepping tactics. This new strategy, the Mendoza School, also referred to as the Jewish School, was criticized in some circles as cowardly. But it permitted Mendoza to fully capitalize on his small stature, speed, and punching power.

His first recorded prizefight was a knockout of an opponent, known as Harry the Coalheaver, whom he dispatched in 40 rounds. A victory in his first professional fight in 1787 won him the patronage of the Prince of Wales (later George IV), the first boxer to earn this honor. His acceptance by British royalty (he was the first Jew ever to speak to England’s King George III) helped elevate the position of the Jew in English society and stem a vicious tide of anti-Semitism that many Englishmen read into Shakespeare’s characterization of Shylock in his play The Merchant of Venice.

Mendoza had a series of storied matches against rival Richard Humphries, one each in 1788, 1789, and 1790. He lost the first battle in 29 rounds but won the latter pair in 52 and 15
Daniel Mendoza, “Mendoza the Jew” rounds. He laid claim to
the English boxing title in 1791 when the prevailing champion, Benjamin Brain, retired. Another top English boxer, Bill Warr, contested Mendoza’s claim. In May 1792, the two met to settle the matter in Croydon, England. Mendoza was victorious in 23 rounds. Warr and Mendoza met again in November 1794, and this time it took the champion only 15 minutes to dispose of the challenger.

Mendoza, a descendant of Spanish Marranos (Jews coerced into conversion to Christianity) who had lived in London for nearly a century, became such a popular figure in England that songs were written about him, and his name appeared in scripts of numerous plays. His personal appearances would fill theaters, portraits of him and his fights were popular subjects for artists, and commemorative medals were struck in his honor.

Daniel Mendoza was one of the inaugural group elected in 1954 to the Boxing Hall of Fame and of the inaugural class of the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.

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