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Master of the Ring by Graham Gordon

Release date: 02nd November, 2007
Publisher: Milo Books

List Price: £8.99
Our Price: £6.99
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Master of the Ring
The Extraordinary Life of Jem Mace
By Graham Gordon price: £6.99, saving 22% on rrp

To say that Jem Mace enjoyed life to the full is akin to saying that Alex Ferguson is a decent football manager.
Born in Norfolk, this son of a blacksmith was to travel the world, achieve international fame, become the first official world boxing champion and seduce an enormous collection of the Victorian era's most beautiful women. This is a quite fascinating tale brilliantly told by Graham Gordon, a former teacher who is an expert on bare-knuckle fighting.
Amazingly, Mace came to boxing - or rather fighting - by mistake after a violin, his principle source of income as a street entertainer, was stolen and smashed to smithereens by three drunken sailors. Mace took exception to such behaviour and single-handedly beat the living daylights out of all three of them. The incident proved a turning-point in Mace's life and he went on to defeat a number of opponents in bare knuckle fights held (illegally) across the country, his fame growing with every success. It was said he could knock men cold with a single punch.
But Mace was not just a street-fighter; he was an innovative boxer who pioneered the introduction of padded gloves and a count to ten long before the Marquis of Queensberry introduced his rules of boxing.
Nevertheless, the police eventually caught up with Mace, forcing him to set sail for America where he won the world title and managed to get on the wrong side of a group of uncompromising gangsters.
Deciding that his prospects were better in Australia, he travelled to Sydney where his fame reached its peak, something he found extremely useful as he set about seducing as many women as he could, mostly successfully. According to Gordon, Mace was married three times, twice bigamously, and fathered at least fourteen children by five different women.
On one occasion, he missed a fight not because of his capacity to drink (which was gargantuan) but because his then manager prevented another seduction attempt, forcing Mace to hit the bottle with a vengeance.
Despite his penchant for the ladies and the booze, Mace made an enormous amount of money, most of which he spent on wine, women and song; the rest disappeared at the racetrack. Or was wasted. On several occasions as he entered 'retirement', he tried settling down, running a pub, the traditional exit route for sportsmen. As the first of a high profile sporting genre, he also established a century-long trend for blowing the profits.
Unusually for the Victorian era, Mace lived until he was nearly 80, although by this time, he was little more than a pauper; he died in Liverpool in 1910, and was buried in an unmarked grave.
Graham Gordon has produced a remarkable story and the extent of his detailed research is to be admired for his tale is told with great enthusiasm. As for Jem Mace, one wonders whether we shall ever see his like again; boxing is famed for producing men of great character, but few could match Mace's achievements - inside or outside of the ring.

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