Milo Books

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Master of the Ring

Showman, lover, globetrotter, world champion: Jem Mace was one of the most remarkable men of the Victorian era.

Born in rural poverty, he achieved international fame, crossing continents and oceans to promote himself and his sport as both theatre and entertainment. He became the original world titleholder, the first global sporting hero and the father of modern boxing. His genius lay in his fists. Mace was one of the greatest fighters to have ever lived, a defensive master who could knock men cold with a single punch.

Having left his Norfolk home for life as an itinerant musician, he took up the outlawed prize ring and beat far bigger opponents with his skill and trickery. He bought a circus, challenged any man to last three rounds with him – and flattened all comers. His use of padded gloves and the ten-count preceded the Queensberry Rules.

Prosecuted by Scotland Yard, Mace sailed for America, where he won the world title and narrowly escaped murder by gangsters. The peak of his fame came in Australia, where he schooled a golden generation of boxers.

He also seduced women from Sydney to San Francisco, including the beautiful actress Adah Menken, married three times, twice bigamously, and fathered at least fourteen children by five women. He gambled away a fortune, ended life as a penniless busker and was buried in an unmarked grave.

In the age of Darwin, Dickens and Disraeli, when life and society were transformed and the British Empire reached its zenith, Jem Mace was one of the most talented yet unconventional of all Victorians, and his legacy lingers to this day.

About the author:

Graham Gordon is a former teacher specialising in late 19th century history and an authority on bare-knuckle boxing. He is also a distant relative of Jem Mace. Master of the Ring is his first book. For more information visit


”Mace was the first hell-raiser. And his scandalous personal lifestyle outraged Britain. Mace’s riveting story is brought to life by Graham Gordon and I highly recommend his book ‘Master of the Ring’. It is no exaggeration to say that Mace was the Muhammad Ali of his age-the first global sporting superstar”. – THE SUN

”A splendid new biography. Mace was the original holder of a rightful world title, the first global sporting hero and the father of modern boxing – but Mace’s original talent was as a musician. He pioneered innovative training methods, padded gloves and the count of 10.

Mace made a very great deal of money and spent it all, much of it on wine, women and song and the remainder betting on slow racehorses. He was married three times, twice bigamously and fathered, at the very least, 14 children by at least five women. He died a pauper and was buried in an unmarked grave.

‘Gordon has done a terrific job. He doesn’t let the weight of his research drag on on his prose. It is a long read, but then it was a long and fascinating life”. – THE DAILY TELEGRAPH

”Mace’s many attributes and shortcomings would make this a compelling read on their own but the wild assortment of supporting characters from lords and earls, politicians, gangsters and gamblers to actresses, acrobats, gypsies and boxing legends all add to the lustre that make his life’s story such a wonderful exercise in Victorian theatre. The sheer flow of drama and the astonishing variety of Mace’s life make Master of the Ring a book to be recommended”. -THE INDEPENDENT

”Gordon has done a splendid job in demonstrating just how far-reaching was Mace’s influence in the evolution of boxing from prize-ring bloodbath to scientific sport. Master of the Ring not only succeeds in filling an important, indeed vital, gap in boxing history but is a thundering good read and an essential addition to any self-respecting pugilist-specialist reader’s library.’ – BOXING MONTHLY

”Mace had the heart of a romantic and the fists of a world champion. A new book tells of the amazing Victorian violinist who lies in a Liverpool grave. A magnificent biography -it was the great age of capitalists, scientists, theologians, empire- builders and warriors but the handsome violinist with the fast fists deserves his place in the pantheon of the immortals”. – LIVERPOOL DAILY POST

”Jem Mace was one of the greatest characters Norfolk has ever produced and now his life story has been told in a fascinating new book, Master of the Ring. It tells the extraordinary story of the Norfolk boy who became the first world superstar.
Graham Gordon has come up with an absorbing account of a man who lived an amazing life both inside and outside the ring. It is an excellent read”. – NORWICH EVENING NEWS

”Master of the Ring is a biography of the English prizefighting champion, showman, lover and globetrotter who was one of the most remarkable celebrities of the Victorian era. This is an impressive piece of work by Graham Gordon”. DUBLIN EVENING HERALD

”Gordon’s book is well done. His research makes Master of the Ring one of the richest boxing bios in recent years”. – THE RING

”This is a fascinating tale brilliantly told by Graham Gordon. Gordon had produced a remarkable story and the extentof 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”.

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