Lecture emphasizes role of sports culture, social justice

Professor of English Sharon Harrow held a lecture Thursday regarding sports literature and focusing on the career of boxing champion, Daniel Mendoza.

Harrow spoke about Mendoza’s accomplishments. Mendoza was of Spanish heritage, and he was Jewish. His rise to stardom was in the late 1780s, and he was a bare-knuckle fighter. Mendoza held the title of Heavyweight Champion from 1790 to 1795. 

“He was the most famous fighter of his time, he was like Muhammad Ali,” said Harrow. 

Mendoza marketed himself by working in the service of English honor. He saw how badly Jews were treated and wanted to end the violence. Because of Mendoza’s fame, he was able to manipulate Jewish discrimination with sports and boxing to become less violent.

Mendoza opened a boxing academy in 1791 where he taught principles. Mendoza made the achievement of allowing boxing into his school as an art. Jews became experts in boxing because of it.

Mendoza was known to perform boxing on stage at the Covent Garden, which was a theater for entertainment. Boxing was always illegal, but it was legal to perform it as an art. Mendoza toured with a comedian and performed boxing on stage in Dublin. He was recognized by a group of actors and asked to perform with them for a few weeks.

Mendoza’s first famous fight was with Richard Humphries. The fight attracted thousands of audience members, and the gates around the arena were guarded because the price of the act was very expensive. Although, the guards were not successful. 

“So, a mob broke down the fences and took possession of every naked seat,” Harrow said. 

The fight became a symbol for debates including a prince who wanted to become a higher authority.

Humphries also trained Tom Molineaux who was an African-American bare-knuckle boxer and former slave from Virginia. Molineaux spent the majority of his career in Great Britain and Ireland. Both Molineaux and Mendoza were known to fight for their countries. 

“Molineaux became this boxing legend,” said Harrow.

A fight between Molineaux and Tom Cribb lasted 39 rounds. Cribb was an English bare-knuckle boxer who was named a world champion, and won the fight.

Broadway held a play in 2010 about Mendoza and Harrow was invited. 

“I was invited to go to Broadway, so that was exciting,” said Harrow. 

Officials allowed boxing to regain its public profile because local courts had to ignore any illegal events when the royal highness was present.

Mendoza was hired not as a boxer but as security at Covent Theater because of the riots, which were created by the theater showing only genres other than comedy or tragedy. People believed that the theater was corrupt. 

The sport of boxing hits home for Harrow because she once was a boxer, but she has given up the sport and now focuses on writing.

“I became interested in boxing while I was finishing my dissertation so, dissertation by day, boxing by night and I have since given up boxing,” said Harrow.

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