One of the fascinating aspects of cruising the William Davidson Digital Archive is that you never know what you might find. As you might suspect, there are plenty of stories on Detroit as well as Jewish community news, such as bar/bat mitzvahs, births, weddings and obituaries. And there are many stories about major world events and developments in Israel. But, what I really like are the unexpected stories.

For example, did you know that one of the first heavyweight bare-knuckle boxing champions in the world was a Jew?

I ran across a story in the Feb. 6, 1981, issue of the JN, which focused on Daniel Mendoza’s induction into the International Sports Hall of Fame, which is sponsored by the Wingate-Institute of Physical Education in Netanya, Israel. You may not recognize his name, yet Mendoza ruled his sport from 1792-1795, when the boxing championship of the world was strictly a London, England, affair.

Mendoza was a remarkable fellow. He stood only 5-feet-7-inches and weighed 160 pounds. His first bout was in 1784, when he was 17; his last was at age 56. In between, Mendoza became famous, wealthy, highly literate and wrote one of the first manuals on boxing techniques. He also operated a boxing school attended by many of the elite in England. He was the first Jew to meet with the king of England. And — he always remained a good Jewish boy.

Mike Smith
Detroit Jewish News Foundation

Mike Smith
Detroit Jewish News Foundation Archivist

Want to learn more?
Go to the DJN Foundation archives, available for free at