Sam, Dutch : Jews In Sports @ Virtual Museum

Sam, Dutch

Samuel Elias

A member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame, Dutch Sam is considered by many to be the greatest small man in early boxing history. Standing only 5'6", he never fought at more than 134 pounds (a lightweight), but his considerable punching power allowed him to fight larger opponents. In an era when most boxers fought 20-25 times in a career, Dutch Sam had approximately 100 bouts, losing only twice. Sam came from the Whitechapel area of London that later produced legendary Jewish fighters Jackie Berg and Ted Lewis.

Birth and Death Dates:
b. April 4, 1775 - d. July 3, 1816

Career Highlights:
Dutch Sam began his professional career in the early 1800s as a bare-knuckled fighter in the era of "Broughton's Rules." Established in 1743 by Jack Broughton, considered the father of English boxing, the Rules stated that wrestling moves about the waist were allowed, but a fighter could not hit an opponent once he was down. In fact, knockdowns marked the division of rounds as the downed fighter had 30 seconds to return to the center of the ring or he would lose. If the fighter, with the help of his handlers, made it to the center, the fights resumed in what was considered a new round. In this way, fights were recorded according to the number of rounds and amount of time. "Broughton's Rules" were replaced in 1838 by the Pugilistic Society's "London Prize Ring Rules."

Called "one of (if not) the best fighting man in the kingdom," by early boxing historian Pierce Egan in Boxiana or Sketches Of Ancient and Modern Pugilism, Sam was discovered as a boxer on October 12, 1801 by Harry Lee. On that day, Sam defeated a boxer named Baker, a man much larger than he, on the roadside outside of Ensfield and won a prize of five guineas. Success soon followed as Sam defeated a heavyweight named Bill Shipley (called the Champion of Broadway) in 1803 in only 15-minutes, becoming Daniel Mendoza's successor as hero of England's Jewish community. Egan wrote, "among his own persuasion (the Jews) he is an object of great notoriety; and no money is ever wanting to back him upon any pugilistic occasion."

Nicknamed 'The Man with the Iron Hand,' it was written that Sam's punches, "are truly dreadful to encounter." On August 7, 1804, near Highgate in London, he fought his first major bout when he encountered a bigger, more experienced, and undefeated boxer named Caleb Baldwin. Baldwin was favored at the beginning of the bout, and by the third round, Sam was ready to give in. His seconds refused to allow him to retire and pushed him back to the center of the ring a number of times. By the 20th round, Sam gained some momentum as Baldwin began to falter, but in the 26th-round, "both the combatants were so completely exhausted, as not to be able to stand up..." Eleven rounds later, the bout finally ended when Baldwin gave in with Sam winning a prize of 25 guineas, as well as the title of lightweight champion of England (according to some accounts).

The following year in August, Sam entered the ring with a man from Bristol named Bill Britton and defeated him in 30 rounds, winning a prize of 50 pounds sterling. His next big test came on February 6, 1806 at Mousley Hurst against Tom Belcher for the prize of 50 guineas. The bout, which began with even odds, went 57 rounds and the betting went back and forth as the two men battled before Belcher gave in and Sam emerged victorious. The following July, the two men fought again as Belcher's friends proclaimed him superior in the first bout despite the loss. Backed by former Jewish fighters Daniel Mendoza (his second), and Isaac Bittoon (bottle-holder), Sam was determined to prove he was the better man.

The rematch began began well, with both competitors on top of their game. Historian Pierce Egan wrote, "a better round [fifth] was never witnessed in any fight whatever -- science, activity, and bottom [unquenchable spirit], were all upon the alert." As the fight continued, the two men battered each other, but Sam appeared the stronger of the two. In the 33rd round, the bout appeared over when, "Tom's exhausted appearance was visible...his blows were of no effect, and he fell from complete inability to proceed." Belcher managed to get up and began fighting again, but fell after missing with a punch in the 34th round. Sam had been swinging at Belcher at the same time and happened to hit Tom when he was on his knees. The cry of "foul" was heard immediately, but the officials disagreed whether or not it was a foul. After drawing on precedents, the bout was called a draw and Sam and Belcher agreed to fight again.

The third bout with Belcher took place a month later on August 21, 1807 near Crawley in Sussex. Sam showed his greatness in the bout as he dominated early (betting was four to one in his favor in the ninth-round) and then in 11th, "Sam's blows were dreadful, and Belcher's face and body suffered materially, when he fell from weakness." By the 21st-round, Sam was battering Belcher against the ropes and in the final rounds, " was evident to the spectators that Belcher could not win. The ferocity of Sam was tremendous in the extreme; he followed his opponent to all parts of the ring, putting in dreadful facers and body-blows, dealing out death-like punishment, till his brave opponent fell, quite exhausted." The bout lasted 36-rounds and Sam earned the 50 pounds sterling prize.

In the late 1800s, Sam was the best lightweight fighter in England, defeating Bill Cropley in 25 minutes on May 10, 1808, and Ben Medley in 52 minutes and 49 rounds at Mousley Hurst on May 31, 1810. He retired from the ring, but continued to train the same way as when he fought, drinking three glasses of gin taken three times every day. In December 1814, despite warnings from a physician that he faced death if he boxed again, Dutch returned to the ring after getting into a dispute with Bill Nosworthy while drunk. Nosworthy had already defeated Jewish boxer Dan Martin that year, and London Jewry backed Sam to regain their honor. Wasting away from drink, Sam lost that bout to the younger and heavier Nosworthy much to the chagrin of England's Jews. He died less than two years later at the age of 41; the gin was generally held most responsible.

Despite his final defeat to Nosworthy, Dutch Sam's reputation and place in history as one of the two greatest Jewish fighters of the "pioneer" era -- along with Daniel Mendoza -- remains intact. Many historians believe that Sam was the first fighter to use the uppercut, and he is a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame, and the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. Sam's son was also a boxer known as Young Dutch Sam, and they are credited with being the first professional father-son team active in the ring. Sam's wife was Christian and Young Dutch Sam drifted away from the Jewish community after his father's death (he was eight-years old when Dutch Sam died).

London, England

Physical description:
5'6", 130-134 pounds

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encyclopedia of JEWS in sports, by Bernard Postal, Jesse Silver, and Roy Silver (New York: Bloch Publishing Co, 1965)
Fistiana, or, The oracle of the ring : results of prize battles from 1700 to December, 1867 (London: W.H. Crockford, 1868)
Bare fists: the history of bare-knuckle prize-fighting, by Bob Mee (Woodstock, New York: Overlook Press, 2001)
Boxiana or Sketches Of Ancient and Modern Pugilism, by Pierce Egan (London: G. Smeeton, 1812)