‘Prizefighter: The Life Of Jem Belcher’ Ending, Explained: What Happened In The Match Between Jem And Henry?


“Prizefighter: The Life of Jem Belcher” depicts the life of the early 19th-century bare-knuckle prize winner and the Champion of England. The film establishes how modern-day boxing was born and how Jem Belcher was a pioneer of it. The glove boxing that we know of is predicted to be first used by Belcher, or at least that is what the film claims. Belcher was born to be a fighter; from childhood, he watched his grandfather, Jack Slack, a well-known bare-knuckle champion, fight. Even though his grandfather had his flaws, Jem admired him for his talent. He learned from Jack the importance of being quick and using both hands during a fight. Jem’s mother never wanted her son to walk in the footsteps of his grandfather, and so Jem grew up to be a blacksmith though he always had the fight in him.

Spoilers Ahead

‘Prizefighter: The Life Of Jem Belcher’ Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?

Jem was close to his grandfather, even though his mother disapproved of their bond. She believed he was a bad influence on Jem. Jack Slack was infamous for spending all the money he earned on merrymaking. He even took the little that his daughter had to fulfill his needs. But the one lesson that Jem learned from Jack was that he had to decide the kind of man he wanted to be in his life because after a man dies, people only remember the name of the man and not his unhealthy habits. Jem Belcher was known for the blue and white scarf that he wore, and the film shows that it was Jack Slack who had given it to him when he was a boy. Even though his grandfather was a drunkard, he was remembered for his brilliance in the sport.

Jem worked as a blacksmith, but when he saw the money he could make by boxing, he agreed to play a round with Bob “Blackbeard” Britton. While Blackbeard was considered undefeatable, the skinny Bristol fellow was able to knock the man out. Bill Warr watched him fight that day, and he knew that the boy was a raw talent. Bill Warr was a veteran boxer, and he offered to train Jem, knowing his potential. Jem was not confident in himself. He felt that he had gotten lucky with Blackbeard, but Bill knew that it required more than luck to fight the way he did. Bill believed that with proper training, Jem would be able to fight cleverly. Even his grandfather, before he died, advised him to train under Bill. Jem started to train, and Bill taught him the art of boxing, which required the coordination of the mind and the body. Jem followed a disciplined lifestyle, and he gained a reputation for being a prominent boxer at the time. He received an invitation to fight for the Boxing Championship of England against Andrew Gamble, the Irish champion. Jem announced that he was ready to fight for the championship. The announcement of the match was published in the newspaper, and Jem enjoyed his newfound popularity. While his brother and sister were thrilled about his boxing journey, Mary, his mother, did not feel the same way. She believed that he would end up just like his grandfather. She added that only those who bet on the game were the winners, whereas the fighters were always on the losing side no matter what. But Jem disagreed with his mother’s belief, and he wanted to fight no matter what. He arrived in London and was quite charmed by the city.

Men and women gathered around the boxing ring to watch the two men fight to win the Champion of England title. The presence of the royalty indicated how boxing had garnered a reputation for itself to the point where it was no longer considered a sport for the working class. Within five rounds, Jem was able to defeat the Irish champion, and he was declared the Champion of England. That was how Jem Belcher gained popularity in the London elite circle. The richness swayed him from his path, though in the end, he found his way back to be remembered as the greatest of all champions.

What Led To Jem Belcher’s Loss Of Sight?

Belcher was introduced to Lord Rushworth at the Ashford Estate after winning the title. He was known for betting on boxing matches, and he did lose quite a bit of money due to Jem’s win. Rushworth wanted to familiarize himself with Belcher, knowing that the talent that he possessed would help him make money. Belcher was warned about how Rushworth considered players nothing more than a money-making apparatus, though Rushworth defeated that claim by stating how he simply always wanted to be on the side of the winner. Lord Ashford and Lord Rushworth differed in the way they viewed pugilism. For Ashford, it was an art that deserved a proper revival, whereas for Rushworth, making money out of the sport was of prior importance. Rushworth wanted to fix matches for Belcher for his profit, though Bill was not quite fond of the idea. Jem couldn’t care less since he was distracted by the beauty that the London elite circle possessed.

He fought matches arranged by Lord Rushworth and drowned himself in alcohol and women. He was living the life that Mary had always feared that he would. Even though he was earning enough money to provide for his family, he was losing himself in the process. The disciplined lifestyle that Bill had introduced to him was far from the life Jem was living during the time. He knew that he was the best boxer in all of England, and he would often turn up late for training as a result of his overconfidence. The Lords discussed the technicalities of the sport that would be eventually introduced as they gambled together in a game of cards. Belcher won the round, and Rushworth lost his bet; his adviser prompted him to restrict from betting, considering his constant financial loss, but Rushworth refused to be embarrassed. 

When Lord Rushworth conducted a secret party, he introduced Jem Belcher to Henry Pearce, a rising boxing star. It was at that party that Rushworth challenged Jem to a battle of handball. He asked his guests to place their bets on the players. During the game, the ball thrown by Lord Rushworth hit Jem’s eye, injuring it for the rest of his life. Even though he barely had a vision in one eye, Jem refused to accept that his days as a boxer were over. Due to his injury, he could not box for three weeks, and that started to bother Rushworth since his income depended on Jem. According to Rushworth, the people of London were no longer interested in watching Jem fight. His story from struggle to success had sold the tickets, but now he feared that the people needed a new champion to celebrate. Knowing how he was falling from his status, Jem drank away his sorrow. Later, he fought with two red-coat guards, which landed him in prison. The condition of his eye had worsened, though his time spent in prison was enlightening because he met a man named Walter there. Walter helped Jem overcome the sadness he experienced. He always told Jem that there was light after darkness. He advised Jem to live a disciplined life to get over the self-hatred that consumed him. When it was time for Jem to leave prison, he noticed that Walter was no longer present in his cell. He was informed that the old man had passed away. He now returned home to Bristol to live with his family, and he dedicated his life to training and becoming the champion that he always was.

‘Prizefighter’ Ending Explained: Why Was The Match Between Jem Belcher And Henry Pearce A Memorable One?

Jem Belcher trained day and night to fight for the title, the Champion of England, which now belonged to Henry Pearce. Even though Jem had injured an eye, Bill Warr taught him to overcome his limitations and retain his position. It was announced in the newspapers that Jem Belcher was making a return with his wounded eye to challenge Henry the Game Chicken Pearce to fight for the title of England. It was declared “the fight of the century.” The film indicates that it was the first fight where the boxers wore gloves during the match. It was set to create a new wave of scientific and intelligent pugilism. Lord Rushworth now managed Henry Pearce, but he paid a visit to Jem to wish him luck for the challenge and also warned him to take special care of his eye, indicating that they would leave no stone unturned to win the challenge.

The umpire introduced the players to the rules of the sport, and the match began with Pearce dominating the ring. Though Jem did not give up, he fought like a champion, even when he was constantly punched in the face. Jem eventually got his grip in the ring and managed to knock off Pearce for a few seconds. Pearce was a fierce competitor. He got up from the ground and was ready to push harder. He punched Jem in the injured eye, and Bill had to fix the mess during a time-out. Even after twelve rounds, both the boxers refused to give up. The ring was splattered with blood, and Jem’s other eye was injured as well. He asked Bill to open the eye somehow, but Bill knew that Jem barely had any vision at the time. Nonetheless, he saw the fight in Jem and helped him open his eyes to fight one last time. Jem noticed that his mother was also present in the crowd, and that helped him gather confidence. While Jem struggled, Bill noticed that Lord Rushworth was choosing an unfair means to win the match even though Henry refused to opt for a shortcut. Rushworth was scared of losing his money, and for that, he was ready to do whatever it took. Bill was enraged, and he punched Rushworth in the face and asked Pearce to fight fair. The final round in the belt, round 18, was the ultimate fight where Jem fought as hard as he could with the little that was visible to him. But Pearce managed to overpower him and knock him out for over ten seconds. He was declared the Retaining Champion of England.

Even after getting battered to the ground, Jem rose to the surprise of the audience. Everyone outside the ring cheered for him. Even though he had lost, he had earned the respect of the people. He was still a champion in their eyes. While Pearce did win the title, he, too, had immense respect for Jem. He gave Jem a hand and helped him to stand up. The solidarity shown between the players right after fighting a bloody match represented the essence of the sport. Even though they were opponents in the ring, they admired one another for their talent. Their love for boxing was what united them, and the fact that Jem was a master of it was undeniable. Jem was able to accomplish what his grandfather had told him, he managed to earn enough respect for people to remember his name. “Prizefighter: The Life of Jem Belcher,” in the end, states that Jem Belcher continues to be the youngest champion ever. He died at the age of 30 as a result of his challenging lifestyle. While it was interesting to learn about Jem Belcher’s life and the history of boxing, the film in itself was average and not quite striking in its making.

“Prizefighter: The Life of Jem Belcher” is a 2022 Biopic Drama film directed by Daniel Graham.

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Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni has worked as a film researcher on a government-sponsored project and is currently employed as a film studies teacher at a private institute. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies. Film History and feminist reading of cinema are her areas of interest.

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