Thursday, December 13, 2012

The First Afro-American Boxing Stars

The First Afro-American Boxing Stars

The early years of the 1800's saw the rise of the first Afro-American boxing stars. Bill Richmond was born on Staten Island, New York, which housed British Military Headquarters in the American Colonies. During the Revolutionary War, Richmond worked for the household of General Earl Percy. When Percy returned to England as the Duke of Northumberland Richmond went with him. Although he was only a 5 foot-6 inch, 165 pound middleweight under the Duke's patronage, Richmond met and defeated a number of England's top heavyweights. He beat Jack Carter, Atkinson of Bandbury, Ike Wood, Tom Davis, Tom Shelton, and split a pair of fights with George Maddox. But he couldn't defeat the Champion, Tom Cribb, who knocked Richmond out in 1805. Although he fought as "The Black Terror," Richmond was known for his gentlemanly demeanor and lifestyle

Tom Molineaux was born a slave, on a plantation in Virginia. He, his father and brothers fought matches against slaves from other plantations for their owner, Algernon Molineaux. One time before a fight upon which very heavy stakes were wagered, the master offered Tom his freedom if he won. Tom won, Algernon was true to his word, and Tom was off for New York. While working on the docks in New York, Molineaux heard about the success of Bill Richmond and immediately signed on as a deck hand headed for England. Once in England, this 5 foot 8 inch-tall, 195-pound ebony warrior announced that he was "The Moor" Champion of America (a title that did not exist), and that he could beat any man including retired champion, Tom Cribb. He then found Bill Richmond and convinced him to both train him and back him.

Cribb was not pleased with any of this and talked his friend and protege, Bill "the British Unknown" Burrows into taking on the Moor. When Molineaux stopped the British Unknown with a series of short punches to the head, Cribb turned to veteran boxer Tom Blake. When Molineaux easily defeated Blake, he tried to declare himself the Champion of England. This prompted Cribb to finally accept the challenge of Molineaux the Moor.

The two fighters met in an outside ring on a cold and rainy December day in 1810. It was perhaps one of the two most outstanding matches of the Bare-Knuckle Era. Molineaux drew first blood in the second round, and was clearly the harder puncher of the two. Cribb was relentless and kept up a continual body attack. The Moor dropped the champion in the 28th round, and Cribb failed to beat the 30 second count. But Cribb's second accused the black fighter of hardening his punch with bullets in his hand. While the umpires searched for the nonexistent bullets, Cribb revived and the match continued. A couple of rounds later, Molineaux began to shiver from the cold and show signs of exhaustion. In the 33rd round he collapsed to the ground, looked up at his second, Bill Richmond, and said, "Me can fight no more! " He then fell into unconsciousness and had to be carried from the ring.


Cribb tried to retire again, but within a few months a revised Molineaux defeated Jim Rimmer and tried to claim the championship again. This brought the 5 foot 10 inches tall 200 pound champion out of retirement again. While Cribb was training arduously in Scotland, training camp being an innovation in boxing, Molineaux, now estranged from the gentlemanly Richmond, was enjoying his very first stint as a party animal.

They met for the second time in December of 1811, and the Moor's power almost won the day early when he completely closed one of Cribb's eyes. The Champion couldn't see until one of his seconds lanced the bruised area around the eye. From that point on, Cribb's stamina began to win the day. He dropped Molineaux with a body punch in the sixth round and finally caught the Moor flush in the 11th, breaking his jaw and stopping him. Molineaux traveled Britain with a Boxing and Wrestling Show, but continued his dissipated lifestyle and died in Ireland at the age of 34. Cribb finally retired in 1822 opening a successful tavern called The Union Arms. He lived until the age of 68. British fight fans always loved Cribb for exemplifying their favorite qualities in a boxer: "Pluck and Bottom." Pluck meaning courage and Bottom meaning stamina. (source: Kung Fu Magazine)

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