Saturday, 13 February 2016

Black Victorians - boxers Tom Molineaux and Bill Richmond

Here's Tom Molineaux, professional boxer, in 1811 - so a bit before the Victorian era. The picture is of the prize fight against Tom Cribb for the English title.
Tom Molineaux was born a slave in Virginia, and together with his twin brother he was trained as a boxer by his father for the entertainment of plantation owners. He won his master so much money in bets that he was granted his freedom. He then moved to England to pursue a career as a professional prize fighter.
This particular fight lasted for 35 rounds, and Molineaux was defeated.
In the return match, the following year, Cribb won again, breaking Molineaux's jaw. "The Moor was carried off senseless" says the caption at the bottom of the picture.

The black man standing behind Molineaux is Bill Richmond, also an ex-slave turned boxer, who was Molineaux's trainer for the fights. He was born at Staten Island, New York, and became servant to the Duke of Northumberland, who took him to England in 1777. There he once acted as a hangman, was sent to school, and then apprenticed to a cabinet maker in York. However, he went on to earn his living by boxing, and also fought Tom Cribb and lost - in the 60th round! When he retired from boxing, he bought a pub, the Horse and Dolphin in Leicester Square, London, where he set up a boxing academy. He died in 1829, at his home in London, aged 66.

Tom Molineaux, sadly, finished his boxing career in 1815, and spent some time in a debtor's prison. He also turned to drink. By 1818, he had found his way to Ireland where, penniless, he was given shelter in the band room of the 77th Regiment in Galway - where he died, aged 34, "where he had been maintained the last two months, and very humanely attended by three people of his colour" it was reported in The Times of 18 August 1818.

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