The CBZ Newswire

Thomas Molineaux: America’s First Sports Celebrity (1811)

by on Feb.04, 2011, under Guest Columnists

Federica Coppolecchia: "Thomas Molineaux (1810-11)"

Federica Coppolecchia: "Thomas Molineaux (1810-11)"

By Christopher James Shelton

English Ballad of Jack Holmes versus Tom Tough (1805)  

A FIG for compassionate bowels!
Come all who are rugged and rough;
For a knight of the whip and the rowels,
Jack Holmes is to fight with Tom Tough.

Now boys, they’ve set to!  With what cunning
They shift – offer battle – step back!
Come, go it!  I hate that there funning:
So, damn it, Jack hit him a crack.

Well said, my boy, that was a plumper;
Tom’s down, like a lump of old lead:
That Coachman, by jove, is a thumper;
But Tom has the pluck and the head.

Tom licks him, I’ll lay you a copper;
For Tom will fight on till he dies:
There, my boy that was a chopper!
But t’other has bung’d up his eye.

Another good round!  And another!
Another!  Another!  Encore!
Another, still better!  Another!
I ne’er see’d such fighting before.

Jack’s done!  And the sailor is victor:
Jack’s beat, but he won’t say – “Give in.”
He ‘as prettily painted Tom’s picture
And gi’en him a well lather’d skin.

So, huzza for the science of boxing!
It keeps up our courage I know;
And if the French here sound their tocsin,
We’ll give them a clean knock-down blow.

It is tempting to think of Tom Blake as ‘old fashioned’, except his style was not similar to influential English Champion, Jack Broughton (1730-50), or the terrific Grecian Olympians of 600-300 B.C., but perhaps a slightly less gory version of the Roman pugilists of 100 B.C. – 100 A.D.  Tom Blake, renaming himself Tom Tough, did not believe in fancy pugilist ‘science’ that was the rage of English literary sports enthusiasts.  Tom Tough, a Navy veteran who had pursued pugilist greatness while in his early 30’s, preferred to stand in front of an opponent and exchange punches.  Tom Tough’s only ‘science’ might be to wreak havoc with body punches, an energy tiring technique, but he did not wrestle (a legitimate and legal strategy), or back away from an opponent.  The name ‘Tom Tough’ suggests an entertainment value for spectators and media.  One future day, obscure and forgotten, he would once again be Tom Blake, the victim of a devastating stroke, whether through genetics or the head pounding received through pugilism, stricken as quadriplegic while unable to feed or clothe himself, walk, stand or protect his basic dignity.  But for most of the decade, 1801-1810, he was a major player, as both pugilist and corner man for others.  Tom Blake must have seemed too ordinary a name, regardless of talent, thus ‘Tom Tough’ was born.

Alessandra Mazzilli:  "Tom Cribb (1810-11)"

Alessandra Mazzilli: "Tom Cribb (1810-11)"

Sporting Magazine (February, 1805):  “A pitched battle was fought at Blackheath for a purse of forty guineas between Tom (Tough) and (Tom Cribb), well known pugilists.  (Cribb) has fought many successful battles, and since he beat Maddox last month he has been accounted the British Champion….  The parties have been a month in training, and it was not known until a late hour on Thursday night when and where the fight would take place….  At eleven o’clock the Champions entered, attended by their seconds; for (Cribb), Richard the Black (Bill Richmond) and Joe Norton; and (Tom Tough), Dick Hall and Webb.  Bets were nearly level, though the odds were in favor of (Cribb)….  At setting-to, the Champions met each other eagerly, and some very hard blows were struck on both sides….  During a quarter of an hour there was no variation in the bets….  (Cribb), however, was much the longest reached, and it was only when (Tom Tough) could get within his guard that he was successful.  The fight continued nearly equal until they had fought upwards of an hour, when (Tom Tough) appeared fatigued….  The fight continued in favour of (Cribb) until within two rounds of its termination, when (Tom Tough) used all his efforts and gave his opponent some clean, straight hits about the head.  (Cribb), however, rallied, but (Tom Tough) recovered and returned the rally, in doing which he over-reached himself, and (Cribb) gave him a cross-buttock.  (Tom Tough) fought two rounds after to disadvantage, when he reluctantly resigned the contest, being unable to stand on his legs….  The battle lasted one hour and forty minutes….  Among the pugilists (present) were: Belcher, Ward, Pittoon, Bourke, Wood, Mendoza, Holmes, Maddox….  From (Cribb)’s superior strength and knowledge of boxing he may safely be ranked the Champion of the day.”

 

Captain Barclay had achieved English fame through long distance walks.  On October 13th, 1807, Barclay challenged Abraham Wood for money over a twenty-four hour race.  Wood had recently walked 40 miles in five hours.  Gentleman’s Magazine (October, 1807):  “There has been betting to the amount of several thousands.  The crowd on this occasion was beyond all former example.”  Sporting Magazine (October, 1807):  “(Captain Barclay) stood 150 (pounds) of the stake-money; but he was well known never to have risked 20 (pounds) on any event which was uncertain.”  This walk, and gambling stakes, were certain.  Wood’s associates had betrayed him with large gambling bets on Captain Barclay.  After three hours, Wood had walked 22 miles while Barclay was at 18 miles.  Wood rested with a drinking break when something happened that left him dizzy and ill.  A witness:  “Abraham was not worth a farthing after he came out of the canteen.”  Wood continued for three hours with a 4 mile lead.  Captain Barclay stopped to drink and rest.  It was then reported that Wood was too feverish to continue.  Sporting Magazine:  “Wood was doubtless the innocent dupe of his associates, who, to give a show to their designing practices, laid a few bets in his favour of no very considerable amount, but procured, by their agents, large bets for considerable sums against him.”  Gentleman’s Magazine:  “The Captain, however ran four miles to decide some bets.”    Captain Barclay claimed victory and the money.  Sporting Magazine:  “It is however, manifest, that Captain Barclay had not the slightest suspicion of any collusion.”  Of course, Captain Barclay knew that Wood had been ‘sold’.  Captain Barclay was the ringleader of the sports fraud.  Sporting Magazine:  “The regular frequenters of Newmarket said the bets ought to be paid, although they were of opinion the race was thrown over.”  Captain Barclay was the patron/trainer of pugilist, Tom Cribb.

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A Black American arrives in England, 1808-10, and let us pretend that no documentation exists.  If he was born, 1772-74, what is his region of birth and life?  There is a misperception amongst most people of 2011 that all 19th century American Blacks were slaves.  If I was asked the most likely location, with no documentation, of a Black American’s arrival in England, 1808-10, I would say:  “Number one is Massachusetts.  I am not sure of number two.  Perhaps a smaller Northeastern State such as Delaware, Rhode Island or Vermont could be a possibility.  Maine is a smaller colony and State, but did not have slavery.  New York or Maryland might be next because there were strong abolitionist groups in those regions.”  Which is the least likely State?  I would say, “Virginia, number one, and South Carolina, number two.”  George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison owned slaves.  John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton did not own slaves.  Washington, Jefferson, Madison were from Virginia, Virginia, Virginia.  Adams, Franklin, Hamilton were from Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New York.

 

The most ridiculous historical listing: “Tom Molineaux from Virginia, who won freedom from slavery as a pugilist, along with $500, because his generous White owner claimed a $100,000 gambling profit.  Molineaux (despite no documented proof) fought more battles in New York and arrived in England as an experienced fighter.”  Even had Molineaux been from Virginia common sense should dictate that he was more likely amongst the free Black population rather than a slave.  The name ‘Molineaux’ was an important part of 18th century Massachusetts and Maryland history, but not Virginia.  The Virginia Historical Society utilizes four sources to claim that ‘Molyneaux’ was from Virginia.  These are brief biographical sketches that concentrate mostly on the December, 1810, bout against Cribb: (#1) Carl B. Cone, 1982, (#2) Michael Harris Goodman, 1980, (#3) Bob Mee, 2001, (#4) Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004.  These appear to be English sources, which is strange, because if it is Virginia’s history the best research for public records should come from their own State. 

 

The easiest aspect of the fake “$100,000 slave” story to detail is the gambling.  I am familiar with legal gambling in Tijuana, Mexico, and the only person I knew that won over a period of years was me because I never gambled.  (I watched television for free).  The House always won because they never gambled and do not believe in gambling.  England of 1810-11 had held some historical high profile bouts with much money (not $100,000 American money), usually involving royalty.  If a guy was wagering that much money, they would have the seconds prepared to enter the ring and cheat if it appeared their pugilist might lose.  If Molineaux’s owner won a $100,000 bet it meant he had $100,000 to lose.  Could ‘fellow’ Virginians of 1795-1805 such as Washington, Jefferson, and Madison afford to lose $100,000?  No.  Could Adams, Franklin, Hamilton afford to lose $100,000?  No.

 

The story that emerged within Molineaux’s lifetime, via England, continues to have a greater likelihood than the American stories decades after his death.  Spirit Of The Press, Philadelphia (8/1/1811):  “(Molineaux) is a stout Negro, imported from Maryland.”  Sporting Magazine (October, 1811): “A Baltimore man.”  Pancratia (1812):  “A native of the State of New York.”  Dodsley’s Annual Register (1812):  “A Baltimore man of colour.”  There was prizefighting in New York or Maryland, and the surrounding States, but these were mostly miners or military persons, much like England.  Those pugilists developed a certain body shape.  The early story of Molineaux, in his lifetime, was of an athlete, but not a pugilist, who switched to boxing when that promised an opportunity for money, fame, women, and success.  Pierce Egan:  “The anatomist and artist, in contemplating its various beauties, derived pleasure from this uncommon subject and fine body.

 

Thomas Molineaux made his first published appearance with history after a July 24th, 1810, battle with a larger Bristol man (“Burrowes” according to an 1818 publication, Pierce Egan’s primary source, who misspelled it ‘Burrows’ in his Boxiana book).  Bristol was a hot spot for pugilist talent.  Three Belchers, two brothers and a sister, all were fighters with an approving mother.  George Nichols, the Butcher who easily dominated and defeated Tom Cribb in 1805, was from Bristol.  Sporting Magazine (July, 1810):  “A considerable field of amateurs met on Tuesday, July the 24th, in Tothill-fields, to witness, as it was given out, a bull-bait, but the greater attraction was that which was fixed to precede it, a battle betwixt a navigator, above six feet in height, from Bristol, the great nursery for boxers, and a stout athletic Black man.  The candidates for fame were considered promising to hereafter contend with a (Cribb), or some other first-rate man of the day; but in this respect the amateurs were disappointed.  (Cribb) seconded his countryman, the Navigator, and (Richmond) seconded his brother Black.  It was seen in the first and second rounds that the Bristol man was not a specimen of his west-country brethren, as he is a slow round hitter, and displayed only one requisite, gameness.  The Black, on the contrary, kept himself close, but he could only hit at half arm, or what is technically termed ‘flipping’, as when he hit he kept the first joint of the arm close to the body.  The battle lasted nearly an hour, and it was contested with much obstinacy, but the Navigator could plant but few hits, whilst he received the repeated flipping of his adversary, until his head was so much disfigured, that his features were buried, and was ultimately beat.”

 

There was an incident following this July, 1810, bout that involved an ugly exchange between Tom Cribb and Bill Richmond.  They fought a round before Richmond declared their feud momentarily over.  This was one of several personal battles between the two men.  Richmond had fought 50 year-old established veteran, George Maddox, in 1804, stepped in front of him and was knocked out by the 3rd round.  Cribb then fought Maddox, did not step forward, as he encouraged the veteran pugilist to attack him.  Cribb, with Richmond as his corner man, earned a hard fought victory.  Richmond must have learned from both of those Maddox bouts, because when he and Cribb officially faced one another in 1805, neither would step forward leading to displeased spectators, with Cribb as the official victor.  From this moment onward, throughout the next decade, Bill Richmond eventually became the best pugilist in England.  Sporting Magazine (1810):  “Richmond excels, perhaps, every pugilist in hitting and getting away.”
Bill Richmond was a better pugilist than Thomas Molineaux in 1805 and 1815.  He was such a familiar face on the English boxing scene, as pugilist/corner man/trainer, that he would be cheered over White opponents late in his career.  Bill Richmond is arguably the greatest 50+ years aged pugilist in history.  Thomas Molineaux brought American mannerisms and speech to England.  Bill Richmond, despite ‘tainted’ as American born, was thoroughly British.  Richmond was an outspoken man, a trained cabinet maker, who excelled at sports, especially cricket.  He had a fast brain that impressed others with his intellect and grasp of world affairs.  Richmond was quick to offend and be offended, with adherence to ‘proper’ decorum.  If Richmond was with a White woman, and an Englishman called her slurs, he was quick with a fighting challenge.  The Richmond/Tom Cribb feud began with their 1805 bout.  Edinburgh Blackwood’s Magazine (1821):  “It was in all respects a bad battle – and it was discreditable to both combatants.”  Their feud deepened through a Cribb/Bob Gregson 1809 English Championship bout.  Gregson, with Richmond as his corner man, was dominant by the 22nd round, a 10-1 betting odds favorite, until suddenly it was over by the 23rd round with Tom Cribb the victor.  Richmond was openly suspicious that Cribb’s patronage and power was affording him more than the legal 30 seconds following a knockdown while an opponent had no mercy.  The combination of patronage (which Cribb had) and gambling wages (better to ‘cheat’ than lose) leaves suspicion over several Tom Cribb victories.

 

An intense month of training, August, 1810, was in store for Thomas Molineaux following his victory over Burrowes of Bristol.  Richmond and Cribb may have despised one another, but with national customs, were able to socialize and drink beer together at English functions.  Cribb and Richmond were equally important at altering the current trend of pugilists persistently stepping forward.  Both accepted defense and emphasized wrestling throws.  Both altered the approach of the left jab.  Richmond must have pressed Molineaux, especially with the latter’s youth and hand speed, to duplicate his double left jab.  Tom Tough felt no need to alter his offensive approach.  Richmond was a believer in ‘science’, or at least strategy.  Richmond was familiar with Tom Tough, had viewed his bouts, and chose to counter this purely offensive foe with knowledge.  Molineaux was probably not the greatest pupil, obstinate and reckless, and easy going at heart.  The more intense Richmond probably wanted Molineaux to jab/jab and back, as he would have done himself, but in the end Molineaux listened enough with an altered style that left spectators believing they were seeing a different pugilist than a month prior.  Richmond must have emphasized reach and how to throw a punch.
Sporting Magazine (August, 1810):  “The match which has been spoken of, between (Tom Tough), the pugilist, and a Black man of the name of (Molineaux)….  (Molineaux) is an American, from the State of New York; weighs between thirteen and fourteen stone (185 pounds) and stands five feet nine inches high.  He has lately arrived in England, and having found (Richmond), the Black pugilist, his countryman….  Boxing being somewhat novel to the Kentish men, the ring was more numerously attended and respectably attended….  At one o’clock, (Tom Tough) was driven up to the ring in a Baronet’s Barouche with the Champion (Cribb) and Gibbons, his seconds; and in a few minutes after, (Richmond) introduced (Molineaux).”….  Tom Tough is a 6 ½-4 betting odds favorite.

ROUND 1:  “The fame of (Molineaux) having got rather spread abroad, considerable anxiety was manifested upon the combatants setting to.”  Both pugilists are cautious and wait for the other to make a move.  Tom Tough finally takes initiative by landing a right and left punch to the body.  Molineaux responds with a left jab that is easily blocked.  They are in close as Tom Tough attempts to land body punches. There is a clinch with Molineaux holding his foe.  Tom Tough appears to slip the hold.  Molineaux lands a hard karate type punch to the top of the head or back of neck region.  Molineaux has surprising speed with a follow-up right punch chop to the same region….  Tom Tough falls to the ground…. Betting odds are now even.

ROUND 2:  They remain in close.  Molineaux appears to be leaving his body exposed.  Tom Tough begins landing punches to the body.  Molineaux does not appear concerned as he counters with left jabs that Tom Tough easily blocks.  It does not appear that Molineaux is clever with these jabs.  He snaps them directly into Tom Tough’s defense while receiving hard body blows.  The spectators are surprised that Molineaux is not backing or affected by these hard punches.  “(Tom Tough) made play again, but the strength of two or three well planted hits was not sufficient to move the Black off his legs.” The Molineaux jab is slowly breaking through the defense by its sheer power.  Tom Tough realizes his defense is beginning to struggle and compensates.  Molineaux seizes an opening to land an unexpected hard right that lands to head….  Tom Tough falls to the ground….  Molineaux is a 3-2 betting odds favorite.

ROUND 5:  Tom Tough bleeds profusely from the face.  Molineaux’s body is noticeably bruised but it does not appear to be affecting him.  Tom Tough moves in close with aggressive punches to the body region.  Molineaux grabs him around the neck with his left and beats his opponent’s face with his right.  “(Molineaux) fibbed him so dreadfully, that the ground resembled the floor of a slaughter-house, and (Tom Tough) fell completely exhausted.”….  Betting odds are not recorded but they would be overwhelmingly on Molineaux.

ROUND 6:  Molineaux returns to patience with a left jab that Tom Tough can no longer defend.  Left jab after left jab after left jab lands to the Englishman’s face.  Tom Tough has no choice but to protect himself solely against the jab.  Molineaux aggressively steps in with a hard right that lands to head….  Tom Tough is “completely knocked off his legs,” and sent flying backward onto the ground….  Betting odds are off.  No one believes Tom Tough can still win.

ROUND 7:  Tom Tough, with a disfigured face that bleeds profusely, lives up to his nickname as he attempts a desperate flurry of punches.  Molineaux is patient as he encourages his weary foe to expend more energy….  Tom Tough backs after throwing several wild punches and falls down exhausted.

ROUND 8:  Molineaux becomes aggressive as he believes the Englishman is close to finished.  Tom Tough retreats backward.  Molineaux catches his foe and holds him in a clinch.  Molineaux attempts to seize the Englishman by the neck with his left so that he can easily land with his right.  Tom Tough is “forced to rally, to extricate himself from the iron grasp of his adversary.”  Tom Tough slips the hold and lands a blow to the cheek.  Molineaux counters with a hard punch to the top of head….  Tom Tough falls to the ground conscious but disoriented….  30 seconds pass with Tom Tough unable to begin the ninth round.  Bout over.  KNOCKOUT! 

Sporting Magazine:  “The winner received some sharp hits about the body, and he had a fracture or two in the face.  The battle lasted seventeen minutes….  (Molineaux) has improved since his first battle.  He hit at half-arm at that time, but in this battle he dealt out his blows from the shoulder, and gave the effect and strength of his body with his hits, which are sufficient to stun a bullock.  Another requisite he possesses, which is important, that of quickness, and his body seems callous to fistic punishment.  (Tom Tough) has considerably fallen off.  (Molineaux) has taken lessons from Richmond frequently since his battle with the Bristol man….  (Molineaux) has challenged (Cribb), who is the first professor, Gully having declined fighting again; and a battle will take place, as (Cribb) has accepted the challenge, in about six weeks.” Pancratia (1812):  “The greatest degree of expectation was excited in the public mind, with respect to the issue of the contest, and that NATIVES felt somewhat alarmed that a man of colour should dare to look forward to the Championship of England.”  English historian, Henry Downes Miles, Pugilistica, (1880):  “The aspiring nigger now avowed his aim was no less than the championship.  Molineaux, with the vanity so characteristic of his race, never ceased amusing his visitors and patrons with grotesque illustrations of how he would serve out ‘Massa Cribb’, for he possessed, mixed with a considerable amount of ferocity, the vis comica` of the negro race.”

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CyberBoxingZone and BoxRec internet sites are friendly with one another.  Nobody makes any money and the hope is for sharing of research information.  Because of my respect for BoxRec’s integrity, along with a Wikipedia link as the best source for this bout, their fictional account of the December 10th, 1810, bout between Molineaux and Cribb, must be academically challenged.  BoxRec (2009):  “Pierce Egan’s Boxiana is the source for the majority of this fight narrative.”  This is not true.  BoxRec’s narrative is nothing like Egan’s version.  BoxRec:  “Right now, the champion is Tom Cribb, who many hail as the greatest of the lot.  He is 30, at the height of his powers, and undefeated.”  The latter statement is incorrect.  Sporting Magazine (May, 1808):  “Other matches are to be made….  And Dutch Sam and Nichols, who beat (Cribb) about two years since at Blackwater.”  BoxRec:  “Molineaux was a former slave from America.  He learned English pugilism, of a sort, in order to fight in the brutal matches that slave owners arranged from time to time between the slaves.”  I am not sure how a person learns English pugilism inside America.  It is not as if the English invented pugilism.  The Venetian Gondolier fought bare-knuckle, in England, 1720’s, not International Boxing Hall Of Fame, MMA Englishman, James Figg.  (Pierce Egan is incorrect that Figg was a boxer.)  The Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians fought pugilist battles before Jesus was born.  A  Grecian “Fight of the Century”, Euthymos versus Theagenes, occurred 2,500 years ago.  Homer wrote about pugilism, Champion Epeus versus Eurylasis, more than 3,000 years ago.  (Euthymos, Theagenes, Epeus and Eurylasis all fought with some sort of gloves or hand wraps.)  Regarding the BoxRec claim that Molineaux was a boxer inside America:  what is the proof?  An historian must have an American newspaper (1800-1810) or any publication from that period.  With regard to Molineaux as a slave (at least they do not claim, Virginia), an historian would have to visit that American State’s archives for public records.  If it was me (but I am too poor), I would begin such a search in Maryland, which would include Washington D.C.  BoxRec:  “Strangely, the main problem that England had with (Molineaux) had nothing to do with his color.”  That is strange, and it is contradicted by English writers within Molineaux’s lifetime.  Sporting Magazine (1818):   “If justice holds the scales, that his colour, alone, prevented him from becoming the hero of that fight.”  Pancratia (1812):  “The NATIVES felt somewhat alarmed that a man of colour should dare to look forward to the championship of England.”  Pierce Egan:  “(Molineaux’s) first contest with Cribb will long be remembered by the Sporting World.  It will also not be forgotten, if justice holds the scales, that his colour alone prevented him from becoming the hero of that fight.”  Egan and Sporting Magazine utilized the same language.

 

BoxRec’s (and others) claim is that some dramatic incident followed the 28th round.  BoxRec:  “Egan’s wording is full of arcane word usage from a boxing vocabulary no longer in use, so liberty has been taken in ‘translating’ the fight for ease of reading.”  Pierce Egan (round 28):  “Cribb received a leveller in consequence of his distance being incorrect.”  BoxRec (round 28):  “Cribb misses a blow at Molineaux and is knocked off his feet.”  Is this a necessary or improved ‘translation’?  BoxRec:  “The incident alluded to in the 29th round is mentioned in most of the sources dealing with the fight….  It is the 29th round that a ‘long count’ was said to take place.  Cribb was unable to come up for the 29th round, having taken too much punishment.  Sensing this, his seconds accused Molineaux of holding pistol balls in his hands to increase punching power.  A row ensues, giving Cribb time to clear his head.”   None of the sources that I utilized (all published within Molineaux’s lifetime):  Pancratia, Edinburgh Star via The Edinburgh Annual Register, Sporting Magazine or Pierce Egan reference anything unusual.  Pierce Egan (round 29):  “The Moor was running in with spirit, but the Champion stopped his career by planting a hit upon his right eye, and, from its severe effect, he went down, which materially damaged his peeper.  The fate of the battle might be said to be decided by this round.”  BoxRec (round 29 ‘translation’):  “Molineaux runs in, but is stopped by Cribb with a hit to the right eye, and he falls down.”

 

Federica Coppolecchia:  "English Bare-knuckle Bout (1788)"

Federica Coppolecchia: "English Bare-knuckle Bout (1788)"

Bare-knuckle bouts were recorded by time, not rounds, in 1810.  The bout was 33 to 43 rounds.  All agree on fifty-five minutes.  The location was Copthorn, a few miles north-west of East Grinstead, Sussex.  Sporting Magazine and Pierce Egan agree that something occurred which cheated Molineaux of a deserved victory.  I believe they are talking about the hectic and controversial 19th round.  The time would be slightly over thirty minutes before action resumed for the 20th round.  Cribb’s style was to back and counter with defense.  Cribb surprised the crowd with offensive aggressiveness versus Molineaux.  It served him well early, but by the 10th round, Molineaux appeared to even the bout.  Edinburgh Star:  “(Cribb) was weak, but courageous, and the Black determined.  (Cribb) had attempted to beat this man, who was esteemed a novice, of hand, but in this he was deceived.  (Cribb) finding he could not beat his man by gaiety of fighting, resorted to the safe mode, that of milling on the retreat.”  Molineaux’s dominance continued to increase following the 18th round.  It was pouring rain throughout.  Both pugilists were tired.  The 19th round found Cribb retreating.  Molineaux charged the English champion and pinned him to the ropes.  Molineaux held Cribb with a choke hold which prevented Cribb from reaching the ground.  Molineaux rested while patiently restructuring his hold.  Molineaux eventually used the railing and ropes with one arm to hold Cribb in place while punching with his free hand.  The crowd fluctuated from concern to shock to rage.  Cribb’s corner men insisted that umpires conclude the round.  Cribb’s knee had not touched the ground so they refused.  Cribb was weak, but ferociously attempted to free himself.  Molineaux had a vise-grip on the ropes and Cribb.  It is this moment that spectators cheated by assisting Cribb, freeing him, while damaging Molineaux’s fingers.  Pierce Egan:  “About two hundred persons rushed from the outer to the interior ring, and it is asserted, that if one of the Moor’s fingers was not broken, it was much injured by some of them attempting to remove his hand from the ropes.” Cribb was then allowed more than 30 seconds to recover.  Pierce Egan:  “When soon afterwards Cribb fell in so exhausted a state from the severe fibbing which he had received, that the limited time had expired before he was able to resume the contest, and Sir Thomas Appreece, one of the umpires, cried out, ‘time! time!’”  The rain and delay swelled a damaged eye of Molineaux.  Through round 25, Molineaux appeared to dominate.  Cribb began to aim at the good eye of Molineaux as the bout evened after 28 rounds.  The 29th round brought the punch by Cribb that left Molineaux with impaired vision from both eyes.  From that point, Cribb dominated until Molineaux was allowed to surrender.

 

Message to Tom Cribb, St. Martin’s Street, Leicester-square, December 21st, 1810:  “Sir, my friends think that had the weather on last Tuesday, the day upon which I contended with you, not been so unfavourable, I should have won the battle; I therefore challenge you to a second meeting, at any time within two months, for such a sum as those gentlemen which place confidence in me, may be pleased to arrange.  As it is possible that this letter might meet the public eye, I cannot omit the opportunity of expressing a confident hope that the circumstance of my being a different colour to that of the people amongst whom I have sought protection, will not in any way operate to my prejudice.  I am, Sir, Your most obedient Servant, T. Molineaux.”

 

Because of reasons that will remain undetermined (an illegal or legal body punch by Cribb) the “Fight of the Century”, September 28th, 1811, Molineaux/Cribb II, has been deemed unpalatable by English historians.  It was the build-up and anticipation for this rematch that made the name ‘Molineaux’ a celebrity within America.  Royalty and English women were to appear at this bout like none that proceeded.  It was the moment in boxing history that was supposed to cross a boundary within mainstream acceptance.  The outcome, a decisive and easy knockout for the champion, Cribb, was exactly as the English had hoped.  But something went wrong in the 6th round, at a moment when Molineaux was easily dominating, so that boxing returned to the lowly underground with an English preference to fondly remember Molineaux/Cribb I, December, 1810, instead.

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By spring of 1811, in anticipation of the rematch, Molineaux had become a major celebrity in England.  He toured and sparred.  There was steak and ale and nice clothes and women.  Even if he were a free Black in America he could never know such extravagance.  Molineaux, as was common, fought these exhibition bouts wearing boxing gloves.  Sporting Magazine (April, 1811):  “(Molineaux), the sturdy Black, followed his successful adversary (Cribb), in soliciting the aid of the amateurs of boxing, by calling a benefit at the Fives-Court, St. Martin’s-Street, the beginning of the month, which was crowded in a manner never before witnessed, eight hundred persons at least, consisting of nobles, gentry, and commoners, having attended.  The exhibitions kept pace with the patronage of the occasion.  (Molineaux) set-to alternately with Pitton, Young Belcher, and Burns, and none of those professors (the two of which are first rate) were able to make any Impression on him.  He has so far improved as to become formidable with the gloves….  Shortly after the above sparring benefit, (Molineaux), accompanied by his friend (Richmond), went by special invitation to Birmingham, a town where pugilism is held in high estimation, and whilst there, the crowd assembled to see a man of colour, who had become so formidable amongst our native professors, was excessive.”  The tour continued to Nottingham with further gloved bouts.  Sporting Magazine:  “(Molineaux), at the request of a gentleman amateur, offered to contend with the countryman with the gloves.”  The Englishman was named, String, though the bout did not take place.  Another Nottingham boxer fought Molineaux with gloves instead.  Sporting Magazine:  “(Molineaux) found himself engaged in actual battle with a man six feet in height, of proportionate strength and make, a very sharp conflict ensued, and the exchange of hits was awful, even with the gloves.  After about ten rounds, in which the Black had a decided advantage in what (Cribb) had over him, science, the Nottinghamshire champion gave in, having been hit down in almost every round.”

 

On May 21st, 1811, Molineaux fought a bare-knuckle bout against a pugilist named Rimmer.  The official purse was 100 guineas.  The location was Moulsey Hurst, opposite Hampton Court.  Molineaux’s corner men and bottle holder were Bill Richmond and Bill Gibbons.   The crowd was ten thousand men.  3-1 betting odds with Molineaux favored.  Sporting Magazine (round 2):  “Another rally took place, in which the terrific blows of the Black made considerable impression, and he knocked down his man by his right and left with equal quickness and force….  5 to 1 (odds) on the Black.”  Pierce Egan (round 3):  “Molineaux now appeared confident that he was at home, from the success of the last round, and viewed his adversary with a supercilious grin, sparred low, as if treating Rimmer with contempt.”  Sporting Magazine (round 4):  “Rimmer presented himself with a head covered with blood, he having in the last round received a blow on the temple, which doubtless reduced him to a state of temporary stupidity.  (Molineaux) again hit him over his guard on the head and neck, right and left, in a matter which excited the sympathy of the ring, and he fell as from a pistol ball….  8 to 1 on the Black, and no taker of odds.”  Rimmer began to retreat, until the 15th round, when a body blow sent him to the ground.  When 30 seconds had elapsed, with Rimmer as the apparent loser, a mob of spectators entered the ring.  Sporting Magazine (round 15):  “At this time the ring was broken, and nobles, lords, ploughmen, fighting-men, chimney-sweepers, coster-mongers, were all in one tumultuous uproar, which continued for at least 20 minutes, without any reason being assigned.”  Pierce Egan (round 15):  “It would have been a fine subject for the pencil of Hogarth to have delineated.  Corinthians and Costermongers in rude contact; Johnny-Raws and first rate Swells jostling each other; Pugilists and Novices, all jawing, and threatening, but no hearing.  The confusion was beyond everything; sticks and whips at work in all directions, ten thousand people in one rude commotion.”  The bout continued with Rimmer surrendering after the 21st round.  Sporting Magazine:  “There need but few remarks on the combat; it was impolitic to match a young novice (with two previous recorded bouts) against a professor of terror like the Black….  It is only necessary to state of (Molineaux) that he is a very ugly customer….  It will be a matter of troublesome speculation again to find his conqueror.  He won the battle with all imaginary ease.”  Three days following the victory, Molineaux was sparring Bill Richmond (and a pugilist named Burns) at a benefit for the suffering Portuguese.

Sporting Magazine (July, 1811):  “(Cribb) is gone to Scotland to train for the ensuing combat between him and (Molineaux), but the Black, in company with his sable friend (Richmond), has been on a tour round the West of England; the rooms in which they exhibited were crowded by amateurs, eager to witness particularly the exhibition of (Molineaux).”   Not everyone in Scotland viewed Tom Cribb as a conquering hero.  Edinburgh Star (July, 1811):  “When the amount of money collected for the relief of British prisoners in France, now suffering for the cause of their country, scarcely amounts to 49,000 (pounds), there is – Blush oh Britain! – there is 50,000 (pounds) depending upon a boxing match!  The champion (Cribb’s) arrival, and on a Sunday too!  Or a visit to a gentleman of Aberdeen, we should be glad to know what kind of gentleman he is, on his way to Captain Barclay’s seat, where he is to go into training – this must be announced, forsooth, as if he, the Meritorious (Cribb), did honour to the city of Aberdeen by his presence!!!  What will the starving manufacturers of Scotland say when they read this!  Shame, shame upon it!” 
 July 2nd, 1811:  “The best sets-to, regarding science, were betwixt the two blacks (Molineaux) and (Richmond)….  And Young Belcher’s ambition was stayed by (Molineaux), who had the best of the match.”  Later in the month was a published blurb:  “The match between (Molineaux, Cribb) has been made decisive, and 600 (pounds) was staked in the hands of Mister Jackson….  Betting is 6 to 4 on (Cribb), and even that the battle will last forty-five minutes.  It will be the greatest sporting fight ever known, as thousands are already pending.”  On August 17th, 1811, Molineaux, Richmond, Belcher exhibited for 600 spectators at Harper’s Gardens, Norwich.  “(Belcher) exceeded the others infinitely in quickness and dexterity.  They were encountered by three natives.”

 

Anticipation of the Cribb/Molineaux rematch produced the first American sports celebrity.  Spirit Of The Press (Philadelphia, PA) August 1st, 1811:  “THE depravity of human nature, particularly in what is termed Christian country, can hardly be excelled, than by the propensity that the Noblemen and Gentry in London have for pugilism — where fifteen thousand have been averaged to attend, for the pleasure of seeing the sight.  This practice beggars cock-fighting; nay, but, bull-baiting, in our country, in its horrors and perversity.  On the 27th of this month, a battle is to be fought there, for a purse of six hundred guineas, between a couple of gentlemen; one, whose name is (Cribb), and, the other, Molineaux.  The latter gentleman is a stout Negro, imported from Maryland, and has carried the palm in all battles he has there fought.  A London paper says, of June 11th ‘so that Molineaux will have another opportunity of wrestling the laurels of the enviable title of Champion of England, from (Cribb).’  We see, that a Negro from America, threatens to out-vie St. George, or the Dragon….  Were some of these cockney-lords to go either to France or Spain, they would, perhaps, become spectators of more bloody scenes, and some of the amateurs might stand a chance of becoming principals, instead of spectators and bottle-holders.”  French newspaper, via The ANNUAL REGISTER Or A VIEW Of The HISTORY, POLITICS, And LITERATURE For The YEAR 1811 (1812):  “Certainly the English nobility stand alone in their taste for this singular and degrading spectacle.”

 

Poet/pugilist, Bob Gregson (1811):

 

“Brave MOLINEAUX replied, I’ve never been denied,
     To fight the foes of Britons on such planks as those;
If a relationship you claim, bye and bye, you’ll know my name
     I’m the Moorish milling blade that can drub my foes.
               Then CRIBB replied with haste,
               You slave, I will you baste,
As your master us’d to cane you, ‘twill bring things to your mind.”

 

Inns were filled to capacity on the night of September 27th, 1811.  A large crowd had gathered at the home of Bill Richmond, the current residence of Molineaux.  Twenty thousand patrons gathered the following day for “The Fight of the Century” (no longer viewed as such), in the County of Leicester.  Cribb’s corner men and bottle holder were John Gully and Joe Ward.  Molineaux’s corner men and bottle holder were Bill Richmond and Bill Gibbons.  A twenty-five foot stage had been erected.  Cribb entered the bout a 3-1 betting odds favorite.   Sporting Magazine sent two reporters, of unnamed gender, and I believe one of them to be female.  “The Battle Between (Cribb), Champion of England, and (Molineaux), the Baltimore Man of Colour….  The whole country began to pour from all directions.  From the Barouche to the donkey, every mode of human conveyance was in use, and thousands who were not so fortunate as to possess any one of these, trusted to their own legs, and walked ten, fifteen, and some twenty miles, to witness, a display of strength and courage, peculiar to our own country, and apparently congenial to its spirit.”  I have researched Nellie Bly sports writing (an 1889 interview with American boxing champion, John L. Sullivan) and San Francisco female sportswriters of the 1890’s.  A difference in gender reporting is often the choice of words, a greater emphasis of audience description, and mention of physical appeal (or lack) of the pugilists.  “Flash, in short was the order of the day – to have appeared in a white neckcloth would have been an impeachment on a man’s taste….   Gully and Joe Ward attended to assist (Cribb); (Richmond) the Black, and Bill Gibbons, to assist (Molineaux)….  (Cribb) was well dressed, in a brown coat, and boots – and his appearance altogether was very respectable….  (Molineaux) wore a blue coat and nankeen trowsers….  At length the combatants began to strip – and every heart beat high with expectation.  When in fighting trim, both looked remarkably well – the Black is handsome for a man of colour – and (Cribb) is well and stoutly made.”  Pierce Egan:  “(Molineaux) jumped over the railing with considerable spirit, bowing, and was greeted with tokens of approbation, though not so general a nature.  Both the combatants looked well; and Molineaux, for a man of colour, must be termed rather good-looking.”

Sporting Magazine (round 2):  “The claret was perceived to issue first from the mouth of (Cribb), upon commencing this round….  5 to 2 (odds) on the Champion.”  The LONDON REVIEW And LITERARY JOURNAL, October, 1811 (round 3):  “(Cribb’s) right eye nearly closed; (Molineaux) deficient in wind; and in a severe rally, (Cribb) was thrown again; 7 to 4 on (Cribb).”  Pierce Egan (round 3):  “There was a marked difference in their method of fighting; Cribb hit right and left at the head and body, while the Moor aimed at the nob alone, and with much judgement planted several dexterous flush hits, that impaired the eyesight of Cribb, and his mouth bled considerably.  This rally continued a minute and a half, and, in closing, the Champion received a heavy fall.  The superiority of the Moor’s strength was evinced by his grasping the body of Cribb with one hand, and supporting himself by the other resting on the stage, and in this situation threw Cribb completely over upon the stage, by the force of a cross-buttock.”  The LONDON REVIEW and LITERARY JOURNAL (round 4):  “(Cribb), much disfigured, still fought at the body, and (Molineaux) at the head; (Cribb) fell by a slight hit.”  The domination of Molineaux continued through five rounds.  Molineaux concluded the 5th round with a double punch to head that sent Cribb down.  The champion was afforded more than the 30 seconds allowed while his corner men unsuccessfully argued for a disqualification foul.  Sporting Magazine (round 6):  “(Cribb) now gave the Moor so severe a blow in the body with his right hand, that it not only appeared to roll him up, but seemed as if he had completely knocked the wind out of him, which issued so strong from his mouth, like smoke from a pipe.”  This is the punch that won the bout for Cribb.  If it were a legal punch, with the drama of a great comeback, the English would have celebrated the bout and punch forever.

 

There are other suspicious ‘turnaround’ rounds in Cribb’s career.  Cribb was being dominated in 1807 by the former Champion, now with one-eye, Jem Belcher.  The former Champion dominated until suddenly, in round 25, 4-1 odds in his favor, suspicious Cribb activity turned the bout around.  Coincidence, or not, the Belcher/Cribb bout was the first that Cribb’s patronage was sponsored by Captain Barclay.  Sporting Magazine (April, 1807):  “When Belcher’s prowess was at its zenith (before he lost vision in one eye due to a tennis accident), it would have been farcical to have matched (Cribb) against him….  It has been a matter of surprise to many, that Captain (Barclay) would have ventured to have backed (Cribb) against so celebrated a professor as Belcher.”  Cribb, now as official Champion, was being dominated, and nearly knocked out, by Bob Gregson, in 1809.  After 22 rounds, with Cribb receiving more than 30 seconds rest at least twice, the odds were 10-1 against him.  Pancratia, 1812 (round 22):  “They rallied, and Gregson bored down his opponent; and ten to one was laid that (Cribb) did not come again.”  Suddenly, in round 23, it was over with Cribb declared the victor.  As with those others, the round 6 body punch by Cribb is suspicious.  Molineaux’s behavior also seems unusual. He would have benefited by falling down for much needed rest.  Instead, he remained on his feet.  English poem (1811):  “The Black to say, at least is bold, That in the battle he was sold:  If so – by Auction – for ‘tis known, when he was sold, (Cribb) knocked him down!”  Sporting Magazine (round 6):  “(Molineaux) behaved quite frantic, and seemed bewildered as to the manner in which he should conduct himself.”  Molineaux allowed himself to be battered with body punches.   During the 9th round, Cribb sent Molineaux to the ground with a broken jaw.  The crowd roared with delight when Molineaux could not rise.  Incredibly, neither the bout nor the round was deemed concluded.  Sporting Magazine (round 9):  “(Molineaux) did not come to time within half a minute, but (Cribb’s) appetite was not to be satiated; he gave away this chance, dancing a hornpipe about the stage, and after his opponent half down, and up again, floored him.”  Following the 11th round, after only nineteen minutes, the bout was officially over.

 

The ‘official’ version of Sporting Magazine, Pancratia and Pierce Egan was that Molineaux was overweight and not in condition to fight.  This is contradicted by the facts.  Molineaux, not Cribb, sparred gloved and bare-knuckle throughout 1811.  On July 7th, Molineaux was touring and fighting while an inactive Cribb had ballooned to 224 pounds.  Over the following eighty-three days, Molineaux continued to tour and train with Richmond.  Cribb lost 42 pounds over this brief span.  Cribb swallowed doses of medicine that induced constant diarrhea.  Captain Barclay:  “The Champion arrived on the 7th of July of that year.  He weighed sixteen stone; and from his mode of living in London, and the confinement of a crowded city, he had become corpulent, big-bellied, full of gross humours, and short breathed….  He went through a course of physic, which consisted of three doses (daily).”  Sporting Magazine (October, 1807):  “(Captain Barclay) was well known never to have risked 20 (pounds) on any event which was uncertain.”  The official receipts of Cribb/Molineaux II were 10,450 (pounds).  This was divided:  Cribb, 400 (pounds), Molineaux, 50 (pounds), Captain Barclay, 10000 (pounds). 

 

An October 2nd, 1811, blurb in the Pennsylvania political newspaper, Tickler, proves that Molineaux had become a celebrity within America:  “Charley Nagel was as vociferous and abusive as usual….  The utmost cordiality prevailed in North Mulberry ward – the judges and clerks were Democrats, and they all got most lovingly drunk together, closed the poll and went to sleep….  Burckle attacked a John Catfish Miller….  John Miller is about 50 or 55 years of age.  Burckle is about 25 or 28 years old.  So great was the indignation which Burckle’s cowardly conduct excited, that the Federalists, who have no reason to love John Miller, reprobated the base act; and when Burckle re-visited the election in the evening, a young Federalist spoke to him in terms of becoming indignation on his unmanly attack of an old man, who had taught us as a soldier in our Revolutionary war, and then invited him to a tournament, a-la-mode Molineaux and (Cribb).”

Democratic Press (Pennsylvania, USA), via Daily Evening Post, October 13th, 1811:  “Cribb arrived in town yesterday in a barouche and four horses, bedecked with blue ribbands, with a gentleman amateur and Joe Ward, one of his seconds.  His reception on the road was as great as a gallant officer could have received, bearing a narrative of any glorious exploit against a foreign enemy.  Not the admiralty, but Great St. Andrew’s street, Seven Dials was impassible from the crowd assembled, and the interior of the champion’s house was not sufficient to give the audience to patrician congratulating amateurs; the hall of his house is a coal shop, and they were received in return without respect to superior rank.  As restated yesterday, Cribb has suffered most about the eyes, which, however, have him well managed, but are very black, and he has not received a solitary body hit.  He has cut his hand severely by hits but he is altogether well….  The champion called on Molineaux at the Royal Oak, where he is confined.  His recovery is likely to be slow.  He has suffered most on the left side of his body, is hideously swollen, and he cannot speak intelligibly.  Molineaux has acquired considerable science, but it partially harmed him, as it doth all others, who have not called it early, when he got neither.”

 

Tom Cribb received a Silver Cup (worth 50 guineas) from his wealthy patrons that earned thousands of pounds from gambling profits.  The Champion was in a surly mood.  Captain Barclay took Cribb aside and chewed him out, then told him in no uncertain terms, to smile and apologize.  Cribb obediently obliged and thanked each individual that Captain Barclay ordered.  The glamorous English boxing champion, Tom Cribb, had become a trapped man.  Either Cribb accepted his Faustian pact with Captain Barclay or have a powerful patron angered and working against him.  The 1811 silver cup portrays several pictured scenes.  A triumphant White Cribb stands, hand on hip, flowers in his hair, while the anguished Black Molineaux kneels, with one hand covering his face.  An attributed Shakespeare quote is added:  “And damn’d be him that first cries.  Hold, enough.”  Sporting Magazine:  “The British Lion is looking down with stern regard on the American Flag, half mast high; the Beaver, symbolic of the latter country, hiding his head under its folds, alluding to (Molineaux’s) defeat.”

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Latest Foreign Intelligence (New York, USA), December 18th, 1811, via Weekly Aurora (Philadelphia), December 24th, 1811, began with an account that King George III, 73 years-old,  the man in power during America’s successful revolution of 1775-80, was ill, bedside, with three physicians in attendance.  The report continued:  “The last accounts from the Mediterranean state, that there were 17,000 British, and 16,000 Sicilian troops in Sicily.  That the scarcity of grain in the Mediterranean was rather alarming….  Molineaux, in one of the London papers, challenges the whole world to fight him for 300 guineas….  Bonaparte was expected to return to Paris about the first of November.  Preparations were making at the Hague, to receive him, on his way from Amsterdam.”

 

A white English pugilist that unsuccessfully hoped to provoke a fight by publicly impugning Molineaux through newspaper taunts brought a rare published reply.  Sporting Magazine (February, 1813):  “Letter from (Molineaux) the Black…..  Leicester, February 8th:  ‘In opposition to that part of the paragraph which relates to Cribb, I declare, that I sent him a challenge within two months, but I have received no answer, my friends being mentioned in the challenge who would back me to any amount; and that I have never received any challenge from (Cribb) since I last fought him…. X,’ the mark of Thomas (Molineaux).”

 

A younger generation of White English pugilists:  Jack Power, Jack Carter and Bill Fuller were beginning to receive media attention.  Jack Power defeated Carter in a highly publicized bout.  Pierce Egan:  “(Power), having been dealt with by Richmond not in a way satisfactory to his feelings, had publicly declared vengeance against the man of colour; and on meeting with Molineaux, at the house of Richmond, from some reflections on complexion, which appeared too pointed at the Moor, they immediately stripped, and decided the affair of honour in the street….  After seventeen minutes of considerable confusion this row ended; the friends of Power interfered, deeming it advisable that he should no longer contend with so powerful a man as Molineaux.”

 

A permanent rift would occur between Molineaux and Richmond.  The fault would appear to lie with Molineaux.  Cribb had Captain Barclay and others to sponsor him.  They could make more money, via gambling, than Cribb himself on his bouts.  Cribb’s advantage from these men, most of whom he disliked and did not respect, was their gambling money and power almost guaranteed victory.  Molineaux’s patron, of modest means himself, was Bill Richmond.  It was Richmond that introduced the unknown Molineaux to his boxing contacts.  Richmond provided himself as a disciplined role model with a good work ethic.  Richmond trained Molineaux in English pugilism.  Richmond allowed Molineaux to live at his home.  Richmond used his own money for various expenses.  Molineaux seemed to have enough money for fun, but not to pay his friend.  In 1812, Richmond received an arbitration judgment of 150 (pounds).  Molineaux never paid this debt, so in March, 1813, Richmond had his former friend arrested.  With Cribb inactive, English boxing fans craved a high profile bout, while Molineaux was viewed as the best pugilist.  The legal debt, along with the desire of the English sporting world, forced a reluctant Molineaux back in the ring.  Molineaux agreed to fight Jack Carter for 100 guineas, provided the debt was paid regardless of outcome.  The debt provision, however reasonable, outraged the English sports crowd.  Those boxing fans seemed to believe that the fighters should battle for honor while royal patrons received money from these bouts.  Perhaps Captain Barclay paid off the Richmond debt.  150 (pounds) would mean nothing compared to a high profile bout with his fighter victorious.  Whatever stress, or Pierce Egan termed “depression’, Molineaux’s erratic bout behavior would forever damage his credibility.  Bill Richmond would be the corner man for the Englishman, Carter.

 

Twenty thousand people, more than the legendary Cribb/Molineaux I, appeared April 2nd, 1813, at Shennington, in Gloucester, six miles from Banbury.  Molineaux was a 5-2 odds favorite.  It held the excitement and anticipation a title bout.  Sporting Magazine (April, 1813):  “(Molineaux’s) notoriety has enabled him to pick up money about the country by sparring, by which he kept his servant (John Page), who in opposition to other great men, was neither a Black nor a Frenchman.”  Whether it was drugs, mental illness, an attempt to undermine a dishonest Captain Barclay, or an overreaction by the spectators to a legitimate defensive strategy, Molineaux stepped backwards throughout the bout.  When Tom Cribb retreated it was ‘science’, but when Molineaux retreated it was ‘cowardly’.  The first couple of minutes featured neither pugilist throwing a punch, spectators restless, as the mood spun downward.  Jack Carter appeared to dominate throughout.  Most of the rounds concluded with Molineaux on the ground.  Sporting Magazine (round 7):  “Carter, availing himself of his adversary’s distress, rallied upon him, and got his head under his left arm, when he fibbed, and gave him (Molineaux) much punishment.  The Black could not get away, but at length fell upon his knees, when he received a hit which was deemed fair by the umpires.”  A tired and enraged Molineaux claimed that he was fouled and that Carter should be disqualified.  When umpires ruled against Molineaux he quit and refused to continue.  Molineaux’s corner men, Joe Ward and Bill Gibbons, could not stop their fighter from leaving the ring.  Captain Barclay quickly intercepted Molineaux and convinced him to continue.  This would be good news for Molineaux, because Captain Barclay always seemed to make money, so that would make him either the promoter or a gambling backer for the American.  Molineaux continued to defensively step backwards inside the ring and quit again in round 15.  He shrieked that he had been bitten by Carter.  He yelled that he had been bitten a second time.   Molineaux was persuaded to continue by his corner men, one of whom, Bill Gibbons, was a close friend.  Following the 20th round, after being thrown to the ground, Molineaux screamed and quit again.  This time, after allowed brandy to relax and refresh, he agreed to continue.  Pierce Egan:  “This, the once brave competitor of the Champion!  Impossible!  Could he have thus degenerated.”  Sporting Magazine (round 21):  “(Molineaux) fought with a sort of frantic desperation which had some effect, but he yet had the worst of it, and was thrown.”  Molineaux landed a punch to the side of head that opened a wound on Carter that bled throughout the duration.  The conclusion would end any Molineaux claim as the #1 pugilist while it simultaneously destroyed the reputation of his opponent.  Sporting Magazine (round 23):  “Some smart rallying took place, but the hits were all chanced.”  As the pugilists sat on stools for the 30 second break between rounds the spectators’ apathy was aimed squarely at the American.  Then Bill Richmond began to hold and shake his fighter.  When released, Jack Carter slumped to the ground unconscious.  Doctors bled him for a half hour.  Molineaux was declared the winner.  Pierce Egan:  “Twenty-five rounds occurred, in which coaxing, persuading, dramming, and threatening, were resorted to, in order to make the man of colour perform something like fighting.”  Jack Carter’s ‘faint’, in a bout that he had seemingly won, made him a target of national ridicule.  Sporting Magazine:  “(Molineaux) did not appear to punish when he hit, and was inferior in science.  This battle has lost him much popularity.”

 

Molineaux continued to spar exhibitions, but Newcastle’s law enforcement intervened on April 20th, 1813.  The Sportsman’s Magazine of Life In London And The Country (April, 1813):  “(Molineaux) has been exhibiting his athletic science in the Potteries.  At Burslem he was attended by crowded and respectable parties, who were highly gratified with the display of his uncommon powers.  At Stafford, on Saturday, the 17th, he was honoured with the company of a large party; but at Newcastle on the following Tuesday, he was less successful – the Magistrates interfered, and (Molineaux) was vanquished by the strong arm of the law.”

 

Molineaux/Cribb III, a gloved battle, was a week following, on April 27th.  It was to be the end of an era with Tom Cribb’s official retirement.  Cribb was retiring for steady employment as a landlord.  The once unwelcome American was the most anticipated man at the benefit.  Sporting Magazine (April, 1813):  “Given in behalf of the Champion (Cribb), who having progressively to the summit of pugilistic excellence, after many sanguinary conflicts with the best men of the day, now called his friends together to take a formal leave of the profession of boxing….  Much had been excited, and it was much heightened by the appearance of (Molineaux).”  The two pugilists, historically linked together forever, thrilled those in attendance by placing on gloves and sparring.  Sporting Magazine:  “The men rallied with much force and spirit, and exhibited some good hits, previously to which they gave some of the best specimens of science.  The whole afforded a high treat for the amateurs.”  Molineaux sparred another Englishman:  “(Ford) was deficient in length and strength, and the Black behaved well in taking off the gloves on finding his superiority.”  Other pugilists sparred, including Bill Richmond, but the stars were Cribb/Molineaux, both of whom had fought their final bare-knuckle bout in England.  Both would occasionally spar exhibitions with gloves.  Sporting Magazine:  “The whole amusement was centered in the scientific set-to between (Cribb) and (Molineaux).  The Black is much out of condition compared with his former state.”

 

Molineaux continued to tour with gloved exhibitions throughout 1813.  Molineaux attempted to turn his skin color to advantage by loudly arriving at a new town.  He would pay the driver to rush the town with horses screeching.  People would arrive from all directions only to realize that the famous Black American pugilist was in their midst.  Molineaux would charge each spectator a shilling and challenge the local pugilists.  Molineaux would dominate until his adversary placed down his gloves.  A memorable encounter was against a giant Englishman from Derby named, Abraham Denston.   Pierce Egan:  “Possessing almost the strength of a Hercules, and the size of a Collossus, whose fame was well abroad in these parts for milling all those persons who had dared to oppose him….  (Denston) had calculated somewhat too hastily upon his great size and strength, and two rallies with the Black were quite enough to convince him of his error….  With one of (Molineaux’s) favorite left-handed lunges, gave (Denston) such a remembrancer under his left eye, that the claret flew in all directions.  The conceit of Abraham had now all evaporated, and he quickly retired amidst the laughter and confusion of the audience, to disencumber himself of the gloves.”

 

The final victorious bare-knuckle bout of Molineaux’s career was on May 31st, 1814, in Auchineaux, twelve miles from Glasgow.  Molineaux applied much the same retreat strategy against Bill Fuller that he had with Jack Carter but the Scottish spectators viewed it more favorably.  The Molineaux/Fuller bout lasted thirteen minutes longer than the famed Molineaux/Cribb I without the American scoring a knockdown or throw down.  Molineaux’s corner men were an Irish Serjeant, Hailward, with a private as assistant.  Round 1 was longer than the entire Cribb/Molineaux II bout.   Round 2 was longer than Molineaux/Tom Tough and Molineaux/Cribb II bouts combined.  The 2-round Molineaux/Fuller bout lasted sixty-eight minutes.  The first round concluded with Fuller knocking Molineaux down.  The second round, similar to the Carter bout, produced a profusely bleeding pugilist, from the mouth.  Fuller’s corner men stepped into the ring. This was illegal so Fuller was disqualified.  Molineaux was declared the winner.

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English historians remain confused themselves as to whether their prejudice against Molineaux was due to skin color or nationality.  Certainly, there was no love lost between the nations, particularly as England accused America of favoring their most hated nemesis, France.  England illegally seized American ships, attempting to trade with France, while arresting thousands of sailors.  The United States declared war on England, June 18th, 1812.  Russia shocked the world with a September, 1812, home victory over unsuccessful French conquerors.  By April, 1814, Paris had been captured with Napoleon Bonaparte forced to abdicate.  Czar Alexander of Russia offered to arbitrate the England/America war to no avail….  On August 24th, 1814, Rear Admiral, Sir George Cockburn, enjoyed a fine dinner at Washington D.C.’s, Chief Executive Office, drank wine and toasted aloud (Father of the U.S. Constitution and its current President):  “Jemmy’s health,” along with derogatory slurs of Dolley Madison.  British soldiers partied and vandalized and stole property for the festive occasion.  Cockburn ordered his marines to surround America’s White House with torches and set it aflame….  On September 13th, 1814, Maryland lawyer, Francis Scott Key, was the detained ship ‘guest’ of Admiral Cockburn, on a night when 1500 shells, some weighed 220 pounds, were fired on Fort McHenry (Baltimore).   Key wrote a poem the following day:  “And the rocket’s red glare, bombs bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there….  No refuge could save the hireling and slave From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave.”  Final results of Admiral Cockburn’s night attack:  4 Americans dead, 24 Americans wounded.  Key:  “Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, and this be our motto:  ‘In God is our trust.’  And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave, O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”….  On January 8th, 1815, Tennessean General, Andrew Jackson, concluded an engagement at New Orleans with a report to President Madison:  7 Americans dead, 6 Americans wounded, 700 British dead, 1400 British wounded, 500 British captured.  General Jackson, as he had done with Creek warriors at Horseshoe Bend (Alabama) months prior, massacred British soldiers until the death toll exceeded 2100.

 

On March 10th, 1815, Molineaux fought for the last time, in Scotland, though he continued sparring exhibitions in Ireland through 1817.  The opponent was a well known pugilist, George Cooper.  The location was Corset-Hill in Lanarkshire.  Scottish Chronicle (April, 1815):  “At an early hour crowds of people, on foot and horseback, in hackney coaches, chariots, and coaches in four….  At first, (Molineaux) seemed to expect to carry the day by his enormous weight and strength, and at the 2nd round broke in upon Cooper, and planted right and left hand blows upon his head and body, Cooper being now aware of his mode of fighting, superior science soon prevailed, and, after a short fight, he gave the black a severe drubbing, breaking two of his ribs, and it is said his jaw-bone.”

 

It is remarkable that the 1815 English bare-knuckle bout of the year, August 1st, ten thousand spectators, featured an American born Black man versus a native White man, with the majority of the spectators cheering 52 years-old, Bill Richmond.  Cribb, 35 years-old, continued as Champion, despite not having fought in four years.  Tom Shelton gained fame with a knockout victory, sort of David versus Goliath, against a much larger foe.  Shelton was a southpaw that had been a pupil of Richmond.  He had a high profile assault arrest, but was nonetheless popular.  Cribb was his corner man for the bout.  Bill Richmond had earned the English sporting crowd’s respect, and finally their affection, with a decisive victory.  Richmond’s skills and techniques continued to improve, landing punches while avoiding being struck, with excellent wrestling throws.  The best bare-knuckle pugilist in England, 1815, was not Tom Cribb, but Bill Richmond.  Sporting Magazine (August, 1815):  “Average betting 11 to 8 on Richmond.  Shelton refused to shake hands at setting-to, but was at length prevailed on to do so by Cribb.”  Edinburgh Blackwood’s Magazine (1821):  “We were present.  Shelton seemed to be winning it easy to an unpracticed eye – and a Cockney, lolling on the grass beside us, offered us odds on Shelton, which we took.”  Sporting Magazine (round 23):  “Richmond planted another heavy hit upon his adversary’s temple, which bled much, and he could not appear in time for another round.  The battle lasted twenty-two minutes and twenty-nine seconds.  The Black jumped over the ropes out of the ring.”  Edinburgh Blackwood’s Magazine:  “Bill’s right hand, we saw, was at its work; and the navigator kept following him, great ass as he was, over the ring, till he fell like a log, at the end of every round, and was carried away speechless, while Ebony scarcely looked as if he had been a contributor – quite calm and unruffled.”  Sporting Magazine:  “(Richmond) won cleverly.  His right hand was always in action, and did its usual execution, and he won gallantly.  He is now fifty-two, and he publicly declared in the ring his intention to decline fighting.”

Sporting Magazine (August, 1818):  “Death of (Molineaux)….  This once formidable hero received his final knock-down blow, at Galway, in Ireland, on the 4th instant.  The sunshine of prosperity, it seems, had long since forsaken him; and it was owing to the humanity and attendance of three people of colour, that he was indebted for his existence the last two months of his life.  He died in a room occupied by the band of the 77th regiment; and was interred on the 7th instant.  As a scientific pugilist, an American of colour, and contending for the Championship of England, a few remarks upon his various battles may not, perhaps, prove uninteresting in the Sporting World.  On the appearance of (Molineaux) in the London Ring, about nine years ago, he was viewed by the English boxers with jealousy, concern, and terror; he possessed all the requisites of a modern gladiator, unbounded strength; wind, undebauched ; and great agility.  His frame was perfectly Herculean; and his bust, by the best judges of anatomical beauty, considered a perfect picture.  It was a model for a statuary.  He had no swell patron to give éclat to his entrée; and he peeled in Tothill-fields with the utmost sang froid, to the first rough customer that showed fight.  It is true, however, his game has been questioned; and Bill Gibbons, in the ecstacy of his admiration of this hero of colour, has been often heard to exclaim, that (Molineaux) only wanted an ‘English heart’ to place him at the top of the tree, is not to render him completely invulnerable!  He disposed of Burrowes in promising style; the bottom determined, fearless Blake (Tom Tough) became an easy conquest; and Rimmer, a fine young man with stamina and strength of the first quality, did not appear to have a shadow of chance.  On this day the condition and capabilities displayed by Molineaux electrified the best judges of the prize ring.  His first contest with (Cribb) will long be remembered by the Sporting World.  It will also not be forgotten (if justice holds the scales) that his colour, alone, prevented him from becoming the hero of that fight; at the same time, it is due to (Cribb) to observe that he was in bad condition.  During the first three rounds in the second battle, notwithstanding the dissipation of (Molineaux), neglect of training, he terribly alarmed the nerves of his opponents for the termination of the event.  His remaining fights with Carter and Cooper are not worthy of recital.  His day was then gone by.  In the last four years of his life, he has been strolling about the country, teaching the art of self-defence.  (Molineaux) did not exceed thirty-eight years of age.  Dissipation alone put a period to his existence; and for a long time previous to his exit, he was literally a walking skeleton; in fact, he had so much dwindled away, as to refuse to fight Dogherty.  In his day, he was a boxer of superior pretensions; and it must have been a first-rater indeed, that could have met (Molineaux) upon equitable terms, with any thing like a certainty of conquest.  He was illiterate, but good tempered and generous; fond of dress and gaiety to excess; amorous to the end of the chapter; and, like most pugilist heroes, he unfortunately flattered himself that his constitution was of so excellent a nature, as to be almost capable of resisting the effects of time.  But, alas!  Poor (Molineaux) found out his error too late.  Peace to his manes!  His life abounds with many interesting anecdotes to the Sporting World, and his battles have been recorded in this Magazine.”

 

The historians that influenced the “Molineaux as slave from Virginia” stories were a racist Englishman named Henry Downes Miles, and the influential American founder of Ring magazine, Nat Fleischer.  Miles wrote a popular boxing book called Pugilistica, in 1880.  Miles is a snobby, bigoted overrated historian:  “or as Pierce Egan oddly calls the American nigger ‘a Moor’.  Poor Pierce’s geography was sadly confused….  (Molineaux’s) skill and strength had been tried in several combats in his native country, Virginia….  The black, like most of his race, had a childish propensity for gaiety, and a strong passion for dress, was amorously inclined.”  Most of Miles book is a copy of Pierce Egan’s Boxiana, with non stop insults of Egan, and all of the references of Molineaux utilized with the sickest and vile sort of racist language.  This might be acceptable if the research was original and sourced.  Miles is the one with all these stories of the Virginia slave, Molineaux, and it appears that he invented fiction.  Nat Fleischer, unfortunately, leaned on the fraud Miles as his main source.  American historians, and America itself, should be grateful for the integrity of Sporting Magazine and Pierce Egan.  Other English sportswriters attempted to mythologize Tom Cribb.  The champion was often referred to as undefeated despite being dominated for 52 rounds by a pugilist named Nichols.  Pierce Egan pleaded with fellow English journalists and historians not to alter truth:  “In every circumstance in which the public are interested, any thing like deception ought to be avoided, and the friends of the Champion acted injudiciously in withholding the name of Nichols, who defeated Cribb, from the list of names which are placed under his whole-length likeness – it is calculated to mislead, and give importance to a circumstance, by endeavoring to obscure that fact, which it otherwise would not deserve.”  Egan became obsessed with the conqueror of Cribb and eventually uncovered many bouts.  George Nichols was a smaller, older, experienced Bristol pugilist, a similar build as Bill Richmond, with approximately 50 victorious bouts, against a single defeat (against Beaver).  Nichols refused to chase the retreating Cribb, forced Cribb forward, and then repeatedly landed a two punch combination that confused the younger fighter.  Because Henry Pearce retired following his defeat of one-eyed Champion, Jem Belcher, in 1805, it remained unclear who held the title.  John Gully supposedly was English Champion during this interim until it magically transferred (thanks to Captain Barclay) to Tom Cribb in 1808.  George Nichols quietly retired for steady work as a Bristol butcher.  Nichols toiled in obscurity with no idea that he had gained immortality.  Pierce Egan (July 7th, 1805):  “All the manoevers of Cribb were unavailing, and in the fifty-second round, he was compelled to utter the reluctant sound – ENOUGH!”

 

The unofficial 1818 English champion, not popular with the public, was Jack Carter.  He pleaded for an opportunity against Cribb or a title bout against anyone.  Tom Cribb, 38 years-old, continued as the official Champion despite not having fought in seven years.  An old veteran, 56 years-old, had one final publicized fight.  On November 12th, 1818, an intoxicated Jack Carter exchanged words with people inside a tavern and dared anyone to fight him.  A sober Bill Richmond accepted that challenge.  The two stepped outside to bare-knuckle.  It was brief, as Richmond delighted English sports readers with reports of an easy 3-round knockout that left Carter briefly paralyzed.  An 1819 victory by popular Tom Spring over Carter placed pressure on Cribb to surrender his title.  Bill Richmond, the trained cabinet maker, retained steady employment, while living in a nice residence with a stellar reputation as the most sought boxing teacher in England.  My guess is that he was a married man with a good wife.  Edinburgh Blackwood’s Magazine (1821):  “Though (Richmond) is now upon sixty, we would not advise Mister Hobhouse, Mister Whitbread, or any other rough young commoner, to take a turn with him.  Bill is a man of good education, and has seen the world.”  Tom Cribb remained English bare-knuckle Champion, 1821, despite more than a decade of inactivity.  The corruption of the English Bare-knuckle Championship would continue to corrode its credibility until English pugilists sought America, 1830’s, to hold their title bouts.

Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine (1821):  “We never felt so grateful to Mister Clarkson and Mister Wilberforce, for their humane exertions to procure the abolition of the slave trade, as when we first saw Molineaux knock down (Cribb).  At once all distinction of colour was lost.  We saw before us two human beings – and our hearts beat for the cause of liberty all over the world.  It is true that Molineaux was not an African black – but that is nothing to the purpose.  He was A black – nay, THE black – and that was enough to kindle in our bosoms the enthusiasm aforesaid.”  The American legacy of Thomas Molineaux is the nation’s first sports celebrity, 1811.  Two hundred years have passed since American newspapers reported that a Black American was fighting the English White Champion for their bare-knuckle title.  Pierce Egan (on Tom Cribb):  “Our sketch of the CHAMPION would be imperfect were we not to observe, that in disposition he is placid, condescending, and obliging, possessing a forbearance of temper.”  The American legacy of Tom Cribb is that he cheated against Molineaux, twice, cheated against Jem Belcher, cheated against Bob Gregson, probably cheated against Bill Richmond, and had his God—-ed ass deservedly kicked by George Nichols in 1805.

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