NEBRASKA STATE JOURNAL,SUNDAY 31 MARCH 20, 1910
on the announced retirement of John. Gully from the championship he had so recently won, "Bob" Gregson, his sturdy opponent in two battles, put forth a claim to the title. He was matched with "Tom" Cribb as the likeliest opponent, suffering defeat in twenty-three rounds. Cribb was thus elevated to the championship in 1808 and held the title until his voluntary retirement in 1822.
Possibly no champion, has ever been such a popular idol as the huge, good natured, clean fighting "Tom" Cribb. He received many testimonials throughout his career of the high regard in which he was held by all followers of the sport and was not so much the champion of England as a national institution.
Two of his hardest battles were fought with "Jem" Belcher,the 'man who never could not learn -what defeat meant. In 1810 he was matched with "Tom" Molineaux. an American negro of great promise. Cribb won the victory after thirty-three hard rounds, and the black demanded another trial. The second fight -was Cribb's last pitched battle, confirming him in his title and in public esteem.
CAPTAIN, BARCLAY entered the tavern where many of the distinguished amateurs and patrons of the sport were to pass the night before the great fight with no less a person than "Tom"' Cribb himself in tow. Shouts greeted their arrival and places were quickly made about the table. Attention centred upon the fresh, lean face and stalwart figure of the champion, who had kept himself out of sight these three months. There had been many rumors as to his condition and this was the first opportunity the fancy had had to size up their truth.
"Why, Tom, man, you've fallen away,'' was the comment of Major Mellish, as he looked the boxer over critically. "Where's your girth? I suppose this is your doing, Barclay, with the' diet and training nonsense you've been dinning in our ears."
"Ay," said the Captain, with a proud smile. "I can say it's my doing. You all know how I've gone a seeking of a docile subject Well, I've found one now and never could have wished a better patient than Cribb. Look at him, will you, gentlemen" Thirteen stone six pounds he weights, and as hard all over as your thick head,Major." "I very much doubt it," replied the Major, shaking that member. "Thirteen stone six “Why,that's near a stone under his weight when he met Molineaux last trip. -Barclay, my good friend, I've a notion he'll be wanting that stone to-morrow. .Most likely you've taken all the poor. fellow's strength away with your "milk and eggs and forty mile walks and sweatings. What of it, Tom? I'll go bail now you're limp as a cat under it all. Plain, easy living, rare beef and good porter - there's the training for any boxer who ever stepped."
"Oh, you'll find me fit enough," laughed Cribb evasively: If these gentlemen wished to dispute over his condition he would have no part in it for there was betting afoot or he was much mistaken. For himself he had never felt better. The eleven -weeks of hard training at Barclay's estate of Ury and in the Highlands had brought him to the keen edge of bodily well being.
This was just the kind of discussion that Barclay had hoped for. At a time when systematic training of athletes was almost unknown he had devised and practised a method of his own that had enabled him to achieve notable feats of strength and endurance, such as walking one hundred and ten miles in nineteen hours and throwing a half hundredweight a distance of eight yards. The battle of the morrow was to put his theories to test once for all.
"There's still more to it, Major," he said. ",'When Tom came to my place in July he weighed sixteen stone, not a pound less. A loss of thirty-six pounds and you have the net result." Mellish threw up both hands and appealed to the company. "Then he's a gone man. 1 leave it to any gentleman if a fighter can afford any such sapping of his strength. Barclay, I misdoubt you've done him an ill kindness."
"Are you minded to place any bets on the outcome. Major?" purred the Captain,with a twinkle. "Um-m-m," grumbled Hellish, returning to his inspection of Cribb. "You'll note, Barclay, that your own information, volunteered just now, is an element in the situation."
"Make the most of it," returned Barclay, stoutly. “its every word of it true." "What odds would you offer” asked the Major cautiously. Bets Three to One. "From your confidence I might have demanded them of you," smiled the Captain. "But I'll give you Three to one." "Done, for £3,000," cried Melllsh excitedly. "Done," answered Barclay, and the wager was recorded.
Cribb felt no uneasiness at the size of the obligation assumed on his account by his friend and faithful backer. More than any other he was in a position to testify to the wonders -wrought by Barclay's training- The champion had just completed his thirtieth year. Born near Bristol, the birthplace of so many holders of the title, he had served as a sailor in the navy and had fought his first public battle at the age of twenty four. After a single defeat early in his career at the hands of a minor boxer he had won his way steadily up the pugilistic ladder by a series of notable victories.Unlike Jackson or Gully “Tom” had been no favourite Of fortune. Success had come to him only after He had beaten down all obstacles with his Mighty arms.
Of modest, unassuming nature, Cribb had gradually won a following before he stepped into the championship. No fairer or cleaner fighter ever held the honor. He bad kept his record without, reproach. For The rest he had attained his superiority by Hard work and careful study of the science. No natural boxer like Belcher, he had shown But mediocre ability at the start.he had been Classed as a “slow hitter” and never developed Into a remarkably swift or agile pugilist .His best qualities in the ring were his excellent generalship, his knowledge of the game, his wonderfully sound wind and his rock founded courage.
In another inn of tbe vicinity the challenger. was put up for the night before the big battle. "Tom"' Molineaux bad been a slave on a Virginia plantation, where he was born.Having found refuge in England, he had presented himself as a candidate for pugilistic fame under the auspices of "Bill"' Richmond, another American negro who was well known to followers of the sport as a second and a fighter of merit. Two victories over minor boxers of the day had recommended him as a fitting aspirant to the championship and he had issued a challenge to Cribb.
Cribb. after his second defeat of Belcher, bad practically decided upon retirement. When the ambitious defiance of the negro was presented, however, he had yielded readily to the wishes of his friends. The situation was somewhat similar to that now existing between Jeffries and Johnson. Cribb was called upon to uphold the supremacy of the race in the ring and gave over his private arrangements for a quiet life in retreat to respond to that call. As a newspaper of the day put it:
"Some persons feel alarmed at the bare idea that a black man and a foreigner should seize the championship of England and decorate his sable brow with the hard earned laurels of Cribb. He must, however, have his fair chance. Although “Tom” swears that for the honourof old England “He’ll be dammed if he will relinquish a single sprig except for his life”.
Molineaux ,had put up a terrific fight in his first Meeting with the champion and had honestly won his right to a return engagement. The black was a man of great strength and not without science, which he had improved by constant practice since his arrival in England. He was in no way an opponent to be despised, a fact to which the intense interest of the fancy and the almost unprecedented attendance at the second battle amply testified.
The scene of action was Thistleton Gap,in the Parish of Wymondham Leicestshire.. Thousand's of fight followers had been gathering from all parts of the country for a week, and on the night before the meeting accommodation was not to be had for twenty miles around. On the morning of September 28,1811 the throngs were on the move long before dawn seeking advantageous places about the ring.
A stage twenty-five feet square was erected in the centre of a large stubble field. To prevent interference from the vast concourse a larger roped arena surrounded the stage.
At twelve o'clock Cribb mounted the stage, followed by his old friend, the former champion, Gully, as second and the veteran "Joe Ward as bottle holder. His appearance was the signal for a thunderous demonstration, which was swept onto Molineaux a few moments later, when he showed himself -in company with "Bill" Richmond, his second and "Bill"' Gibbons as bottle holder. The two fighters tossed up their hats in token of defiance and began to strip to breeches; stockings and pumps. At eighteen minutes past the hour the umpires gave the signal and the boxers stepped forward.
Cribb now gave visual evidence of the benefit of Captain Barclay's training. Five feet ten and a half inches in height, he was a man of ponderous frame, with a natural tendency, to flesh. His present weight of 188 pounds meant that he was all bone and muscle and firm skin, at the exact line between the pink of form and the point of dangerous firmness. He represented the type of the rugged, massive, deliberate exponent of the art. secure in his solid strength and endurance, prepared to give and take the blows of Titans.
Molineaux was power carved in ebony. The negro had, never been one to give proper attention to his condition, but the watchers could pick no flaw in him. He too had reduced weight since the last meeting, though certainly not so healthily, and he came to the mark ,at about 155 pounds. His height was five feet eight and quarter inches.His most striking physical characteristic was his remarkable reach, backed by arms of tremendous development.
With gladiators of this kind in the ring there was little chance of a sparring exhibition, and as the two advanced to the handshake there were immediate hostilities.it was known the black was keen for revenge and many looked to see him force the pace from the set to.The opponents fell on guard for an instant and battle was joined with a whirl and a rush.The Negro hammering in for a brief fierce attack against Cribbs cool effective guard.
Cribb Starts Trouble.
Suddenly Cribb went upon the offensive. In the first tentative clash which serves the alert fighter as a clearing and defining of values he bad tasted his superiority, sensed his own great ability and resources once more. He drove in manfully with right and left smashes.The first got home a glancing cut on Molineaux’ body the second was skilfully parried as the black stepped into the opening and sent a large lunge to the champions head.Cribb wavered not at al but drove one , two again at the body.Molineaux was ready for him covered himself and they stood knee to knee in some pretty exchanges.
It was nip and tuck for a full minute with Some of the hardest rallying the two had ever Tried.The crowd paid the Negro the tribute due to His cleverness and good will. He never gave back But stood up at blow for blow with the great Champion.More than that he had just a trifle The better of the session and ripped in a drive To the forehead that all but snapped Cribb of His balance. Cribb acknowledged the hit with A grin. The black was a better boxer than ever And it was a pleasure to mill with such a straight forward stand up opponent. So thought the champion as he came back from the check and waded in with increased speed.
They were fighting at distance for Cribb was Not ready to break to close quarters and Prefered to take his chance with the fists. Molineaux feinted at the body and swept A cut at the head that the champion deftly Warded, countering to the ribs. The black stepped Back at the battering ram drive, but Cribb Followed him sending a neatly aimed straight Arm to the throat that forced Molineaux Over for a clean fall. The champion received The roaring approval that was his due for Bold scientific work, but the prevailing Odds of 3 to 1 were not altered by the Outcome of the round, the Negro being plainly unhurt.
Molineaux opened the second round after the manner of "Dutch Sam," the lightweight marvel and whirl wind fighter of the day, with a bewildering and ferocious attack. Cribb held him off for a moment, but gave ground just in, time to break the force of a wicked smash, to the mouth that drew first crimson.
The negro forced his lead, head held low making his reach count. Cribb backed another step, but stopped there, taking a slam to the ribs and coming back strong with a right hander that found its mark on the chest and checked the African's impetuous advance. Molineaux swung over the champion's guard smoothly and landed hard to the head.
Cribb had now worked himself in to half arm without seeming to have done so deliberately. He foresaw much trouble if he permitted the black to run the fight at a distance with all the advantage of reach. The champion carefully avoided showing his adversary that he had no particular liking for the long exchanges, but cleverly tempted him in closer, taking body punishment willingly to achieve his end. Molineaux's first rush bad worn itself out. but he had plenty' of steam and stopped two wicked hooks to the jaw while getting home some slicing jabs. In another swift exchange the black snaked through a beautiful drive that did execution over Cribb's right eye.
Having whetted the black's appetite for close work by several openings the champion now cautiously put into practice one of his favourite manoeuvres, which was ever a distinctive part of his play. This was milling on the retreat. He gave back slowly, tempting his adversary to extraordinary efforts and exhausting lunges, while watching craftily for his chance and holding his powers in reserve. He found his opening and came back with vigor. But Molineaux, profiting by his previous knowledge of the champion's tactics, ducked under the blow and came to grips.
The wrestle was long and contested with the utmost fierceness, the big fellows stamping and straining from rope's to ropes. Molineaux proved slippery and Cribb could not catch him to advantage, while the black's long arms wound to firm holds. Suddenly the negro threw his weight to the side, tripping cleverly and throwin the champion a heavy fall. It had been evident from the first that the black had few real partisans in the throng, but there was a spontaneous outburst of applause at this exhibition of dexterity. Odds fell to 5 to 4 on Cribb. It was clearly the negro's round.
Cribb opened the third round and forced a stiff rally, losing no time in coining well within the firing line. His right eye was almost useless, but he found that neither aim nor judgment had been impaired. The showing made by Molineaux was no surprise and he had not fallen into the error of underestimating his task. He set to work with perfect, confidence and possession." If he knew anything of signs the black was finding the bottom of his wind, and this was a point upon which Cribb largely counted. With his magnificent equipment and preparation Cribb himself was scarcely breathed. He bided his time, meanwhile seeking to lure the negro with another retreat.
Molineaux merely improved the opportunity to deliver two long range smashes to the face and Cribb bored back hastily. A terrific rally followed, the champion beating down the others guard twice for body blows and taking full receipt about the head. To the spectators the negro had suffered nothing to speak of since the start and there were impatient cries, to the champion to make his mark upon his man. Cribb was in no wise hurried, but launched upon a one, two with irresistible strength. Molineaux turned one aside, but the next, sweeping through unchecked, caught him a "doubler"' over the stomach with resounding force. The blow was enough to have laid out many a more stalwart one on the spot. It sent him spinning across the ring and all but off the stage. By desperate effort ho regained his balance and kept his feet, before Cribb came up with him. To the surprise of the crowd the black lost no time in retaliating with a powerful swing to the ear. As Cribb rushed in confidently Molineaux sprang upon him with renewed vigor, checked the advance and milled back determinedly. He sealed the work he bad begun upon the champion's right eye, ripped to the chin and won back his lost ground.
The champion found that he had counted too much upon his tremendous drive and sought to repeat it but Molineaux blocked and got right and left to the ribs. Cribb retreated drawing the negro to several wrenching misses and landed several times with his left without damage... As he drew off for a swing Molineaux closed with judgment and caught a good hold. The struggle was short and once more the champion went crashing to the stage while the black stood firm and safe.
Cribb was quite as Conscious as any anxious friends in the gathering that he was approaching the crucial moment Of the battle. Molineaux ,as he was willing to admit was his equal and a little more in science, speed and strength. If the black could hold the present pace the issue would almost certainly be in his favor. But Cribb was convinced that he could not hold the pace. At the clinch the black's chest had laboured in utmost distress, and the champion had felt him wince at battering blows. Barclay had told him that this fight would be won on condition alone if all else failed him and he believed in Barclay.
Cribb came to the mark strong and eager at the opening Of the fourth round and led off with right and left in body and head. Molineaux was too quick and bored back slamming through the white man's guard and landing to the face. His persistent high aim had wrought great disfigurement and he continued to center his punishment, about the eyes. They mixed it fiercely neither yielding and both tacking short arm jolts until Cribb once more tried to lure the black into a pursuit. Molineaux stood his ground and shot through two flush hits to the head with the left at long range the last almost closing Cribb's sound eye.. This was the negro's best blow and the champion's followers began to look glum at the ease with which planted it.
But Cribb wasted little uneasiness upon immediate reverses. Either Molineaux was failing fast or he had fought his score of battles to no purpose. While outwardly in bad case, fearfully cut and crimsoned from a score of wounds, the champion had not sacrificed wind, strength or temper. In the next rally the negro showed plainly that he was losing his earlier Steadiness and resolution. He missed a humming left swing and caught a nasty clip to the mouth as he flung up his guard. Instantly he lunged in with both arms, crying Out angrily. The champion improved the chance by coolly planting several telling smashes to the ribs and the black danced back gasping.
Both Like Demons.
Cribb smiled, though the result was somewhat awry and attacked with a ferocity and determination that be had not yet shown. The spurt was well timed to follow Molineaux's first break of weakness. The champion walked in whirling sledge hammer blows upon the black's guard and forcing him back with right and left to the body and right and left to the head. Molineaux outmanoeuvred and threatened by another terrific “doubler" retreated to the ropes Here he made a desperate stand and some of the hardest Fighting of the battle took place. Cribb broke through repeatedly to the ribs,but seemed to make little impression. Molineaux"s drives and swings to the face was masterly, and Crlbb attempting to duck a particularly savage one was hit off his balance by the alert negro. Before he could recover Molineaux had knocked him down with a swift rap under the ear.
Both, men seemed bent upon decisive results from the fifth round. They stepped instantly into a give and take of heavy blows, but Cribb found that the black was still a hardy customer. The negro peppered him with hard right and left smashes to head which Cribb could not avoid. or properly return and the exchange was altogether in favor of the challenger. The champion fought for a body drive, but launched too slowly and came to grief from the black's terrible left once move. The swing caught him under the ear and staggered him while Molineaux shot over a scientific right to the jaw immediately afterward that sent him reeling. As Cribb was falling the negro with wonderful quickness, put in another straight arm to the face.The crowd quickly betrayed its partisanship by howls of disapproval but the umpires, after a discussion decided that the blow was fair, Cribb's hand having been at liberty and not having touched the floor.
As the boxers approached each other for the sixth round the champion felt that his time had come Molineanx’s wonderfully clever work which had won him the advantage in each of the last four rounds, had been accomplished at a killing expense, of wind and strength. The negro's chest and sides were heaving painfully, and his actions, as they fell off guard were those of an exhausted man in deep distress. He lunged right and left, but wildly, and Cribb avoided, countering with a hard hook that the negro parried. They stepped into a rally and Cribb jammed through another of his tremendous body blows. Molineaux fell away like a broken reed, holding his arms across his stomach. Cribb followed and the negro met him half heartedly. The blow bad found him out. For soe minutes the champion vainly tried to find the black, who danced and led him a chase all around the stage. Molineaux seemed unwilling to risk more suffering, capered, hit short and was nil abroad. Then Cribb caught, him, battered him almost at will about the head and floored him with a flush drive to the jaw.
To many the sudden turn in the tide of battle cameAs a surprise. It was exactly what Cribb bad looked for. The question now was one of endurance and the negro had gone the length of his tether. Odds rose to five to one on the champion. Molinennx opened the seventh round in a rage, but he had lost the power to make it dangerous. He reached Cribb's jaw lightly and the champion drove to the throat. Stepping back. Cribb parried rind repeated to the throat. He got in the blow a third time when the negro, charging wildly, wrenched himself off his balance, stumbled and fell.
Molineanx attempted a brief rally at opening of the eighth round, but either could not judge his distance or feared to stop boldly into it. Cribb slammed him about the face, then, rushing in. caught the negro's head under his left arm and battered him until he dropped.
In the words of one of the sporting writers present, it was "Lombard street to a China orange. Moliniux came up for the ninth round staggering and wild. Summoning his failing forces, he made a mad rush, which Cribb met neatly with his left. The blow caught the black in mid career and sent him crashing to the stage with a fractured jaw. Molineaux was Unable to get up and his attendants raised, him with difficulty. At the end of the half minute the black was not yet in shape to continue but Cribb refused to appeal to the umpires, wishing to give his opponent every opportunity.
Finally the courageous negro came weaving to the centre for the tenth round. He attempted to bore in. but fell from weakness. Cribb gave him another long interval, but Molineaux was too far gone. His attendants carried him to the centre for the eleventh round, and he stood there for an instant, weaving and helpless, then fell before a blow was struck. The battle was accorded to Cribb amid thundering cheers, and the champion,as the proof of his condition,danced 'a Scotch reel with Gully abut the stage. The fight, had lasted nineteen minutes ten seconds. Captain Barclay won £10.000 from Mellish and others, but took his chief satisfaction from the establishing of his training theories. Cribb's purse was £400. Before the crowd had dispersed. John Jackson,as was his kindly custom made a collection for the defeated contestant and presented Molineaux with £50.