There’s something unsurprising about 19th century and early 20th century boxers who pass away or spend their final days in bars. Bill Richmond could be said to be one such pugilist. Born August 1763 in Staten Island, New York, he spent his early years as a slave in Richmondtown before arriving in England in 1777. Once there, he was educated–probably by his owner or benefactor–and went into cabinetmaking. His education also included training in athletics with boxing and gymnastics being his focuses.
During his late 20s, Richmond became known as a tough fighter, engaging in frequent brawls with local racists. He was also targeted because of his interracial marriage and children. Also during this time he took on and won five boxing matches in the Yorkshire area. When he moved his family to London in 1795, he worked for the Baron of Camelford, Thomas Pitt. It is widely believed that Bill Richmond trained Pitt in both boxing and gymnastics since the two attended the fights regularly.
Bill Richmond’s Career in Boxing
While Richmond faced a number of opponents, there were several fights that stood out. The first was the January 1804 bout against George Maddox. This fight came about following a Maddox victory. Richmond and Pitt were in attendance and Richmond challenged Maddox–who proceeded to defeat him in nine rounds. The two would have a rematch on August 1808, after Richmond came back from a hiatus. In those four years, he had become a much more experienced fighter and managed to defeat Maddox in a sound fashion.
The second fight came a few years after his employer Thomas Pitt died in a duel. Before going on to face Tom Cribb, Bill Richmond would train young up and comers and schedule them in fights. This would allow for him to start his own bar, the Horse and Dolphin and save up quite a bit. His match against Cribb took place sometime in 1805 and saw Richmond suffer defeat.
This was the start of a long-standing feud which would include Richmond’s protege Molineaux challenging Cribb. After his second loss to Cribb, Molineaux dropped Richmond as his manager. When he lost his top drawing fighter in Tom Molineaux, he sold the bar and entered the ring once more. After defeating Jack Davis in mid-1814, a 50-year old Richmond would take on Tom Shelton, a high touted competitor in the running for a championship. The skilled Richmond dismantled Shelton over twenty-three rounds before putting him away.
Retirement and Death
After winning, Richmond was probably next in line for a title shot at Cribb’s English title. At the time Cribb had been away from the ring and wasn’t accepting challenges. Richmond eventually retired from boxing and went on tour doing exhibitions for European royalty and peers. He was so highly regarded that he was even an usher at George IV’s 1821 coronation.
The bad blood between Richmond and Cribb went away with time and the two became best friends, spending their time at Cribb’s Union Arms bar. At 66-years old, Bill Richmond died in that very establishment.
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