In-depth blog about former slave and boxing legend Bill Richmond (1763-1829); subject of Luke G. Williams' biography, published by Amberley in August 2015.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

211th anniversary: Richmond's London debut

Bill Richmond only ever lost two fights, and one of them took place almost exactly 211 years ago on 23 January 1804.

It was Richmond's debut bare-knuckle contest in London and, remarkably, he was already past his 40th birthday. (He wasn't the greatest boxing veteran of all time for nothing, y'know!)

In the opposite corner that chilly winter's day at Wimbledon Common was another great pugilistic veteran - George Maddox - who had just disposed of one opponent (a dustman named Seabrook) and was keen for another victim. Richmond, who was at the fight in the company of his pugilism-obsessed employer Lord Camelford, duly challenged Maddox, but lived to regret it after losing a tight contest.

The full story of this bout will be told in my forthcoming book Richmond Unchained - interestingly enough, the truth behind the fight differs somewhat from what you might have read in the official record books, which invariably (and incorrectly) record this fight as a three-round victory for Maddox.

Maddox certainly won, but not in three rounds. What actually happened is far more interesting, while the reactions of the crowd that day also illuminate what it was like for an unknown black man to enter the prize ring in the early 19th century.

Unfortunately, you'll have to wait to read Richmond Unchained to find out more! In the meantime, suffice it to say that although Richmond lost that day, he went on to gain revenge against Maddox in an unforgettable contest five years later. (Oh yes, that fight also features heavily in Richmond Unchained!)

To compensate for all these shameless plugs there is some new and exclusive content on this page though - Trevor Von Eeden's early pencil sketch recreation of Bill challenging George at Wimbledon Common - by throwing his hat into the ring, of course! The final inked version of this illustration will - you guessed it! - appear in Richmond Unchained!

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