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.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Richmond v Shelton: preview and tale of the tape

This Saturday marks the 200th anniversary of the Bill Richmond v Tom Shelton bare-knuckle boxing contest. By way of a celebration, I will be tweeting a live recreation of the fight, including many illustrations and images, via my twitter page @boxianajournal.  

Below I imagine what a preview of the fight back in 1815 may have looked like ...

Richmond v Shelton: the Tale of the Tape

Name: William 'Bill' Richmond
Nickname: 'The Black'
Born: 5 August 1763, Staten Island, United States
Age: 51
Height: 5 feet 9 inches

Weight: 12 stone, 2 pounds
Career record: 17 mills, 15 wins, 2 losses
Boxing style and qualities:
Expert in hitting and getting away, possessor of a terrible right-handed hit.

Typical quote: "A gentleman, sir, only uses his hands to defend himself, and not to attack; we call the pugilistic art, for that reason, the noble science of defence."
Career summary: After several impromptu set-tos in the north of England, where he was raised, educated and apprenticed after arriving on these shores with Earl Hugh Percy, Richmond entered the lists with a defeat against the seasoned George Maddox in January 1805 in a close contest. Thereafter, a run of three unbroken successes secured a contest with rising talent Tom Cribb, a tiresome contest in October 1805 which he lost. Since then, Richmond's science has become manifest to all and he has won all seven of his mills, albeit with several periods of inactivity. Richmond also won much notoriety when he mentored fellow former slave Tom Molineaux to the brink of championship honours, only for the American pretender to be vanquished by Cribb in two mighty contests in 1810 and 1811. Richmond is now an esteemed and respected member of the pugilistic corps, renowned for his good manners, milling anecdotes and tactical acumen.

Name:  Thomas 'Tom' Shelton
Nickname: 'The Navigator'
Born: 1 May 1787, Wrotham, Kent,
Age: 28
Height: 5 feet 10 inches

Weight: 12 stone, 7 pounds
Career record: 3 mills, 2 wins, 1 loss
Boxing style and qualities: Scientific boxer, good in-fighter, left-handed hitter.

Typical quote: "I like fighting; but I hate animosity."
Career summary:
Shelton’s eccentric nature is best summed up by a series of events in September 1812; by the end of a day’s drinking in Hampstead, the Navigator had gambled away all his worldly possessions, whereupon he risked the only thing he had left – namely his life – on the roll of a dice. The luckless Shelton lost that wager too and, bound by a
twisted sense of honour, tried to hang himself on a street lamp. His first attempt failed, so he tried again, at which point a passing police officer intervened. Although the policeman succeeded in preventing Shelton’s suicide, he received two black eyes and a broken nose for his troubles. Thereafter, Shelton threw his hat into the prize ring, defeating Fitzgerald at Tothill Fields in August 1812, before losing a distinguished battle to Harry Harmer in April this year. In June, Shelton bounced back to the top of the lists by vanquishing a Suffolk farmer by the name of Studd.

Verdict: Private pique between Shelton and Richmond resulted in this contest, which now unreservedly occupies the attention of the Fancy. Odds were even until Shelton injured a knee in training, meaning  Richmond is now the slight favourite. Both men are first raters, and much hinges on whether the Black's considerable advantages in science will compensate for his deficit of youth compared to his opponent.

Richmond v Shelton is recreated this Saturday on
Richmond Unchained is published on 15 August

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