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.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Richmond Unchained nominated for Biography of the Year at British Sports Book Awards

I am delighted to announce that my book Richmond Unchained has been nominated in the Biography of the Year category at the 2016 Cross British Sports Book Awards.

This is a real honour, and I hope it means that more people will be get to learn about the amazing life story of Bill Richmond. The awards take place on 1 June at Lords Cricket Ground and highlights from the ceremony will be shown the following weekend on Sky Sports.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has supported me throughout the writing and publication of Richmond Unchained, particularly my family and friends, and my publishers Amberley

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

"Definitely a book with 'bottom'" - Boxing Monthly on Richmond Unchained

I am pleased to announce that my book Richmond Unchained is reviewed in the new May issue of the highly-respected Boxing Monthly magazine, which is available now via App store and other digital outlets, and in the shops from Thursday.

The review is on page 52 of the magazine and is by the magazine's long-established reviewer John Exshaw. In the interests of full disclosure I think it is important to mention I had an article about Bill Richmond published by BM last year and have also contributed articles to their website.

However I do not know Mr Exshaw and I have never met or communicated with him. Therefore, I do not believe that my contributions to BM will have influenced his review in any way, shape or form - indeed, I think it is fair to say that Mr Exshaw has  a reputation within the boxing community for integrity, independence and - at times - brutal honesty. Certainly, having read his reviews for many years, I have realised that he is a very hard man to please and never defers to reputation. I can also recall at least one occasion on which he has written a very negative review about a book that had also bought advertising space in BM magazine - which I think reinforces my point that he is a truly independent and impartial voice.

Bearing this in mind, I have to say that I am delighted - and no little relieved - that Mr Exshaw's review of Richmond Unchained is a very positive one! A selection of quotes from the review are included below, and if you want to read the review in full then I urge you to get a copy of the magazine!

"Mr. Williams proves both diligent and tenacious in researching the details of Richmond's life ... as well as judicious in his assessment of the most likely course of events in the many instances in which there is conflicting evidence ... The merits, then, of Mr. Williams' book are many and manifold (including the splendid illustrations by Trevor Von Eeden), and it can be heartily recommended to pugilist-specialist readers and novices alike. ... This is definitely a book with "bottom"."

Addendum: Mr Exshaw mentions in his review that Richmond Unchained would benefit from an index and in this opinion, I agree wholeheartedly with him. Due to page constraints, which came about as a result of extra research and information about Bill Richmond that I discovered relatively late in the writing process, I had to make the difficult decision to shorten my sources / referencing section and not have an index. This decision was made to ensure my main text did not have to be edited down and so that Trevor Von Eeden's wonderful illustrations could be included. In an ideal world, I wish there had been an index. Please note though, that fuller details about my sources can be found on this blog and I intend, in time, to also publish a full index to Richmond Unchained on this blog.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Bill Richmond?

Bill Richmond (?) and I at the Getty Center, Los Angeles
On a recent visit to Los Angeles I was able to visit the Getty Center and see up close a sculpture that my friend and fellow Bill Richmond fanatic Jerry Leibowitz is convinced is Bill.

Jerry's fascinating theory is that the sculpture, credited by the Getty Museum and the Yale Center for British Art, as being the work of Francis Harwood in 1758, is actually a much later sculpture of ... yes! Bill Richmond!

Jerry's thesis is very convincing and very interesting ... check out his fascinating posts on the subject below:
Bust of a Man
Bust of a Man ... Alternate version
Bust of a Man, the Sequel - Bill Richmond Strikes Back

Meanwhile, this post contains Jerry's work on the historical background / context to his later work:
Follow the Money

And while I'm recommending further reading for you Richmondophiles out there, you should also check out another  post of Jerry's: the first chapter of a novel he's writing about Bill Richmond. Well worth reading and a real appetiser for the full length novel to follow!

Bill Richmond (?) in all his glory
The Getty's attribution - which is disputed by Jerry Leibowitz

(Some of this post involves repetition of a previous post from January 2015, but the pix are all new!)

Tom Belcher grave discovered

Tom Belcher's portrait from Boxiana
 A new and notable resident of the famous burial ground Nunhead Cemetery in south London has been discovered thanks to research conducted by boxing historians Alex Joanides and John Warren.

On a visit to the cemetery on 3 April, Alex and John were able to discover the long lost grave of Tom Belcher (1783-1854) - one of the most famous boxers from the ‘golden age’ of English bare-knuckle pugilism at the beginning of the 19th century. Tom Belcher was, for many years, a close friend of Bill Richmond, subject of my 2015 book Richmond Unchained.
It has long been assumed and reported in boxing history books that Belcher died and was buried in his native Bristol. However recent research has revealed that he lived out the last years of his life as a resident of number 19 Trafalgar Square, Peckham, prior to his death and burial in Nunhead. Trafalgar Square was a well-to-do residential area just off modern-day Commercial Way, in an area then known as ‘Peckham New Town’.
“Tom Belcher is one of the most important fighters and players in the history of boxing and it is an absolute privilege and honour to rediscover his grave,” Alex Joanides said. “Many thanks must also go to The Friends of Nunhead Cemetery for their assistance in allowing us to access their archives and cemetery layout plans and plot and grave numbers.
“The inscription of the gravestone is only legible in certain places with other parts of the stone decayed completely away. However, we were able to clearly make out the names of at least three more members of the Belcher family buried in the plot.”
Tom Belcher's grave - photo by Alex Joanides
Born in 1783, Tom Belcher was the brother of the great Jem, arguably the greatest boxer of the ‘Golden Age’ period. Although Tom never became champion of England, like Jem, he was nevertheless considered one of the most skilful boxers in the land. The legendary boxing writer of the time, Pierce Egan, wrote of him that: “in point of elegance of attitude and scientific precision … TOM BELCHER, as a pugilist, stands unrivalled”.
During the first 30 years of the 19th century, boxing was the most popular sport in England and its leading exponents among the most famous men in the country. A measure of the fame and esteem in which Belcher - and the sport of boxing as a whole - were held is demonstrated by the fact that he was one of the 18 famous pugilists who were enlisted by King George IV to act as ushers at the new monarch’s coronation in 1821. Before retiring to “country life” in the late 1820s, Belcher was also the landlord of the famed Castle Tavern pub in Holborn for 14 years.
Belcher’s position as a major figure from English social and sporting history has been acknowledged through his inclusion as a character in the acclaimed 2015 novel Death and Mr Pickwick by Stephen Jarvis, which examines the connections between The Pickwick Papers and various facets of cultural, sporting and literary history.
Belcher is not the only famous boxer buried in Nunhead cemetery – the grave of the former champion of England turned painter and musician James ‘Jem’ Ward (1800-1884) can also be found in the grounds.
Tom Belcher obituary from an 1855 newspaper