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.

Sunday, 28 February 2021

New Bill Richmond fight discovered!

 I haven't updated this blog for a long time - I've been busy with other things. Family, other writing, work, lockdown...

But Bill Richmond is always in the back of my mind and, if I have a spare moment or two, I carry on digging into archives and seeing if there are any further lost, forgotten or undiscovered facts about his life that I can bring to light.

Last week I found something highly significant - a report of a previously undiscovered Bill Richmond fight.

That's big news!

Imagine if you had spent the best part of 15 years of your life researching the life and times of John L. Sullivan, Jack Johnson or Muhammad Ali and came across a competitive contest they engaged in that everyone had forgotten about and didn't appear in any history books.

You'd be pretty excited, right?

So to the fight...

Page 3 of The London Star newspaper of Saturday 20 June 1807 reveals several details of this contest, which took place on Thursday 18 June:

BULL BAITING, &c.—The Amateurs of the Fine Arts were most amply gratified on Thursday, on a Common near Hendon, by baiting of a game bull. Nearly fifty dogs were let loose. The bull, however, beat them all as quietly as if he had been only singly combated. The dogs were of the best and highest blood, neither were they very poorly seconded, for Lord DURSLEY and the Hon. BERKELEY CRAVEN each run their dogs themselves at the bull. Lord YARMOUTH, Sir H. PEYTON, Hon. MASSEY DAWSON, General GRAHAM, 808 ALLEN, and a numerous list of the Young Bloods of the Day, graced this festival, so much the pride of the lower class.

The Heroes of the Fist, both Jews and Gentiles, were in great plenty ; and having been indulged at the conclusion of the last public fight with a bull bait, they now scorned to be "outdone in courtesy," and soon knocked up a fight between two Heroes; one known as an old one, the other as Jack a dandy ; in which, as there was no science, there was little pleasure to the Amateurs.

A very fair made athletic Bargeman happening to say in the hearing of Jackson, that he could beat any man on the ground, was very drily interrogated whether he would fight any man? and having replied in the affirmative, Richmond, the black, set to with him for a purse of ten Guineas, collated from the Gentlemen present ; and nearly beat the Bargeman to death in about half an hour, leaving him as an example and proof, that skill will beat strength or size ; or, in other words, that the science of pugilism is proof against the attacks of every ruffian pretender.

The day's sport concluded by a match being made between Dutch Sam and Tom Belcher, for a Hundred Guineas, to be fought in five weeks; which, for skill and bottom, will not be inferior to any in the annals of pugilism.

Previously it was thought that Richmond was absent from the ring from his defeat against Tom Cribb on 8 October 1805 until his contest with the 'Westcountryman' on 14 April 1808. This report shows that he was not missing from competitive pugilism for quite as long as we thought.

It also means that we need to revise Bill Richmond's total fight record - previously this stood at 19 fights, 17 wins. The discovery of this fight means that - based on the fights we have documentation for - his record should be amended to 20 fights, 18 wins, 2 losses. A pretty extraordinary record by any standard - particularly considering that most of these fights took place past his 40th birthday!

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