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Boxing  

Michael Ezra

Perhaps no sport has influenced African American culture and society more than boxing. Long before the sport was formalized, slaves worked as prizefighters, sometimes gaining their freedom if they earned their masters enough money and prestige through their exploits in the ring. The first American to compete for the world heavyweight championship was Bill Richmond, a black man and former slave, who took on and lost to England's Tom Cribb in 1805. The former slave Tom Molineaux, who gained his emancipation through pugilism, also challenged Cribb for the crown, losing bouts in 1810 and 1811. Long before their official participation in other professional sports, African Americans were making their mark in the prize ring.

Although boxing was the most popular spectator sport in the United States from the late 1840s until the Civil War blacks were excluded from the big money contests that captured the public ...

Article

Boxing.  

Elliott J. Gorn

Prizefighting began in England, where by the late eighteenth century it was acknowledged as the “national sport” but was also illegal. Boxers fought with bare knuckles, most forms of wrestling and hitting were permitted, and fights lasted until one or both contestants quit or could not continue. Tom Molineaux, a free black, was the first great American fighter. In two matches in England in 1810 and 1811, Molineaux came close to defeating the English champion Tom Cribb. Becoming famous in England, Molineaux remained virtually unknown to Americans, who initially showed little interest in the prize ring. This changed in the mid–nineteenth century as a modern working class, including many immigrants from England and Ireland, arose in American cities. A series of matches culminated with an 1849 championship fight, tinged with ethnic antipathy, between James “Yankee” Sullivan, an Irish immigrant, and the native-born Tom Hyer Hyer ...

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Luckett V. Davis

boxer, was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, but was brought by his parents to Boston when he was eight years old. There he attended school and, in 1884, began working for Elmer Chickering, a photographer who specialized in making portraits of boxers. While on a job Dixon saw boxing matches at the Boston Music Hall and decided to pursue a boxing career. After a few amateur bouts he attracted the attention of Tom O'Rourke, a former boxer who taught Dixon and managed him throughout most of his career.

Dixon became a professional boxer in 1888, and by the end of the year he was well known in the Boston area due to a thrilling series of fights with a local hero, Hank Brennan Weighing less than 100 pounds Dixon proved to be an extremely clever boxer good at defense and capable of landing hard ...

Article

Jane Poyner

Boxer and ex‐slave from Tennessee, United States, who made a number of trips to England to fight. Dobbs was born into slavery in Knoxville, Tennessee, and picked cotton until he was 15. A slight man, standing 5 feet 8½ inches and weighing just 9 stone 9 pounds, he trained as a lightweight and welterweight. During his illustrious career he fought over 1,000 matches, not retiring until he was 60. In 1898 he made his first trip to England, where, in an infamous fight with Dick Burge he was offered a bribe by a bookmaker of £100 a huge sum in those days to lose the fight He agreed to the deal and was provided with laxatives before the match but switched with a friend who bore some resemblance to him and who was willing to take the medication Dobbs won the match On the same trip he knocked out ...

Article

Steven A. Riess

professional boxer, was born in Baltimore, Maryland. He reputedly was the son of an African American baseball player, Joseph Butts. His mother's name is unknown. He was adopted at age four by Maria Gant and her husband. It is not known why he altered his name from Gant to Gans or if in fact previously printed sources had misspelled his adopted mother's surname. Gans began fighting in 1890 in battle royales, brawls in which several African Americans fought each other for money, with the last one standing declared the winner. These free-for-alls taught him to block, dodge, and lead with his punches. His first real fight was for a two-dollar side bet; in addition, he collected $5.40 in change from the crowd.

A fish market clerk, the five-foot-six, 133-pound Gans turned professional in 1891 fighting almost exclusively in Baltimore He won all of his early bouts gaining ...

Article

John M. Carroll

boxer, was born in Frederiksted on the island of St. Croix, Virgin Islands, the son of a fisherman. His parents' names are unknown. His father became weary of fishing the waters of the Caribbean and, seeking better opportunities in the South Pacific, moved the family to Australia in 1873. Three years later, however, Jackson's parents tired of life in Australia and returned to the Virgin Islands. An adventurous youth, Peter stayed behind and became a boatman and sailor in the area around Sydney. He never saw his parents again.

A natural athlete, Jackson developed a marvelous physique competing in sculling matches and became an excellent swimmer. He got his start in boxing while working as a sailor for a shipping firm owned by Clay Callahan A successful American businessman and local boxer Callahan saw in Jackson a quiet polite young man who had the athletic skills and ...

Article

Philip Nanton

Boxer born in St Kitts on 11 May 1798. Kendrick moved to London around 1811, trained under Bill Richmond, and boxed for public entertainment between the years 1819 and 1826. He was described as tall, bony, and athletic, weighing around 13 stone, and ever seeking a fight. On one occasion, when he criticized the methods of Bill Richmond, he and the American started a fist fight in the street. Later he baited Tom Molineaux, and, on another occasion, stood at the door of the Fives Court during a benefit, threatening ‘to mill all the “big ones” ’.

Kendrick's most impressive performance arose when he presented himself, uninvited, at a private sporting dinner in Westminster, on 11 May 1819 offering to fight any of the heroes present The dining table was cleared away and a purse of 25 guineas was put up for the fight ...

Article

David Dabydeen

African‐American boxer who gained a significant reputation in England. Molineaux was born in Virginia and was the slave to a wealthy playboy who frequently used him in fights against other slaves. In one particular event Molineaux's master bet $100,000 that he would defeat another slave in a match and promised to grant him his freedom should he win. Molineaux won and left for England in 1803, where he met and subsequently trained under Bill Richmond, another African‐American boxer of consequence. Molineaux's first match in England was against Tom Blake, whom he knocked out in the eighth round. Richmond prepared Molineaux for his important fight against Tom Cribb, an opponent whom Richmond had never managed to defeat. In December 1810 the match between Cribb and Molineaux took place at Copthorne near East Grinstead and after 39 rounds Molineaux lost The fight was an especially trying one ...

Article

Al-Tony Gilmore

Tom Molineaux was born a slave, probably in Georgetown, District of Columbia, on March 23, 1784. Molineaux was the name of the slave-owner family that owned Tom, his parents, and his four brothers. Strongly influenced by his father, Zachary, who is credited as the founder of boxing in the United States, Tom took up the sport at an early age. After his father died, fourteen-year-old Tom took his place as chief handyman around his master's estate. Several years later, his owner promised him the sum of $100 and his freedom if he were successful in defeating the slave of a neighboring planter in a boxing match. Intent on winning his freedom, Molineaux accepted the match and won.

With the prize money and his newly gained freedom Molineaux headed for London England where he had been told fame and fortune were to be won in boxing Arriving in London at ...

Article

Graham Russell Hodges

The birthplace of Tom Molineaux (Molyneaux) is variously reported as Virginia; Staten Island, New York; and Baltimore, Maryland. Little is known about his early life except for reports that he worked on the docks in New York City. During that time he must have learned the skills of a boxer. In 1810 Molineaux appeared in London, where he met Bill Richmond, a legendary African American boxer and manager who operated the Horse and Dolphin Tavern on Saint Martin's Lane. The tavern was a well-known hangout where boxers and the “fancy,” as English fans were known, watched boxing exhibitions. Richmond, who was well connected to wealthy patrons, was impressed by Molineaux's methods and publicized his talents so well that, after two warm-up matches, one after a bullbaiting and the other against an aged boxer, Tom Black, Molineaux was set to battle the champion, Tom Cribb.

The two ...

Article

Shivani Sivagurunathan

Blackboxer who fought and lived in Britain. Perry was born in Annapolis, Nova Scotia. He initially served on a British man‐of‐war for four years and, after being discharged, turned to a career in boxing. His time on the man‐of‐war earned him the nickname John ‘the Black Sailor’ Perry. He arrived in London in 1845 after walking from Birmingham, having hoped to find a patron for his prizefighting along his journey. In London he met Johnny Broome, a former British lightweight champion. Broome trained Perry, and in the following year he faced his first professional opponent, Bill Burton Perry was an entertaining fighter not simply because he was physically impressive he was handsome 6 feet 1½ inches tall and weighed 212 pounds but also because he moved with skill and poise His style of milling was particularly striking where he would move around his opponent while balanced ...

Article

David Dabydeen

African‐Americanboxer who settled in Britain and became the first black boxer of international repute. Richmond was born in Cuckold's Town near New York and was a servant to a British general based there who later became Lord Percy, the Duke of Northumberland. In 1777 Percy sent Richmond to Yorkshire to study, after which he became an apprentice to a cabinetmaker in York. He taught himself how to box and subsequently turned to prizefighting in London.

Richmond apparently created his own style of sidestepping and dodging the bull rushes of opponents. He was a formidable fighter despite his small physical structure. In 1805 he defeated two respected fighters the Jewish boxer Youssop and Jack Holmes otherwise known as Tom Tough and his reputation took off A major fight with Tom Cribb one of England s most feared boxers and a future national heavyweight champion saw an ignominious defeat ...

Article

Sport  

Ellis Cashmore

Blacks' involvement in British sport dates back to the late 18th century, when black prizefighters astonished spectators with their prowess. That prowess remained a source of fascination for over 200 years, prompting explanations that were often based on, and indeed provided momentum for, racist theories.

1.After the first battle ...

Article

Luckett V. Davis

professional boxer, was born in Barbados, British West Indies. Facts about his parents, his education, and his early years are unknown. After coming to the United States in 1887, he worked as a cook, waiter, and elevator operator in Boston and became an amateur boxer and wrestler. Although unusually short (5 feet 1.5 inches) and almost always at a disadvantage to opponents in reach, he enjoyed immediate success because of his unusual upper-body strength, quickness, and agility. He joined a touring troupe of boxers and wrestlers under the management of Tom O'Rourke, meeting all comers in either sport. By 1893 Walcott was a recognized professional boxer in the lightweight division.

Walcott soon grew into a welterweight, winning nearly all of his fights. On 1 March 1895 he boxed a draw in a nontitle battle with the world champion, Mysterious Billy Smith becoming a contender for the title ...