Tom Molineaux was an American boxer who settled in Britain after seeking and winning the World Boxing Title. When Tom Molineaux reached the shores of England in 1809, He came to claim the world boxing title. Presumably Molineaux had partaken in his share of matches prior to his rise as Boxer in Great Britain.
However, there were and are no records to back his claim to the championship, no newspaper accounts detailing his so called championship battles.
It was clear, as it is today, that Tom Molineaux, a former slave from Virginia, was world class , one of great skill and courage. And one who came within a breadth of winning the Championship of the world.
Maybe history has not been kind to Tom Molineaux. For in reality, he was America’s first sports celebrity and a great star in his day. His international achievements were immense.
Think for a moment about the courage and determination it took for a former slave with no formal education, skills or money to speak of, to travel to a foreign land and become one of the most celebrated champions of his time. When taking into consideration the barriers that “The Black” must have encountered, it is a great wonder that Tom Molineaux even made it to scratch against Tom Cribb “The Champion of Champions”.
The fight took place at Copthorpe near East Grinstead, in December 1810. The weather was said to be atrocious with driving rain. The fight ran for 39 nine rounds and wrestling holds and falls were allowed in those days.
It was said that by the nineteenth round both the fighters faces were unrecognisable, battered to a pulp by bare knuckle blows. In this round Molineaux had got Cribb in a hold where he could neither strike or fall back. In the deadlock around 200 spectators rushed the ring and one of Molineauxs fingers was broken in the scrimmage. However Molineaux continued to have the upper hand. Cribb was losing the fight and the betting was 4-1 against him Sir Thomas price shouted from the crowd..
‘Now, Tom,now; for Gods sake don’t let the n****r win. Remember the honour of Old England. Go for him, go for him!’
By the 28th round Cribb could not rise from his corner and Molineaux thought he had won the fight. As he celebrated Cribb’s second shouted that Molineaux was hiding lead bullets in his fist. By the time that the accusation was proved false Cribb was back on his feet a little refreshed.
Then Molineaux had a stroke of bad luck, as he fell he hit his head on one of the stakes that held the ring. From then the two men staggered around and fell without hitting each other. Seven rounds later and Molineaux could take no more.
Molneaux Wrote to Cribb requesting a rematch, which was granted but this time Molineaux was winded early and never recovered. The fight lasted eleven rounds and Cribb Stayed the Champion.
Molineaux was immortalised by England’s ballad makers though.
Molineaux retired in Galway, Ireland, here he was looked after by the black bandsmen of the 77th regiment who were stationed there.